In 2012 Millennial Branding conducted a survey of 225 employers asking them to identify the top five skills they were seeking in a candidate for employment. It is not surprising that “communication” was among the top five desired skills. In fact, 98% of surveyed employers identified communication as a highly desired skill. In the same survey, 91% of the employers indicated that finding candidates with strong communication skills was a challenge.
This is a challenge for employers, but an opportunity for you to groom your candidates.
In my experience, it is the listening aspect of communication that gets most candidates into trouble. If a person is not actively listening it reflects on their interpersonal skills in general. It also limits the candidate’s ability to gather key pieces of information to better position him or herself for the job. Here are some quick tips to share with your candidates who may need to elevate their active listening skills.
1. Focus entirely on the interviewer. This means not looking out the window, turning to see every person who walks by, and checking your phone. Undivided attention is a must.
2. If you are unsure you heard something correctly, ask for clarification. An effective technique is periodically to restate important parts of the message, particularly a directive, to be sure the message was understood clearly.
3. Don’t interrupt the interviewer. Instead share positive acknowledgements, such as eye contact, nods, and brief confirming responses (“yes” or “mm-hmm”).
4. Don’t rush to fill the silence. The interviewer may be pausing to recall something or compose thoughts. It is not necessary to speak until you are sure the speaker has finished the message or question. Also, don’t jump into complete sentences or questions. That can stifle the interviewer, as well as annoy the interviewer. This is not Jeopardy; no need to “buzz in” quickly.
5. Give good eye contact but don’t stare. A deep unbroken stare can be unsettling.
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6. Avoid distracting body language or movements, such fidgeting, tapping your fingers, or slouching.
7. It is alright to jot down a few notes during an interview. For example, a candidate may want to note challenges the company is facing or major projects on the horizon. The secret is to keep the note taking brief and to maintain interest in the interviewer while jotting the notes.
The Bottom Line
Active listening is a valuable skill that anyone can enhance. Active listening increases understanding and builds rapport between the interviewer and the candidate. It is the cornerstone of excellent communication and can distinguish a candidate from the crowd. If the statistics from the Millennial Branding prove to be true across the marketplace, your candidates will surely reap the rewards by mastering this skill.