Good Interviewing is mostly listening

I watched some of the confirmation hearings of Judge Samuel Alito before the Senate in years

past and it did not take long before I found myself yelling at the television for the Senators to

“just ask the question!” Of course that didn’t last too long because my wife was quick to point

out to me that she was the only one hearing my frustrations.

If I had to grade the Senators’ interviewing skills during this hearing process, I would had given

most of them an ‘F’ because 13 out of 15 of them spoke longer than the job candidate. I think

their goal was to impress the public with their knowledgeable elocution rather than finding out

about Judge Alito’s qualifications and beliefs.

That is the most common mistake made by interviewers--speaking more than the job candidate.

Often, the candidate leaves the interview knowing a lot about the interviewer and the

organization but the reverse is not true. Often the interviewer ends up rating the candidate highly

when, in fact, they are judging how well they listened to the interviewer rather than having

learned anything about the candidate.

As an interviewer, if your first impression is that you like the person, everything after that just

reinforces the initial impression. Many times, job candidates pay a compliment to the

interviewer, the office, the organization or something that distracts the interviewer and gets the

whole process off track. Don’t take the bait. Politely thank them and then return to the prepared

list of questions that are asked of every candidate for a particular job. If the candidate attempts to ‘hijack’ the interview by coming to it well prepared with their own list of questions, make them

wait until you have gotten what you need from them and then let them ask what they wish.

Remember, a lot can be learned about a potential candidate by just letting them talk. And, the

interviewer also needs to remember that there are many people who are much better at ‘selling

themselves’ than they are at ‘delivering the goods’. So the interviewer needs to develop good

listening skills to pick up on subtle clues provided by the candidate about how he or she truly


“Well done is better than well said.” Ben Franklin


John's interest in human character and behavior started while working for a state agency and continued during the time he operated his own retail business for ten years. As he created and presented training on various topics, as an independent consultant, all over the United States, Canada and Europe and later helped many companies “streamline” processes to achieve maximal productivity his main interest continued to be human character. For the past 20+ years he has studied, researched, and t...

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