It’s all well known that listening during a job interview is critical so that you can give effective responses to the questions. After all, it’s important that you share all of your skills, knowledge, experience, and accomplishments so that the interviewer understand how you can contribute to their organization.
On the other hand, what if you are the interviewer? What are the skills that will best enable you to assess your candidates? The following are some of the keys that I believe are important.
Understand personal beliefs – our beliefs impact our perceptions and this often causes faulty interpretations particularly with respect to what people should do or not do in problem-solving roles. Review your own beliefs about a role prior to the interview and determine if your experience will create opportunities for misjudgment.
Pay attention – your body language will be the first thing candidates will notice and so it’s important that you are indeed paying attention! I recall one interviewer on a panel who sat back and tilted his head until all you could see was the white of his eyes. He simply wasn’t engaged in the interview process. The candidate could immediately see this negative behavior and subsequently shut down and became quiet. The candidate knew they weren’t a serious candidate. So, make sure your body language is aligned with your intention. Your reputation may be at stake.
Biased listening – by the time a candidate attends an interview, you will have received considerable information about him/her. Therefore, it is easy to inadvertently develop a bias to what is being said in the interview. For instance, the interviewer may not have a high opinion of the candidate's education institute or experience and carries this bias into the interview.
Apply listening ground rules – interviewing is all about listening. Once you prepare your questions, sit tight and listen. Make sure your panel applies ground rules such as not interrupting the candidate’s response but instead wait until the end to ask for clarification. Be sure to stick to the subject of the question and let the candidate finish before going on to the next question and/or taking them in a whole new direction. This is an interview situation so be careful not to offer advice.
Track what’s being said – you want to be listening to a clear explanation of your question. Listen to the general ideas and not just the facts. Jot down a few notes, words or phrases that will assist you to recall what was said. If necessary, ask questions for clarification and to check the accuracy of your listening but above all, avoid engaging in instant judgment.
Control your responses – one of the challenges for an interviewer is managing your own body language and responses during the interview. For instance, if don’t like a comment made by a candidate, you might find you overreact and soon curl up your nose, contract your eyebrows or some other body language that denotes disapproval. So, it is just as important to maintain control over your own body language as it is to be observant of your candidate.
Clarify and verify – avoid interrupting a candidate but when they have finished, you can reflect back what you have heard and ask further clarifying questions. It is better to do this rather than make assumptions about what you heard or didn’t hear.
Finally, there is a common perception that we only retain 25% of what we hear. Unfortunately, this is an insufficient rating for such an important role as interviewing a candidate. Therefore, we must be conscientious when we are listening and ensure our questions are purposeful, monitor our own body language and ensure we demonstrate we are paying attention. After all, no matter how short an interview, candidates want to feel appreciated and valued.