You’ve prepared your outfit, resume and professional skills in anticipation of your first job interview, but are you ready to listen?
Although it seems like a small detail, this skill can be the key to professional success. If you’re sitting in an important meeting or interview while your mind is wandering, you’ll miss important details and it will be difficult to make a good first impression.
Listening is extremely important for recent grads and students. This skill help you stay focused and alert in an interview, and will help you stand out during the hiring process. More than half of our communication is non-verbal, which means that developing strong listening and communication skills can put you above the rest when having conversations with potential employers. While this may seem like a simple task, improving your listening skills can actually be quite challenging.
However, the advantages of strong listening skills are numerous. Active listening skills will not only help you succeed in your professional life, but they will help you build your brand and develop your character.
1) The Difference Between Listening and Hearing
On average, adults spend about 70 percent of their day engaged in communication that requires their complete attention. Think about the conversations you had today: how clearly can you remember them? That’s where the difference between listening and hearing comes in. Listening requires focus, whereas hearing is simply registering another person’s words, but not actively engaging with them.
To improve your listening skills, refrain from interrupting someone’s sentence. Instead, focus on what they’re saying until they’ve finished their thought. Furthermore, don’t just think about what you’re going to say next, as our attention can be easily distracted by our own thoughts. This is a common mistake in job interviews. It’s of the utmost importance to listen closely to your interviewer’s questions so you can ensure you’re responding to them directly. If you aren’t paying attention and bring up a completely different point, it can make you appear as though you think your talking points are more important than the employer’s questions and business needs.
2) Ask Questions
A sign of a great listener is someone who asks questions after a conversation for clarification. The next time you’re listening, carefully consider what the person has said and try to ask relevant questions after they’re done speaking. This demonstrates that you’re actively engaged in the conversation, and will help you stay focused. It can also help when you’re in a job interview or having a conversation with a networking contact.
The end of a job interview is the perfect time to use your new listening skills to ask some thoughtful questions about the company. Doing this will demonstrate that you were engaged throughout the interview and are interested in learning more about the organization and your potential employer.
3) Listen for Ideas, Not Just Facts
People often listen for facts in a conversation, meaning they can overlook ideas or the big picture. While this may seem like the best way to retain a conversation, memorizing every fact is almost impossible for most listeners. When one fact is being memorized, part of the next fact is missed or forgotten quickly. Alternatively, listening for ideas can help you better understand your speaker and will also help you see the topic from their point of view. This is a form of reflective listening, a communication strategy that involves understanding a speaker’s idea and not just the facts.
In this strategy, the listener rephrases the speaker’s idea back to them to confirm that they have absorbed the information and understood it correctly. This is a great way to avoid miscommunications and interpretations. Furthermore, this strategy can improve your conflict management skills and can benefit you in workplace conversations. For students, try reflective listening the next time you have a big group project as it can also help with brainstorming and managing disagreements.
4) Positive Body Language
Positive body language can go a long way in showing the speaker that you are engaged in the conversation. Make eye contact, stand up straight, smile and lean in – these types of actions contribute to being engaged and can change a conversation. In addition to listening, you’ll need to make a conscious effort to keep your body language positive, as a large portion of our communication is already non-verbal. A weak handshake can cost you a job just as quickly as not being dressed properly, so make an effort to identify which of these you might do subconsciously and change it.
5) Remove Personal Bias
Passing judgement and personal bias can also be a major barrier to active listening, especially if you have already formed your opinion. Prejudice can affect a conversation negatively and usually indicates that you’re not willing to listen to the other person’s point. Checking yourself for this can be important, especially if you’re managing a workplace conflict or disagreements in a group project. It will help you see conflicts from another person’s point of view and means you can understand their behaviour. Ultimately, this comes down to being more open-minded when communicating and not forming opinions before the speaker has even completed their point.
What does every great problem-solver and communicator have in common? Egg-ceptional listening skills. Focus on developing this ability from now and it will benefit you greatly in the future!