In a previous blog we focused on employers boosting their employees’ productivity and morale by listening to them. Now we want to discuss how being a good listener as an employee or job seeker can help you succeed within the workplace and in your next interview.
First, it’s important to understand how overwhelming plain-old listening can be. As humans, we can talk at a rate of 125 to 175 words per minute, but we listen at a rate of 125 to 250 words per minute. The fluctuation can create a gap wide enough for missed parts of a conversation no matter how important the information. In fact, we can typically only recall 50% of what someone said immediately after they have said it.
When you are interviewing for a position, that retention rate can drop quickly. Nerves, answer planning and the fast-pace of the interview process can cause you to lose track of what the interviewer has said. This could mean that you leave not fully understanding what the position is or that you give an answer irrelevant to the question asked.
To avoid this issue be sure to listen not only to the words that the interviewer is saying, but how they say them, noticing facial expressions and body language when you ask questions. And be sure that those questions haven’t already been covered, revealing a lack of attention. Instead take an interest in a question the interviewer asked you and think of how the question relates specifically to the position, and then get clarification. This shows that you were not only listening but trying to fully comprehend and learn about the workplace.
While there are tips and tricks to show someone you’re listening, it isn’t just something you can pretend to do by picking tidbits out of a conversation, or nodding and mmhhmm-ing while thinking about your next statement. Guy Harris, chief relationship officer for Principle Drive Consulting who works with issues of listening in the workplace every day describes the ideal listening format as being similar to playing baseball. “The pitcher (speaker) throws the ball for the catcher (listener) to receive it. The catcher only throws the ball back after he has it firmly in his grasp.”
Startup Professionals Inc.’s Marty Zwilling recommends pausing after a speaker’s statement to ensure they are finished and you aren’t jumping into the middle of their thought. Pausing and being quiet allow you time to take in and process what you are hearing. Take to heart Zwillig’s statement: “You never learn anything while you are talking.”
Use your new listening skills to keep your ears open and your focus on the other person’s statements and concerns, asking questions and being sure you understand before moving on from a topic. Current managers will love that you are fully committed to learning about your tasks and hiring managers will be grateful that you are interested in more than just finding work. They may even be tempted to offer you the job, just make sure you’re listening.