Vera N. Held, B.A. Eng., Cert. PR., Tesl Cert., M.Ed.
Coach, facilitator, speaker, writer and PR consultant.
Author of international best-seller "How Not to Take it Personally".
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by Vera N. Held

Listening adeptly will help you to land your next job —then keep it and further maximize your value to your organization. It’s a key business skill that everyone needs to hone.

Contrary to popular belief, listeners are “active” participants. Educator John Dewey said “the hearer is an indispensable partner” in any conversation. Why? You can only share a mind set, concept and idea, persuade someone or be persuaded when “true” listening occurs. It doesn’t work without the desire to see another point of view.

You already know, once short-listed for that job interview, that you have the “hard” business/technical skills required, so, the interviewer wants to know what further value you can bring. And your communication or “soft” skills”, which include listening, are needed to get that interviewer on side. Once hired, these same skills are vital to understanding your new work culture and building positive work relationships.

As good communicators listen more than they talk, how can you be that ideal interviewee? Simple. Start by treating the interviewer with the respect and appreciation that comes from being paid attention to and listened to.

In return, she will not only carefully listen to you, but generously answer your questions, allowing her to discover your potential while you gather the information you need about the workplace. Here’s how it works:


Step 1: Build a bridge

1. Convey your interest, encourage the interviewer to talk, get the information, take notes. Your job is to make the interviewer feel respected and to build rapport. Ask questions as appropriate.

2. Listen to the interviewer’s words and the feelings behind those words. For example, if he says, it’s been hard “to keep this position filled,” is he letting you know it’s a tough job, expressing disappointment with past candidates or saying he needs a professional with top-notch listening skills?

3. What you understand from someone’s message is your interpretation of that message. Too often, people go with what they thought they heard. If you’re unsure about something the interviewer has said, ask for clarification.

Step 2: Create a Win-Win

Solidarity is created through indirect communication such as politeness and subtlety, and through the sharing of professional anecdotes, common business terms and industry jargon. So, listen to “how” the interviewer describes his organization. Then, when you respond, use similar terms.

Step 3: Get buy-in

1. The Chinese pictogram or symbol for “hearing” is two ears and a heart and, as an empathic listener, you need first to accept the interviewer’s concerns as your concerns. Next, you need to clearly demonstrate how your ideas, experience and skills match his needs.

2. Be a little vulnerable. Relationships are built on empathy and humility, and it’s the little things that count in making those “human connections” during the job interview. Sell yourself by being yourself.

3.If you do not get or want this particular job, move the situation forward to build a strong bridge. Why? Both parties need to feel good at the end of the interview, and you’ve just made a new business acquaintance — one who can add value to your professional life.

So, to land your next job, be prepared to actively listen to the interviewer. Once you become an expert at connecting the 18 inches between your head and your heart, you can effectively design your career. In the words of French writer and philosopher, Voltaire, “The road to the heart is the ear.”


Listening interview dos

1. Let the other person finish her thought. Build a bridge.

2. Listen to gather data and gain knowledge. Learn.

3. Show respect and interest, even if you disagree.

4. Ask for clarification to make sure both sides are on the same page.

5. Listen with an appropriate amount of empathy. Be open, confident and share.

Listening interview don’ts

1. Don’t make assumptions, interrupt, defend, condescend or compete.

2. Don’t minimize others’ feelings. Everyone is welcome to their opinion.

3. Don’t turn off or shut down to avoid listening when things are coming at you too slowly or too quickly.

4. Don’t take anything personally.

5. Don’t leave disappointed if you don’t get the job— you’ve made a new business acquaintance.