The Job Interview – Take The Time To Really Listen

There is a lot of talking that gets done in the staffing industry. Job seekers are likely ready to give their elevator pitch on a moments notice. Recruiters are out there everyday chatting up their next potential candidate, in hopes that they can facilitate the perfect union.There’s a lot of talking. But is there also a lot of listening?

At CPI, it is always incumbent on any recruiter to take the time to really listen to what a potential candidate has to say. Without listening, candidates end up in job interviews where they don’t belong and no one wins. And if all does go well and your recruiter does his job, then there’s the interview. The interview is your chance to really shine. But how do you gain the competitive edge? What will make you stand out from the rest?  How will you make a lasting impression? In a word, listen.

By developing your listening skills, you make it that much easier to get that job or close the deal. Ask yourself, how many times have you been in a conversation with someone and you’ve spent most of that time mentally preparing for your next comment? You’ve probably spent more time developing your rebuttal than truly tuning in to what the other person has to say.

Listening is challenging, especially during a job interview when the stakes are at their highest! While it’s absolutely natural to be nervous when you sit down in front of a single interviewer or a panel, it’s also essential that you channel that nervous energy into what experts call active listening.

Active listening is defined as “ a communication technique used in counseling, training and conflict resolution, which requires the listener to feed back what they hear to the speaker, by way of re-stating or paraphrasing what they have heard in their own words, to confirm what they have heard and moreover, to confirm the understanding of both parties.”

So how can active listening benefit you? During the interview it can help you redouble your efforts to remain calm and truly focus on what the person is saying. Remember, you are in the room to solve their problems and provide them with potential solutions. So focus intently and look for clues to determine how you might be of service to them. Everyone wants to be heard and understood and interviewers are no different.

For example, the interviewer may spend time telling you about how she is rolling out a certain project. She may describe in some detail the hours of work required, the logistical planning involved and the areas of concern that she has to deliver on time and under budget. If you are able to truly listen to what she has to say, you may even be able to provide her with a cursory analysis and trouble shoot her project. While you never want to give specifics (after all that’s what you’ll get paid for) you do want to show that you have a level of competency and confidence that others don’t.

It’s also standard for any interviewer to ask you if you have any questions. You will mostly likely receive this type of inquiry at the end of the interview. While you may have prepared for a few generic questions like “what is the company culture like” or “is there room for advancement,” you may also seize on this opportunity to show how you can problem solve by active listening!

Before asking a stock question, take a moment to reflect on the entirety of the interview. Is there an area of concern or a point of interest from which you can develop a question? If so, take that chance and flex your intellectual muscle. For example, you may say, “you mentioned that you are in the process of building your sales team. I have experience with specific team building programs, and I would welcome the opportunity to share that information with you and hit the ground running as you restructure and build your team.”

Or maybe the company is being challenged with an influx of new clients, and they are having trouble meeting demand. In response you might say, “I am hearing that you are faced with a lot of new opportunities. Congratulations. What a fantastic challenge!  In my first job, I had a similar experience and our team used a new software program that really helped us manage our work flow.”

Key Point: Take the time to summarize what the speaker is saying before you go on to address the question itself. It will send a signal that you truly understand the interviewers concerns or objectives. It will also give you time to take a breath and prepare for what comes next. So no matter what questions they throw at you, you’ll be ready!

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