Like any other conversation, a job interview is a two-way street. It's as much about how well you listen as it is about what you say. And there's more to listening than simply hearing another person's words.
How interviewers sit, how they ask their questions, and what they do while listening to your answers can tell you an awful lot about the direction the interview is taking.
Of course, during a job interview, the manager is in the driver's seat, so it's critical that you're able to read their cues. There are some general ways to figure out whether someone's paying attention to you or not. Are they making eye contact? Leaning forward as you speak? Nodding their head? All good things. But often, the message someone conveys is contained in ways that are more subtle. Here are three things to "listen" for during the job interview.
Listen For The Hidden Question
No job interview question is simple. In every case, the employer is looking not only for insights into your skills and experience, but also for hints about how your thought process works, how committed you'll be to your job, and how well you'll fit into the company's culture. Keep that in mind as you listen to each question.
If a manager asks you to describe a time you met an aggressive deadline, for instance, they're also trying to get a feel for how well you work under pressure and how you work with others under less-than-ideal circumstances. It's not simply a question about nuts and bolts.
So, don't limit your answer to the obvious. Remember that during job interviews, explaining how you got to a particular point can be as important as showing that you got there in the first place.
Listen To Get Their Attention
Obviously, you want to keep the manager's attention during the job interview. Even if they're one of those people who constantly checks their cell phone while they talk, you can pick up hints about whether they're engaged in the conversation.
The most obvious clue is whether they're doing more than simply asking questions. A true dialogue is more than a Q&A. It involves stories, comments, and answers—from both sides.
If the manager seems to be following a script, break up his or her routine by asking questions yourself. For example, after answering that query about meeting deadlines, ask if the manager's ever been in a similar situation, or whether you can expect to face tight deadlines as a part of the job at his company.
If they ask for your opinion on a recent industry news event, inquire about their views after you've given them your own.
Always remember, you want the interview to be a true conversation. A manager is more apt to remember the candidate they engaged with than those who simply allowed themselves to be led through their checklist of questions.
Listen To Keep Them Focused
Pay attention for signs that you're losing your audience whenever you need more than a few sentences to answer a question. Some clues are obvious. The manager's eyes may wander, for example. Others are more subtle. Someone who's been sitting forward may shift and begin rubbing the arm of their chair with their fingers.
Picking up on someone's wandering attention will depend a lot on how well you read them. People differ, after all. A manager who's comfortable multitasking may be carrying on an engaged conversation even if they're checking their email while they talk.
The trick is to look for signs that the rhythm has been broken. For example, if the multi-tasker allows pauses to creep into the conversation while they absorb an email message, chances are you need to re-focus their attention.
Though the manager asks the questions during an interview, the job seeker has plenty of opportunities to direct the conversation. Always be on the lookout for hints about the interviewer's interests and engagement. You'll find them in what they does, as well as what they say.
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