Job Seeker Blog - Spark Hire

How to Practice the Fine Art of Active Listening

Many people find job interviews nerve-wracking and sweat inducing. Because of the nerves and pressure that they feel, it’s common for a potential new hire to go through an entire interview without actually listening to what the hiring manager was saying. While an interview situation certainly comes along with some degree of pressure, the way a person listens during the conversation can actually make or break the interview process.

The importance of active listening

Many qualified professionals have flubbed a job interview because they don’t actually listen to what the interviewer is asking of them. There’s a major difference between pretending you’re listening and actually hearing what is being asked of you. The latter is called actively listening. It’s about paying close attention, showing your interest, and developing a connection with the person you’re chatting with.

Unfortunately it’s all too common for a person to sit there staring at the interviewer, but not hearing a word they’re saying. Instead they’re plotting their next answer, wondering how the interview is going, or trying to predict the next question. Because of this, they don’t actually hear the question and are unable to answer it appropriately. Failure to actively listen and actually understand what the person is asking has caused far too many interviews to head south quickly.

If you’re looking to master the art of active listening, keep these tips in mind:

  • Pay attention: Instead of letting your mind race with dozens of other thoughts, truly listen and understand what that person is saying. You may think you know what they’re going to ask next, but the only way you’ll know for sure is if you listen carefully as the words come out of their mouth.
  • Don’t interrupt: Many people have the urge to jump in as soon as the interviewer begins to speak, either due to nerves or because they think it shows enthusiasm. This is off-putting to an interviewer, and prevents the job seeker from truly hearing the question. Even if you know exactly what is being asked of you, don’t begin to respond until the hiring manger is done speaking. The interview isn’t a race. You’ll have plenty of time to answer fully.
  • Offer non-verbal cues: Part of active listening is showing the other person that you are present and engaged. You can do this in a non-verbal way by occasionally nodding your head, making direct eye contact, and reacting appropriately as the interview speaks.
  • Repeat back parts of the question: Providing a response that includes some of the exact words that the interviewer used in the question is another subtle way of reinforcing that you were listening. You don’t need to parrot the entire question, but include a few key words in your response. If the question was “What kinds of skills and abilities could you bring to our company?” then you’ll want to make mention of the word “skills” or ”abilities” as you respond. Doing this can also help to keep you on track, by reminding your brain what was just asked of you.

Above all else, concentration is essential when it comes to actively listening. Some people nod their head as if they’re engaged, while still allowing their mind to wander. Showing you’re paying attention is important, but you need to make sure that you’re actually doing it too.

Do you practice active listening? Has it helped you nail an interview? 

Lauren Levine

Lauren Levine is a copywriter/blogger who contributes to a number of magazines and websites including The Frisky, USA Today, and others. She also authors her own blog called Life with Lauren. She loves cooking, anything on the E! network, and is trying to convince herself that running isn't so bad.