Listening actively during your interview will improve your performance by enabling you to make more intelligent responses. Unfortunately, this is harder than it sounds. The truth is that most of us listen at only 25-50% of our potential. While not paying full attention, we are likely to forget, mishear, or distort the information being presented. To prevent these problems, begin working on your listening skills well in advance of your interviews. Practice listening with your whole body by turning toward the other person and making consistent eye contact. Occasionally you may want to match the interviewer’s pace, nod your head, and say, “yes” to signal that you are engaged.
You will be in a position of having to answer questions and provide information. To respond effectively, it is important that you are able to identify the main points of a question or statement from the interviewer. However, this is not always a simple task, as not all interviewers are strong, clear speakers. If you are uncertain about what the interviewer is asking, use paraphrasing and reflection to gain clarity. This practice involves simply trying to process the information presented as best you can and then rephrasing the question for the reviewer. You might ask, “So what you’re asking is. . . ?” Even if it turns out you have misunderstood the original question, it is far better to request clarification than to answer a question that was not actually asked.
If you find yourself struggling to follow someone else’s train of thought, or if you just need a break, ask a question of the interviewer. You might even ask the same question he or she just asked you. This will demonstrate that you are engaged in the conversation, and will provide an opportunity for you to gain control of the conversation and to regroup.
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