Talk less listen more for interviewing success

Ange Connor

We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak – Epictetus.

Too true! This quote should absolutely be applied when you are conducting an interview. As a recruiter I’ve conducted thousands of interviews as well as having interviewed with my clients on many occasions and I’ve been on the other side of the desk as the one being interviewed on a few occasions as well. All too often I’ve observed the interviewer doing the majority of the talking instead of the interviewee. While it is certainly important to provide the interviewee with information on the company, the team, the culture and the job they are being interviewed for, if as the interviewer you are doing the majority of the talking, there is no way you are going to be able to assess how suitable the person sitting in front of you is for the vacancy you are interviewing for.

There are many reasons why the interviewer feels the need to do most of the talking. Some people simply love talking about themselves and their business, often it’s just their natural personality driving them to do the talking, some simply don’t know how to conduct an effective interview and are more comfortable talking about the job and the company than having to worry about what they can and can’t be asking. Other interviewers often ask questions that don’t gather the information they want so they just fill the gaps by doing all the talking. Regardless of why you are doing the majority of the talking, if you are using your mouth more than your ears in an interview there is no way you’ll gather the information you need or want to make the right appointment.

listen more quote

To make sure you are using your ears more than your mouth at interview here are my tips for success:

Be prepared – having a list of questions that you have prepared prior to the interview will make sure you are better able to gather the information you need to assess candidates on their suitability for the vacancy. It will also ensure that you are running a fair and discrimination free interview as you’ll be asking each candidate exactly the same question and not just picking the candidate you “like” the most or connect with.

Silence is golden – when interviewing and there is a break in the conversation the silence can be deafening and our sense of time is distorted; a couple of seconds of silence can feel like minutes. It can feel very uncomfortable for the interviewee especially, but often it be uncomfortable for the interviewer too. Whenever there is silence, we feel the need to speak. As the interviewer I’d strongly encourage you to embrace the silence, at least for a good 5 or 10 seconds, or more if you can. Take the time you need to think about the question you next want to ask. As an interviewer I love the silence. It can be amazing – and very interesting – to hear what the person on the other side of the table will say to fill the silence. Many people often put their foot in it and end up saying things that give you greater insight about them and don’t be afraid to probe them on that.

Use your detective skills and listen for clues – while you are not talking and are doing the listening, make sure you are really listening and picking up on the detail of what the interviewee is really saying. If you are listening properly, there will be things that the interviewee says that you should then probe them about. Don’t just ask your interview question, listen for the response and move on. A good interviewer will probe for more detail, seek clarification and ask for further detail and context. This is the only way you’ll get a true understanding of the person sitting across the table from you. Sometimes a candidate will give you a stock standard response to an interview question and it’s the probing that will show or really demonstrate their skills and expertise.

Interviewing takes practice, just like anything else we do in life. Just make sure you are not practicing on potential candidates as making the wrong appointment will end up costing you time and money by appointing the wrong person. If you are new to interviewing you could start by being on an interview panel or even just observing before jumping straight in. Alternatively engage a recruiter and get them to coach and mentor you along the way. Whatever you do remember to listen more than you talk and you will be well on your way to conducting an effective interview.

About The Author
Ange Connor

Ange is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource (HR) and careers agencies. Ange is an ‘ideas’ person and a ‘big picture’ thinker. She loves to challenge the status quo – in fact, that’s how Inspire HQ began.

Ange has supported hundreds of businesses across Ballarat and regional Victoria to attract, engage, motivate, develop and retain their greatest assets; their people. Ange’s unyielding passion and invaluable knowledge of the recruitment and HR industry ensures she delivers the best solutions for her clients.

Ange has held various board positions and regularly volunteers her time to share her industry and market knowledge. She was recently a Councillor for the Victoria and Tasmania region of the Recruitment Consulting and Staffing Association (RCSA) of Australia and New Zealand, and she is a current Board Director of the Committee for Ballarat.

For more useful information, follow Ange on LinkedIn.

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