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Listening During Your Interview

Listening During Your Interview

By MarkD

“Listening is not understanding the words of the question asked, listening is understanding why the question was asked in the first place.” – Simon Sinek

Let’s talk about why it is so important to listen during your interview.  You have the talent.  You have the experience.  The right people have found your resume and now you are up for an interview for the job you really want.  Now comes the tough part: the interview.   Even seasoned professionals can feel the anxiety and pressure of having to go through the interview process.  The good news is, you’re not alone.  According to a recent survey from JDP Employment Services, approximately 93% of Americans have reported experiencing anxiety when it comes to job interviews

There are books written about everything that you might need to know about how to have a successful interview.  They cover everything from how to dress, how often to smile, not showing up late, not showing up too early, knowing how to talk about your resume, knowing about the company, and on and on.  It’s daunting, to be sure.  We here at DyNexus Group are going to give you a helpful tip to put one area of concern to rest: listening during your interview.  

Listening during your interview doesn’t just mean paying attention and being present.  It’s so easy to get distracted, especially during a virtual interview.  Try to seclude yourself from other people, television, radio, pets, anything that will take your attention away from your interviewer.  Make eye contact.  I know that can be difficult through a computer camera, but it makes a difference.  Practice having your camera on and position it in such a way that looking at your interviewer on your computer screen makes it appear you are actually looking at them.  You don’t want your camera to your side or above or below you.  You want it as directly in front of you as possible to mimic eye contact.

But listening during the interview is more than just engaging with your interviewer.  It’s also about hearing the meaning behind their questions and answering their questions that tell them what they need to know while also making yourself look good.  If you are unsure about what they are asking, politely ask them to clarify their question.  Or, you can repeat the question back to them to confirm you are understanding their intent.  

For example, if they ask you to tell them about a recent position, that’s a pretty vague request.  You can reply by asking, “I’d be happy to.  Are you referring to my position as an Implementation Consultant with ABC Company, or my time as an IT Director with XYZ Company?”  This is not only engaging, but shows that you know what’s on your resume.  It will also keep your answers relevant to the information they are actually looking for.  They might have a question about one of your previous positions specifically and this type of engagement is a great way to get right to it.

You can show the interviewer that you are listening by the answers you give to their questions.  Though they are also gauging your personality during the interview, ultimately, this is a business transaction.  They want to make sure you are the right person for the position and their company.  So, when they ask a question, answer that question and stay on topic.

Something as simple as “How are you doing today?” can go awry with the wrong answer.  And yes, you can answer that one wrong.  If you respond with something like, “Oh, my girlfriend and I just had a big blowup fight this morning.  She wants to move to Arizona because it’s hotter and cheaper there.  I love it here in New York.  Yeah, it’s expensive and the winters are horrible, but this is my home.  I couldn’t even finish my breakfast because of this stupid fight.”  Nothing personal, but your interviewer doesn’t want to hear any of that.  In fact, you probably just gave them a handful of reasons NOT to hire you before the interview even got started. “I’m doing well thank you.  I love winters in New York and I’m excited to talk to you about this opportunity.  How are you?”  Now that’s an appropriate answer.

An example of a leading question would be when they ask you about your most significant accomplishment.  Think about the position you’re being considered for and tailor your answer accordingly.  If you’re up for an ERP Implementation Consultant position with one of our many Acumatica partners or VARs, it wouldn’t make much sense to relay an experience you had ten years ago working at a bank where you were able to secure a home loan for a young family to get into their first house.  It may be a touching story, and it may be a significant and meaningful moment in your life, but it has nothing to do with this company or this role.  Instead of the interviewer seeing how this experience could relate to the position they’re hiring for, it makes them start to question how relevant your experience is if you don’t have an answer that relates more directly.

Another popular question is “Tell me about a difficult situation in your last position.”  Here’s a tip: this question has little to do with the situation itself.  Every job comes with difficult situations.  The interviewer is assessing your problem-solving skills and probably your ability to work with a team.  Briefly describe a difficult, work-related situation.  Tell about your contribution to coming up with a solution and how you engaged with others to implement the solution.

One of my favorite questions to ask in an interview is “Why do you want to work here?”  My least favorite answer is, “Because I live close to here.”  This question gives you a wide open door to brag to the interviewer about their own company.  You should say something along the lines of “I looked at your record of impressive growth online while also maintaining your high standards of customer service.  I know I can help contribute to your ongoing success in both of those areas.”  Do you see how that answer strokes the ego of the interviewer while also making you look good in the process?

What about this one: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”  Again, think about the job you’re applying for when you answer this question.  Keep your answer relevant to the position.  “Retired on a beach in Hawaii” or “Playing first base for the Seattle Mariners” or “Being a stay-at-home parent with my children” might all be honest answers, but they also all have one thing in common: you don’t see yourself with this company in five years.  This leaves the interviewer to question if investing in your training and in you as an employee makes sense if you’re not planning to be there longer than a few years.  Instead, think about the progression of positions at the company you’re applying to.  If you’re applying for a management position in a restaurant, your answer could be “I see myself as General Manager of one of your locations in five years.”  If you are looking to work as an employee, see yourself in Management.  They are looking for your ambition and your potential future with their company.

Here’s another one that can be tricky: “Why did you leave your last position?”  You should come to your interviews prepared to answer any questions about your resume.  Why you chose to work at certain companies, why you are no longer with said companies, roles and responsibilities at those companies, etc.  What the interviewer is usually looking for with this question is, again, your potential retention at their company.  Are you a flight risk?  Be brief, be honest, be professional.  This is not the time to start talking negatively about previous companies or previous co-workers.  “Those jerks were trying to save a buck by outsourcing half our department and moving the rest of the department to the middle of nowhere and there was no way I was going to move my family there.”  There’s a lot of hostility and bad feelings coming through in that response.  And it’s through no fault of your own that you left the last position, but that answer only conveys negativity and that’s the lasting impression you’ll leave with your interviewer.  Instead, you should say, “Unfortunately, the decision was made to outsource half of our department.  I was given the option to continue in my position but that would mean moving to Butte, Montana and that’s just not a viable option for me at this time.”  That is a very reasonable explanation for why you are no longer in a previous position, it stays on topic and answers the question professionally without emotion.  It also confirms to your interviewer that you are not a threat to leave their company on a whim.

The way to end an interview is to turn the tables and ask a pertinent question of the interviewer.  You came prepared to answer any questions about your resume, you did your homework about the company and the role so you can answer their questions about your qualifications in a tailored manner.  So have something prepared when they conclude the interview by asking you, “Do you have any questions for me at this time?”  Your odds of getting the job decrease significantly if you simply reply, “Not at this time.”  Remember, this is just as much your opportunity to learn about the role and the company as it is for them to learn about you.  Here are two great questions to ask an interviewer.

“Why is this position available?”  The theme of this whole article is listen.  So make sure you pay close attention to their answer to this question.  It will also tell you a lot about what is going to be expected of you.  There could be many reasons why the position is available.  They terminated the last person for poor performance.  The last person was a rockstar but got promoted and they are looking for someone to fill those big shoes.  The company is growing and this is a new position to complement their growth.  

“What is this company’s biggest obstacle to being more successful this year and how will I be able to help overcome it in this role?”  This is such an engaging question that can also help you more fully understand the role and their expectations of the right candidate who is going to fill the position.  Use their answer to your advantage by adjusting your answers to upcoming questions in a way that makes them see you meeting their expectations.

Interviews are tough, nerve-wracking.  But if you come prepared and you listen carefully to what is being asked of you and respond appropriately, you set yourself apart from the rest of the pack and significantly increase your chances of landing the job.

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