4 Tips for Being an Active Listener Posted August 21, 2014 by Abby Reynolds

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So far in our communication series, we have covered the practice of sending professional emails and leaving appropriate voicemails. However, another important part of being a strong communicator is in the nonverbal cues. Especially for veterans beginning the job search, being an active and proficient listener during the interview can help to build necessary relationships and, ultimately, secure a job.

Listening is a more difficult practice than it may first appear to be. With all of today's technology and gadgets, it can be tough to completely focus on a single subject for a given period of time. Whatever your personal preference may be, devoting all your energy and focus to listening is a necessary skill for job seekers who wish to be successful during interviews.

This post will provide tips and hints for how to become the most proficient listener possible, a necessary talent for the skilled communicator. The most obvious place to begin showcasing your listening skills would be in an interview setting. The interviewer wants to see if you're able to understand both verbal, and nonverbal cues and convey a professional image, without monopolizing the interview.

Practice the following tips to develop your skills to becoming a proficient active listener.

Active Listening is a term that you are bound to have heard before, but isn't necessarily one that you may know the definition to. Active listening, as described by HCareers, creates a channel of conversation between the speaker and the listener. What this means for you, the listener is:

  • To put your focus entirely on the speaker, who in this case, would be the interviewer

To create complete focus, it's necessary to eliminate any outside distractions, such as your cell-phone or handheld device.                 Put any additional materials down while the interviewer is speaking to further focus yourself.

  • To engage with the speaker

This doesn't mean interrupting with your own stories or questions, but rather encouraging the interviewer and maintaining                 that channel of communication. This can be done by smiling, nodding your head, verbally agreeing with what they're saying               and generally showing interest.

  • To occasionally repeat back, or paraphrase important pieces of information

Do this sparingly, as it can be done too much, but in moderation, repeating back what the speaker was saying in your own                     words can help to signal that you are a strong and comprehensive listener. Live Career adds that practicing this will also give             the speaker the "...opportunity to correct you if you misunderstood anything important."

  • To listen with not only your ears, but your eyes as well

Just like it is important for you to be showcasing positive body language, it is also important to be able to read the body                       language and nonverbal cues from the interviewer, and adjust your behavior accordingly. Listening to the words, but tuning               out visually can come across negatively in an interview.

Passive Listening, the opposite of active listening, is something that could negatively impact the interviewer's perception of you during a conversation. While passive listening can fall under a variety of definitions and isn't always immediately obvious, it usually translates into seeming distracted attention, not making eye-contact, responding with inappropriately timed affirmations or appearing to ignore the speaker altogether. Passive listening will hurt you the most when it comes to making a meaningful connection with the speaker and when it comes time for you to speak during the conversation.

Everyone has a preferred style of communication. But by following the four tips listed above and adjusting them to the specific interview and your interviewer, you may be surprised how far a little bit of active listening can go in making a good impression.