Listen Up! Silence Speaks Volumes in an Interview

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I came across a gem of advice in an article about interviewing that I whole-heartedly agree with: shut up and listen. Yes, it may seem a little counter-intuitive. After all, you're the one being interviewed, not them. But, there are times when you really need to slow down and make sure that you're practicing active listening.

By expanding on the advice in the article and adding some of my own on this topic, I can suggest these guidelines for listening during the interview.

Make sure you truly understand what "active listening" is.

You should not be jumping the gun to answer the question by thinking of your response while they're still talking. You should feel comfortable with taking a short moment to pause and think of your answer. Reflecting on your response before answering is not considered a bad thing. Of course, if you are well-prepared for the interview, you should have key talking points already in mind.


Listening also implies that you stop after answering a question and see if the interviewer wants you to expand on your answer.

If they are satisfied with the information provided, they will move on. By moving right into another example to answer the same question, you may easily dilute the power or impression of your first example. Often the rule of "less is more" comes into play in an interview -- it is essential to be concise.


By not listening to the question carefully, there's a chance you could answer the wrong question.

When doing this, you are signaling that you are not a good listener and potentially do not follow directions well. If you are not certain about the question, ask for clarification. But be careful, by asking for clarification too often, you're signaling you are bad listener.


A good listener tries to pick up subtle hints about the "question behind the question."

Sometimes a spontaneous question by the interviewer is prompted by something they hear from you. They will probe deeper into your answer. This might mean they aren't sure of your true capabilities in this area, or they might be intrigued about your experience and want to know more. Listen for and evaluate the "non-traditional" questions to try and determine their key concerns for the position.


Good listeners show they are engaged by using non-verbal cues like nodding or an interested look on their face.

Interrupting an interviewer or having a nervous tick of inserting "yes," "uh huh," or "right" while they are talking are definitely ways of disrupting a good conversation.


You should be prepared to ask good questions and LISTEN to their answers.

I have had candidates ask a question and not take any notes while I respond. What kind of impression does this give? Did they really care about the answer, or were they just providing an obligatory question? I would hope a truly motivated candidate who wants to work at my company would want to learn more about it. How else would you know if you really want to work there?


Listening also includes watching the interviewer's non-verbal cues.

If the interviewer was taking copious notes in the beginning of your answer, but then stopped, it probably means they have heard enough on the topic. If their eyes are glazed over, it is likely the same scenario. If they are nodding their heads while they listen, they agree with what you're saying-stay in that vein of thought. And of course, if they are looking at their watch continually, you are running out of time in the interview.

Although good interviewers are trained to talk as little as possible and let you do the talking, they will start to talk more if they like you and want to get you to like them (and the company/opportunity). The question is: Will you let them?

Next: 10 Common-Sense Interview Tips Too Many People Flub >>

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