Ace Your Next Job Interview by Listening Better

By Helen Godfrey, MA, NCC, BCC, LPC

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Active listening skills are a subtle but effective way to perform better on job interviews. Half of all communication is listening but few of us receive training on how to do well. Fortunately, listening well is relatively simple, and will become automatic once you practice the skills.


Here are some techniques that will help you become a better active listener. 


How to Use Active Listening for Your Job Interview

 1.      Recognize your limitations. Many studies confirm that we only take in half of what we hear and we forget half of that by the next day. Becoming more attentive often takes some deliberate effort.

 2.      Relax your mind. Most people feel anxious about applying for a new job. Take time to quiet your mind and reduce distracting thoughts. Meditate, get a massage, or listen to instrumental music.

3.      Stay alert. Prevent fatigue from sabotaging your interview. Get a good night's sleep and squeeze in some aerobic exercise beforehand. Sit up straight and dress in layers. Being chilly makes concentration more difficult.

4.      Show your enthusiasm. Successful people often enjoy talking about their work, especially when they have an appreciative audience. Make eye contact and lean toward your interviewer. Let your positive feelings shine through when you describe your past accomplishments and how they relate to the position you’re seeking.

5.      Position yourself as a good fit. Use the information your interviewer provides to home in on the type of candidate they're after. Explain how your background and skills enable you to contribute and become a valued team member.

6.      Take notes. People listen much faster than they speak. Take advantage of that gap to take notes and collect your thoughts. Jot down keywords and main themes rather than recording every word. Bringing a pad of paper and a pen to each and every meeting is an effective way to, not only, focus but research has shown that the act of physically writing, rather than typing, helps our memory

7.      Keep an open mind. It pays to be flexible. Remain neutral to avoid rejecting a new viewpoint or job opportunity before you have a chance to consider it from all angles.

8.      Put yourself in your interviewer's shoes. Your interviewer may feel uncomfortable too. Empathize with their responsibility to find the right person for the job.

9.      Restate key points. Summarize and paraphrase the most important messages. This will help reinforce their thoughts in your mind and show your interviewer that you are on the same page.

10.  Seek clarification. Avoid misunderstandings by clarifying anything that's unclear. A good employer will appreciate your efforts to fully comprehend their expectations.

11.  Ask thoughtful questions. Use open-ended questions to elicit more information. Incisiveness also helps show that you're a strong candidate.

Meeting the Staff


1.      Get to know your supervisor. Your manager will likely play a big role in your job satisfaction. Talk about the daily routine and responsibilities. Learn about their work style and how they establish priorities. You may want to ask for a weekly or bi-weekly one on one meeting with your supervisor so that you can build this relationship and make sure that you are staying on track. It’s better to address problems as they arise rather than once a year at your annual review. Having a weekly or bi-weekly one on one will make it more comfortable for you if an issue does arise because you will have an established, presumably positive relationship.

2.      Pick up valuable information from your co-workers. Try to meet some of your future associates. They can clue you in on the work environment and organizational culture. Plus, it's usually a good sign if employees are involved in the hiring process.

3.      Learn about the big picture from leadership. You may also get the opportunity to talk with some of the organization's senior executives. Even if the time is brief, use those meetings to help get a better sense of the organization's strategic plans and future direction.

Go to your next job interview better prepared to listen. The session will probably be more productive for both you and the people you interview with. And even if you don’t get this job, if you’ve kept your ears open, you may have positioned yourself for a different one. Active listening is one way to open up new career opportunities and build a better future.

Additional Resources

5 Vital Qualities Every Employer Seeks in Applicants

Are You Making These Interview Mistakes?