Listening Techniques for Interviewees…and Dogs?

Posted by Judy Anne Cavey on Apr 4, 2011 in , , | No Comments

In an interview, the employer will ask the applicant many questions.

Not every question may seem relevant…and some might seem downright strange.

For example, one interviewee recently commented that an interviewer asked, “if you could be any breed of dog, what would you be?” While this question might prompt a good laugh, how you answer this particular question speaks volumes to the trained interviewer. Here is where your effective listening and interviewing techniques come in handy.

Choose the Best Answer

Below are two examples of how the question above might be answered. See if you can pick out the best answer, but also be able to answer why it is the best answer:

“Oh, I’d love to be a Blood Hound, they lay around all day” or “I’d like to be a Golden Retriever, they are friendly, energetic and intelligent.”

The first response might have the interviewer thinking you actually like to lay around all day–not good–while the second response gives a glimpse into what you value: being friendly, energetic and intelligent. All traits an employer seeks in a potential employee. This type of question, while seems out of place in an interview, actually has merit in discovering hidden tidbits about the interviewee. Remember to listen carefully to what is being asked.

Listen Carefully

1) Maintain good eye contact

2) Lean slightly forward

3) Reinforce the speaker by nodding

4) Stay focused, don’t be distracted

5) Clarify by asking questions

6) Be committed to understand what is being said

Understand the Question

If you find yourself in a situation where the potential employer asks a question you don’t understand, use the following listening techniques (especially helpful for those whose first language is not English):

Paraphrase-state in your own words what you think they said, “In other words…” or “What I hear you saying is…”

Clarifying-usually goes hand-in-hand with paraphrasing. Basically, questions are asked until a clear picture is established. Clarifying helps the listener to get past vague generalities. For example: “Would you expand on that point?”

Better Listening an Art

In The Art of Listening, by the late Brenda Ueland, the author gives the following suggestions for better listening: “Try to learn tranquility, to live in the present, part of the time, everyday.” In doing this, your listening skills will reflect you are present, not thinking about the next question the interviewer will ask. Rather, you are completely focused on what the question is, pause, take a moment to think about what is being asked and how best to answer it.

What Breed are You?

So, the next time you are in the interview hot seat, think about the best truthful response that adequately depicts who you are, and what you value. Don’t discount any question as being silly or irrelevant, even if asked what breed of dog you’d prefer to be.


©2009 Excerpts adapted from the presentation “Effective Listening Techniques When Helping Others” by Judy Anne Cavey