Why it pays to truly listen during a recruitment interview

Everyone claims to listen to others; indeed, many people make such a statement and truly believe it. But how often are the complaints you hear about one person from another about their perceived inability to listen? Or, it may simply be an attitude problem. Equally, a lack of skills may be a cause; it’s amazing that we spend so much time teaching kids to speak, yet never to listen!

You might be wondering whether this recruitment blog post is aimed at those being interviewed or the people conducting such interviews. The answer is both. Let’s look first at some of the barriers to effective listening.

What gets in the way of serious listening?

Headphones worn in Recruitment Interview

There are two keys areas here: environment and attitude. The first should be dealt with quite easily. When effective online recruitment processes deliver candidates for a face-to-face interview, it should be held in a private place – sight and sound – with no interruptions. Sight is included here because a location where the outside can be seen, and can be seen into, easily distracts as much as any noise factors.

Moving on to attitude, the question could easily be: ‘Where do we begin?’ From the interviewer who doesn’t really want to be undertaking the role, to the individual who is simply seeking answers that confirm their beliefs, feelings or even prejudices, it’s an extremely large ball-park! For the interviewee, often nerves play a part, or an eagerness to be heard making what they consider to be the ‘right’ noises.

Each party to a recruitment interview should have a positive attitude to it, they should appreciate exactly what they want to achieve from it. A joint intent, if you like, is to achieve ‘matching’ – where a candidate for a position fits the bill, and that person sees the organisation as one they are keen to work for. Such an intent places clear responsibilities on both sets of shoulders.

Let’s sweat the small stuff

So far, we have focused on the bigger interview picture, its objectives and processes. Yet, as it progresses, interview listening is equally about recognising the smaller signals that are offered. It’s also worth remembering here that you should listen with your eyes just as much as your ears. Matching the attitude and behaviour to the actual words allows signals to be identified and acted upon.

Using these skills, you can start to identify ‘sort of’ answers – ones that obviously don’t tell the full picture. Here are some examples of phrases that highlight this: ‘I don’t usually…’ ‘Most times I would…’ ‘Well, it’s not normal for us to…’ and even ‘Well, I prefer to…’ If you were a police officer interviewing a suspect, these answers would be the dodgy alibi that needs to be fully checked! In interview situations, this doesn’t mean that people are being obtuse or deliberately misleading; it simply means that there is more of a story still to be told about this area or subject.

Final point

A complete post about listening skills in recruitment interview situations could probably be of Old Testament length. This one should help you to set an effective environment to enable listening, and also to be that little bit more aware of what is said – and may not be.


© Net-Recruit 2019