Listen up! It's important that job seekers possess basic interpersonal skills, but some are more valuable than others. The United States Department of Labor Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) has identified foundation skills that are crucial for job seekers and listening was on the top of the list. Having good listening skills is essential for passing the interview and it's something that any job seeker can master.
For some people, listening is "waiting for my turn to talk". However, there is a difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is a physical ability, but listening is a skill that must be learned. During an interview, hiring managers are judging your ability to both speak and listen. To help improve your listening skills, try out some of these tactics:
When someone is speaking to you, lean in towards them slightly. This will not only allow you to hear better, but it also shows them that you're interested in what they have to say.
Communicate that you're paying attention by maintaining comfortable eye contact and nod when appropriate. Research shows that there is more direct gaze when people like each other and cooperate than when they disagree or dislike each other. A shifting gaze may unconsciously signal a dislike for your interviewer or the subject at hand.
After someone has communicated important information, paraphrase or summarize what they have said in your own words. This helps you solidify your own understanding and demonstrates your understanding to them. Plus it gives them an opportunity to correct you if you misunderstood anything important.
It's important to listen critically to everything that is said or asked during an interview. Listen carefully to the entire question and pause to think before answering. The anxiety and discomfort that candidates often feel during an interview make them avoid any moments of silence, but information can be easily misunderstood if a few moments to dissect the question aren't taken. For example, There is a big difference between the answer to "When do you feel that training makes a difference ..." and "How do you feel that training makes a difference..."
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