Are you a good listener? Listening is a highly valued soft skill sought by all employers. After all, people with this ability are more likely to understand tasks and projects, build strong relationships with co-workers, and also be able to solve problems and resolve conflicts.
Since it's such an in-demand skill, employers will look for you to demonstrate your ability to listen during job interviews. Discover why good listening skills are vital in the workplace, along with how to build good listening habits while avoiding bad ones.
The Listening Process
Listening within the work context is the process by which you gain an understanding of the needs, demands, and preferences of your stakeholders through direct interaction. A stakeholder could be anyone from your boss, a client, customer, co-worker, subordinate, upper management, board member, interviewer, or job candidate.
There are two components to active listening in the workplace: attention and reflection.
Attention involves holding eye contact, nodding, having good posture, and mirroring the speaker’s body language to show genuine interest in what they're saying.
In addition to these nonverbal cues, you must also allow the speaker to finish their thought in its entirety.
These are all cues that you're focused on what the speaker is saying.
Reflection and Responding
Reflection is the repeating and paraphrasing of what the speaker has said to show that you truly understand what they're telling you.
What Makes a Good Listener
Good listeners always strive to fully understand what others want to communicate, particularly when the statement lacks clarity. Listening demands the attempt to decode and interpret verbal messages and nonverbal cues, like tone of voice, facial expressions, and physical posture.
Active listeners also show their curiosity by asking questions. Do this, and you will make a great impression.
Through body language and other cues, good listeners subtly communicate to the speaker that they're listening. Additionally, they encourage and welcome the thoughts, opinions, and feelings of others.
One way to demonstrate active listening is to allow the interviewer to complete each question and statement before responding. Do not interrupt and be sure that your response genuinely answers the question.
It's perfectly fine to take a few moments to frame the right response. Doing so shows that you've fully absorbed the speaker's words and are considerate enough to formulate the best answer.
What Makes a Bad Listener
Interrupting indicates that your listening skills are underdeveloped. Likewise, responding in a way that fails to answer the question will reflect poorly on your listening skills, especially in a job interview.
If you're uncertain about a question, it's better to clarify than to take a gamble about what the interviewer is asking.
Talking too much is also problematic, as proper conversations should be well balanced, with every party involved getting equal time to speak. Monopolizing a conversation prevents you from listening and the other party from fully expressing what they want to say. In the end, this will lead to you making a poor impression.
Looking distracted is also a quality of a poor listener. This could involve anything from avoiding eye contact to checking your phone or watch while someone else is talking.
Examples of Effective Listening
- A job candidate shares her understanding of an unclear question during an interview and asks if she has it right.
- An interviewer notices that a candidate doesn't look her in the eye when asserting a key strength.
- A customer service worker repeats a patron’s problem or complaint back to her to reassure her that she has been heard.
- A counselor nods and says, "I hear you," to encourage a client to continue to talk about their traumatic experience.
- A meeting facilitator encourages a reticent group member to share her views about a proposal.
- An interviewer asks a follow-up question to gain further clarification on the ways in which a candidate has applied a critical skill in a past job.
- A manager summarizes what her team has said during a staff meeting and asks them if she has heard things correctly.
- At the end of a performance review, an employee restates the specific areas in which his supervisor asks he improve.
- At a client meeting, a salesperson asks an open-ended question like, "What can I do to serve you better?" and encourages his counterpart to express any concerns fully.
- A nurse informs a patient that she is aware of how scared they are about their upcoming surgery and says she is there for her.
- An employee pays careful attention to a speaker at a training session and asks clarifying questions on the information they are receiving.
More Valuable Workplace Skills
Having strong listening skills is essential at every organizational level and will improve one’s chances of future promotions. However, there may be some soft and hard skills that offer more value than others, depending on the career field.