Phone Interview Tips - #21: How to Listen Well
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Being a good listener is especially helpful in a telephone interview situation, where one of the biggest challenges is that you can’t read the interviewer’s expressions or body language, and they can’t read yours. So much of communication is reading visual cues, and you just can’t do that in a phone interview. You can’t rely on the usual rules for showing you’re a good listener, which recommend things like “maintain good eye contact,” “lean forward in your seat,” and “nod.” And you can’t rely on those visual cues to help you understand what the other person is saying.
Still, there are plenty of communication techniques that show you’re a good listener, give you a much better conversation, and make for a great phone interview:
- Create a quiet space for your interview. You can’t listen well if you can’t hear what they are saying to you. This conversation is a priority, so treat it like one.
- Pay attention. Don’t let yourself get distracted by ANYTHING. This conversation is so important. Don’t try to conduct it in a restaurant, while driving, or anywhere near a child or a pet. And try not to be thinking about what you’re going to say while they are talking. You could easily miss something important.
- Don’t interrupt. Assertiveness is fine in an interview (see this article on closing); rudeness is not. Don’t interrupt your interviewer, ever. If they mention something that confuses you or raises a question for you, write it down to ask about when it’s your turn.
- Take notes. As your interviewer talks, take notes on what he or she is saying. This will help you when you are asking questions, it will help you write a better thank you note, and it will help you prepare for the face-to-face interview. They might even ask you to write down a phone number or website. If you have been taking notes, you can do it without missing a beat.
- Ask great questions. Asking relevant questions is a powerful way to show that you are listening and you are interested. Ask questions about the job and the company. Don’t ask questions about the salary, the vacation, or the perks.
- Clarify for understanding. If the interviewer asks you a question and you’re not sure what they want to know, ask. Blindly launching into an answer that turns out to be wrong is much worse than saying, “Do you mean X, or Y?”
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