January 24, 2024

Cracking the Career Code: Enhancing Interview Success with Active Listening and Comfortable Silence


Episode Highlights

What Does Active Listening Look Like?


Getting Comfortable with Silence in an Interview


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Matt and Kierra explore the concept of active listening and the importance of gathering your thoughts during interviews. They share tips on leveraging active listening to showcase your engagement and demonstrate that you are the ideal candidate for the role by providing thoughtful answers to interview questions.

Episode Transcript

Welcome back everyone to Cracking the Career Code with Matt and Kierra, where we provide candidates with the keys to success in their job search. So today we’re going to be talking about active listening, getting comfortable with silence, and how to apply those skills in interviews. So to start off, we’re just going to chat a little bit about what exactly is active listening.

Yeah. So active listening goes beyond just hearing what somebody is saying I think it’s just taking the steps to show that you are engaged in the conversation. And you can tell if somebody is active listening in a variety of ways. One of them being that they’re fully present. Are they distracted by other things that are going on?

Are they giving you consistent eye contact? Are they nodding to show that they’re understanding what you’re saying or engaged in what you’re saying- kind of like i’m nodding right now. Yeah, like you’re nodding so that shows that you’re engaged in our conversation. But there’s a lot of ways to kind of make sure that this is happening and also to just show that you’re doing this. But what else would you suggest to do to show this in an interview?

Yeah, so I would just add to the definition of active listening. It’s both understanding the words and what’s said but also the meaning and the intent behind the words, right? So like you said, being fully present, not having distractions, like when we’re prepping candidates for interviews we always say make sure you’re in a quiet area,

make sure you have pets and kids away or someone else to watch them so there’s not any distractions. Also kind of like a neutral background, nothing crazy moving going on there. And we also know with eye contact, it’s hard to do that in a virtual environment, you know, always staring right at the camera, right?

You tend to kind of look down at yourself on camera. So you could put a post it note over the camera that shows you or at least yourself on the screen, you got to keep your camera on. And I think there’s even settings in Zoom where you can turn off your view, right? So just some little tricks that help, but Kierra are there some other ways that you can show that you’re an active listener in interviews?

Yeah. And just going off of what you said that if you do choose to use one of those buttons where you turn off your camera, just make sure that it’s still on for them. You don’t want to go in an interview and your camera not be on and you not know that it’s not on. It just doesn’t look good and it doesn’t show that you’re prepared.

So just make sure that you have that figured out before the interview starts. Yeah, the post it note method might be a little bit safer. Yeah, I agree. Also just how you are responding to what they’re saying. Are you asking clarifying questions? Are you paraphrasing and reflecting on what is being said?

It shows that you’re active listening because you’re able to respond in a manner that is in a response to something that they’re saying. So, definitely make sure that what you’re saying is a reflection of what you’re hearing as well. Yeah, you can even reuse or mirror the language that your interviewer is using. Or kind of try and regurgitate some language that might be in the job description or on their company’s website that kind of like fits in with whatever they’re saying their company culture or brand is. And then that shows also that, you know, you’ve got some genuine interest, you’ve done your research on the company, and you’re just more prepared and more engaged in the conversation and it’ll flow more naturally. More back and forth.

And as I’m doing these hand gestures, that’s another good way to show you’re actively listening. Yeah. Just make sure they’re not like out of control.

Giving spirit fingers during your interview. But also- yeah, that might be a no go for them. But yeah, also it’s getting comfortable with silence. Really when you are about to respond to something or you are asked a question, take a time or take a second to think about it and make sure that you gather your thoughts in a way that you’re going to be able to relay that information to make sense, but also answer all parts of their question.

You can do this by asking questions like “Did that answer what you were looking for?” or “Did that answer all of your question” or “Can you repeat that?”. I think a lot of people are fearful of not responding immediately, and in result, people are okay with you taking the time to gather your thoughts. I think I’ve seen people just ramble or try to come up with something immediately and sometimes that only just hurts what you actually want to say and what you were going to say.

And that’s sometimes out of nervousness, right? So just make sure that you take that time because I think overall your experience in your interview will be a lot better. Yeah. The talk track that I always give to candidates is, you can say, “Hey, that’s a great question. Let me think about that for a second.”

Or “Hmm. That’s a good question. Let me think about an example that would be relevant for what you’re asking”. And then it’s okay to take 5 to 10 seconds to think of that. But in preparation for those interviews, it’s best to

have some of those scenarios and examples of success stories or challenges that you’ve overcome in your previous roles that you can just go right into and you can even have some notes or bullet points or talking points set out in front of you. And we always suggest using the STAR method for organizing your thoughts.

So that’s the situation, task, action, result, way to organize the here’s the situation was that I was in at this previous role. We were tasked with accomplishing XYZ. The action me and my team took was we had to do all the work. And then the result was it improved our business XYZ and you can have three or four of those on relevant examples from your previous experience that are related to the role so you’re ready to go when you get a question that’s asked usually like a behavioral question “Tell me about a time when” type question in an interview.

Yeah, then you don’t have to think about it when you’re asked on the spot. You’ll already be ready to go with some of those examples, which are super helpful. And oftentimes you can use them for different questions. So there’s a variety of questions that people ask that you can use those examples for.

So I think they’re always just good to have and like Matt had mentioned to have notes out. But make sure that you’re well prepared ahead of time so that you’re not having to read at your notes or making it obvious that you are looking at them. They’re kind of just used there as like a safety net in case you forget what you’re about to say or can’t think about it on the spot.

Sure. But yeah. I think doing that is great and then just clarifying that you’ve answered the full question and if they want you to go into more detail that’s always something you can ask too, like do you want me to elaborate more on this or did I provide enough information to answer your questions thoroughly?

So those are all good things to do and I think will just help you feel confident throughout your interview as well. Yeah. One last thing to add to all of this with silence and active listening. If you’re someone that tends to ramble or go down a rabbit hole or maybe you give an example and it’s just super in depth, maybe think about putting a clock or stopwatch somewhere in your field of view.

I know there’s- if you’re doing a virtual interview, there’s your clock on your computer screen, but that’s not like as present as putting a stopwatch up. So then you notice yourself, I’ve been talking for a full minute. Hey, let me pause and ask if the interviewer needs more detail,

if I’ve gone too far, you can do these little micro assessments during the interview process and get a sense for, am I going deep enough or am I going too deep on this with my examples? Yeah. And just make sure you’re not hyper focused on it. But I would say it’s a really good tool to use if you do tend to go off on a tangent or ramble a little bit. Just might be a good self awareness tool to use. And then also just determining or active listening can help with cultural fit.

If you are showing that you’re actively engaged in the conversation, you’re smiling at what the interviewer is saying, you are able to show your interest, I think active listening is a great way to just show your overall interest in a company and also can make or break whether they want to move forward with you.

Sure. If you tend to be really serious- you’re getting compared to front to other candidates and if it’s tied between you and somebody else, but you seem really excited and engaged and took the time to research the people in the company that you’re talking with, that might push you over the edge.

Yeah. And I would say oftentimes more than not, it does. Yeah. And we’ve seen people get passed on just because of that cultural aspect and the active listening aspect. So definitely good to be aware of and practice beforehand so that you’re able to kind of leverage that. But yeah, thank you so much for joining us today in Cracking the Career Code. Go check out talentinsights.hirewell.com for more content and follow us on LinkedIn if you are not already. Thanks everyone.

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