While preparing people for job interviews, I emphasize that it's not just how you answer and using your professional resume to prepare answers but also how you listen that can get you the job.
“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” — Ernest Hemingway
In the workplace, active listening lets you respond to what’s truly important to the other person, not to your own potentially awed interpretation of what you’re hearing. It allows you to confirm that this is what the person really means. If you’re uncertain, it allows you to ask questions to ensure you’re hearing what you think you’re hearing.
In a job interview, active listening works in similar ways. It can help you identify what the interviewer’s questions are really getting at, and it can establish and cement rapport.
Getting to the point where two parties in the conversation feel like they understand each other is a major interview victory. Let’s say an interviewer suggests that you seem overqualified for the job. Instead of responding defensively, ask the interviewer to explain or clarify this comment.
Then you will be able to address the concerns directly.
That’s not all: the active mindset has benefits all its own. Not all of us give clear signals that we’re fully engaged, completely attentive, and enthusiastic participants in a conversation, yet those signals are critical to making a positive impression.
Active listening forces you to be as attentive as you can. As a result, everything about you, from the words you’re
consciously saying to the more subtle, unconscious cues of body language, reinforces your appearance as an applicant who is wholeheartedly present, the kind of candidate interviewers like to see.
Active listening takes work. Ultimately, it should leave the speaker with the feeling that they’re truly understood, especially within their personal frame of reference.
If the goal of the interview is to be seen as someone who understands what the job requires and what the employer is looking for, and who seems like someone worth working with, active listening is a skill worth cultivating.