It’s been said that the opposite of talking is not listening, but waiting to talk. Preparing for a job interview is often about planning what we’re going to say to the interviewer, rather than preparing to listen to their questions. Having some idea of what you want to communicate is important, but it’s equally important to have a plan for listening effectively to what the interviewer is saying to us.

Try these tips to improve your listening skills:

  • Slow down
    • Take a few deep breaths and calm your mind as you begin an interview. Doing so will enable you to have a natural conversation rather than throwing all of your prepared statements at your interviewer.
  • Focus on the interviewer
    • Really concentrate on what the interviewer is saying, both with their words and with non-verbal cues.
  • Visualize the concepts
    • As the interviewer is speaking, try to develop a mental picture of what they are saying. This will help you stay engaged as a listener, and it will help you remember what they said later.
  • Let the interviewer finish
    • It’s quite natural for us to try to anticipate what someone is going to say, but interrupting and finishing someone else’s sentences for them is annoying and rude at best. At worst, when you are nowhere near what they were actually going to say, it clearly illustrates that you and the interviewer are not thinking along the same lines.
  • Ask for clarification
    • Not sure where the speaker was going with their question? Most interviewers are happy to elaborate and clarify a question when asked. At the end of the interview, what they will remember is the relevant, meaningful answer you were able to provide as a result.
  • Practice!
    • Effective listening can be learned, but practicing your listening skills can actually be a distraction from listening until your habits are more developed. Don’t wait for an interview or important meeting to put these tips to use. Practice at the breakfast table, over coffee with friends or during a casual phone conversation.

Could better listening skills improve your career? Post in the comments, and let’s talk about it!