I’m talking about listening. Yes, really.
Before you dismiss this, let me ask a couple of questions:
Have you ever been in an interview or workplace conversation where the other person is speaking, and you feel like you know exactly what you want to say? You can hardly wait for the other person to stop talking because you don’t want to forget.
And then, you finally get it out. And you notice that your comment just didn’t seem to connect with the other person all that well? They just didn’t seem nearly as excited about it as you were?
Or maybe while the other person is speaking, you are so busy thinking of what to say next, or worrying about your body language or what you just said that you aren’t really hearing exactly what the person across from you is saying?
If the answer is yes to any of these, then like me, you could improve your listening.
How important is listening?
Success guru Steven Covey says listening is one of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He also says it is the habit that is most likely to have an immediate positive impact on your life.
Here’s 3 ways it can be powerful in your next interview:
1) Listening will calm those nervous.
Imagine next time the voice in your head starts talking, (“You said um’s like 4 times in that last sentence!”), you respond, “Shh! Not now, I’m listening to the interviewer.”
Simply by focusing on listening, you effectively silence the voice that is making you nervous, that is distracting you from the interview (or meeting).
2) Listening will make your answers more on target.
When you quiet that voice and really focus on listening to the other person, you not only hear the words more clearly. You notice the interviewer’s tone, body language, and the overall flow of the conversation.
Your answers will be more on target because without realizing it, your brain will ask questions that push your responses in the right direction:
- Which words in the sentence were emphasized?
- Do the interviewer's emotions make this seem like an important question where I should reply in depth, or a check-the-box question where a quick answer will be best?
- How does this question connect to what the interviewer just said?
- Is there something that the interviewer seems excited about that I should highlight in my answer?
- Is there a question I can ask that would really get the interviewer engaged?
3) Listening will make the interviewer (or anyone) feel more understood.
Do you know someone who asks, “How are you?” and really seems to care about the answer? Isn’t it great when you get to talk to one of those people!
You can do that for the interviewer. You can seem interested in what they say, and even find yourself asking questions.
After hours of sitting across the desk from job seekers, the interviewer escapes the lonely role of evaluator. Instead, the interviewer has an audience to share workplace war stories. And this builds trust and turns the interview into more of a natural, comfortable conversation.
But Alan, what if I forget to say something really good?
You can write down a two-word note to yourself if you must. More often, you’ll find that if it’s really important to the interviewer, it will come up again naturally in the conversation.
Once in a while, something just won’t be said. That will happen anyway. Yet, when you forget because you are listening, you can connect better with your interviewer with what you do say.
But, how will I come up with my answers if I don’t have any time to think before I am expected to start speaking?
You’ll be surprised how often the right words will come to you in the moment.
When you do need a bit of time to think, take it after they are done speaking. Say, “Let me just take a moment to gather my thoughts…” and then pause until you’re ready to answer.
Or you can simply talk yourself through it, “I really liked your comment about… When I think about that, I realize…” and then insert your answer.
These simple techniques, combined with listening, can free you from the tyranny of that distracting voice in your head. And build a stronger connection with the interviewer.
Next time that voice interrupts the conversation, push it aside and listen. You’ll be impressed by the results.