Recruitment – 10 Top Tips To Hone Your Listening Skills

When interviewing a candidate, you have approximately one hour to decide whether they’re the right person for the job and for your company. So you need to do everything possible to make the most of that hour. Interviewing is a bit like driving a car – we all think we’re better than we really are and if we took a test tomorrow, most of us would fail! This is because we develop bad habits which don’t get corrected – usually because most people interview on their own. One of the fundamental interview skills is listening. Below we offer our best tips, taken from our Interviewing Skills eLearning programme*.

Top Tips To Hone Your Listening Skills


  1. Plan the main questions you intend to ask and in what order, thus creating a shape to the interview
  2. Use empathy to create the right atmosphere in the interview
  3. Talk as little as possible, concentrating and showing the candidate by expressions and gestures that you are taking everything in
  4. Be persistent but patient; use probing questions to get to the heart of the matter
  5. Use verbal encouragers, eg “I see”, “yes”, “go on”
  6. Summarise at regular intervals to show you are listening and to check understanding
  7. Allow the candidate time to complete their answers, even though they may be struggling to get the words out
  8. Look out for unconscious bias – most people listen out for positive confirming facts for people they like and negative facts for people they don’t. Neutralise your biases by doing the opposite
  9. “Listen to the judge” – the judge’s instructions to the jurors are always the same: Hear all the evidence before reaching a conclusion. Every interviewer should take the same advice
  10. Remove distractions – don’t doodle, tap, check your phone or shuffle papers

What does bad listening look like?

A bad listener…

  • … Listens only to the details that interest them and switch off to the rest
  • … Is easily distracted by the candidate’s mannerisms, dress, accent and body language
  • … Is too sympathetic to the candidate’s point of view, preventing them from listening objectively to what the candidate is actually saying
  • … Hasn’t prepared well enough; when they should be listening, they’re trying to work out what the next question should be
  • … Lacks patience and doesn’t let the candidate answer properly
  • … Is unable to empathise with the feeling the candidate is expressing
  • … Hears what they want to hear and not what the candidate is saying
  • … Interrupts. Worryingly, women are more likely to be interrupted mid-sentence and face more follow-up questions, with men twice as likely to interject while speaking to a woman**

Listening builds trust; a candidate will recognise your interest when you make the effort to really listen. When a candidate can tell that you’re invested in what they’re saying, they’ll be more relaxed. The end result is that they’ll be comfortable sharing with you and being open, which makes for a far more effective interview.

*If you’d like to find out more about our Interviewing Skills training and/or eLearning programmes, please do get in touch.

** Source: Journal of Social Sciences