3 Key Listening Tips for Hiring Interviews

Mary Gormandy White
Thinkstock

Proper preparation and using appropriate questioning strategies are critical to conducting effective hiring interviews, but they aren't the whole story. Listening effectively is the key to gathering good information and using what you learn to make a sound decision about which candidates might be the best fit for your company.

1. Don't Talk Too Much

Too often, hiring managers do too much talking and not enough listening when interviewing prospective employees. This is a common interviewing mistake, but it's one that can easily be prevented when you realize that your role as an interviewer is not to 'sell' candidates on coming to work for your company, but rather to give them an opportunity to pitch themselves to you.

  • Simply put, the interview is an applicant's chance to shine - be quiet so they can!
  • Silence can be okay in an interview. You don't have to fill every second with chatter.
  • Be quiet after asking questions to allow candidates some time to compose responses so that they can answer thoughtfully.
  • Staying silent for a few seconds after the interviewee seems to have finished answering your question can elicit additional information, and can also keep you from interrupting. After all, the applicant may have just been pausing to gather his or her thoughts.
  • Brief periods of silence don't have to be uncomfortable, nor do they have to be wasted time. Use them to take good notes for later reference.

2. Really Listen to Candidates

Interviewers sometimes get so caught up in the structure of the interview process and the questions they want to ask that they don't pay close enough attention to what the applicants are saying. However, that is where you'll get the information you need to make a wise decision. Focus on what they are saying, and work that into the interview process.

  • Really listen while applicants are speaking rather than thinking ahead to the next question you want to ask.
  • Use the applicants' responses to form probing or follow-up questions, which you can only do if you truly attend to what they are saying.
  • Listen between the lines - sometimes what they aren't saying tells just as much of a story as the words they speak.
  • An applicant's words aren't the only symbols that convey meaning in an interview. Watch for nonverbal cues (body language, tone, eye movement, etc.), as they can be very telling.

3. Reserve Judgment

It's a mistake to make up your mind about a candidate early in the interview process. It's critical to avoid making snap decisions based on appearance and the first few things a candidate says.

  • Remember that the applicant may not be at his or her best at first due to nerves, so don't rush to judgment based on a shaky voice, nervous demeanor, hesitant handshake, etc. at the outset of the interview.
  • If people seem too good or too bad to be true, don't make up your mind immediately. Extreme impressions rarely tell the whole story.
  • Step back and be objective as you conduct the interview, regardless of your initial first impression.
  • Commit to reserving judgment on whether any candidate might be a good fit until after he or she has had an opportunity to answer all of your questions.

Boost Interviewing Effectiveness by Listening

Really listening to what candidates have to say is a critical aspect of conducting effective hiring interviews. By taking the time to really hear what each applicant says, you can be sure that you're giving everyone a fair opportunity and improve the quality of your selection decision.

3 Key Listening Tips for Hiring Interviews