How to listen

I wrote last time about the importance of shutting up and letting candidates speak.

Which is fine, so long as you know how to listen.

I realised about ten years into my career that I wasn’t actually very good at listening. Sure, I’d think I was listening, but not actively. I worked out there were two things preventing me from truly listening.

  • My need for input
    We feel that we have to converse, or that we have to constantly input into the conversation. So instead of listening, I was thinking about how I could input.
  • My own points of view
    Whether I’m interjecting or not, my listening was clouded by my own points of view or understanding. By dropping them, I could empathise more and actually listen.

As I grew into listening, I found that I could pick up more than was actually being said. For instance:

  • Some candidates use the passive voice a lot
    This can mean two things. One, that the candidate is subconsciously admitting they didn’t do the work, or two, the candidate may lack confidence.
  • Some candidates have a real clarity of expression
    Whether you agree with what they’re saying or not, the ability to express complex matters clearly is A. Good. Thing.
  • Some candidates are uneasy with being ‘let off the leash’ to speak
    You need to look out for these signs and rein in the silence. Make it more of a conversation and they’ll feel more comfortable.
  • Some candidates leave things out
    Remember what’s being unsaid, because often these are things you need to dig into later.

Interviewing candidates isn’t about ticking boxes and trying to trip them up. It’s about listening to what they have to say and picking up on more than just what they say.

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