Say what? Yeah…say LISTEN! I know this is going to sound so mundane and simple that many readers are going to think, “Why would he remind me about this?” Well, it’s because this is probably one of the biggest mistakes both candidates and interviewing authorities make in the hiring process….THE BIGGEST!

This mistake is mostly made by candidates. At least twice this week, two of my candidates failed in their interview almost in the very beginning of it because they didn’t really listen to the question they were being asked. They were so anxious to answer the question, they weren’t really clear what the question was. Unfortunately, in both of these cases this question came in the beginning of the interview when the hiring authority caught on that the candidates didn’t really understand the question. And this was such a shame.

One of these interviews was a zoom interview and the other one was a telephone interview. This kind of thing is especially disastrous with a telephone interview, because the hiring authority can’t see body language, there is a tendency to really misunderstand. What happened was really simple. The employer asked the candidate a question. The candidate really didn’t understand the question but started answering it anyhow. Instead of asking for a clarification or saying something like, “I’m not sure I quite understand what you mean, could you ask me again?” the candidate was afraid of appearing ignorant, so he just started answering the wrong question with (who even knows) the wrong answer.

This was about three or four minutes into the interview. The interview only lasted about 30 minutes. The hiring authority was so hung up on the candidate’s misunderstanding about the question and his poor answer that the employer wrote the guy off in the first three or four minutes.

The second situation of not listening well took place on the part of a hiring authority in a face-to-face interview. The hiring authority got hung up on the candidate’s last two years of experience. The candidate’s previous job had lasted seven years and was the candidate’s major experience that applied to the hiring authority’s interest. The hiring authority, according to the candidate, really didn’t understand what the candidate had been doing for the last two years and started explaining to the candidate that what he’d been doing most recently didn’t have anything to do with what they did.

The candidate tried to bring the subject back around to what he had done for the previous seven years but it really didn’t seem to matter. He claimed that the employer quit listening when he couldn’t get a grasp of what the candidate had been doing for the last two years.

Interviewing and hiring are emotionally stressful events. Even outside of the interviewing and hiring process, we’ve all experienced people who had started to answer a question before the question is finished being asked. How many times on game shows do we hear the host tell the participants to not ring the bell to answer the question before the question is finished. Well, people do that in the interviewing process too.

The key is to relax. If a person doesn’t understand either a question or an answer, they should simply take a deep breath and ask the other person to please repeat their question or answer. Even after that, if the question or answer is not understood, ask for clarification. Except in rare instances, no one is ever going to criticize a person for not understanding…at least the first time.

Everyone would perform better and have a better understanding of each other if they just LISTEN !

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