It’s in the Ears by Carole Martin

Most people who have an interview scheduled work like crazy on the answers to the questions that may or may not be asked. They focus entirely on the questions and answers and are very nervous about having all the right answers..

If you are one of those people who believe that interviewing is only about answering questions, you’ve been missing the point. You’ve also been missing an opportunity to gather valuable information. Listening is one of the skills most underutilized by candidates. They forget to listen, observe and read between the lines.

Here are two examples of candidates — one who listened and asked questions and one who did not listen and missed the opportunity to ask questions.

The Candidate – who did not listen

Diane answered all the questions and waited for her turn to ask questions. When she was finally asked, “Do you have any questions?” she was ready and took out her list of questions.

Sounds like she did everything perfectly. Right? Not quite. She forgot one thing, and that was to listen. If she had been listening, she would have heard the emphasis placed on retention. There were at least three questions asked about her plans for the future; how long she planned to stay with the company; why she had only stayed with her last company two years.

If she had been listening, she might have been struck by the focus of these questions and she might have asked, “I’ve noticed from the questions you asked me that you seem to have some concerns about my plans for long-term employment, could you tell me more about your concerns and about the turnover rate for this department/company?”

If Diane had asked that question she might have found out the turnover rate was quite high. In fact, it was a big problem for the company. If she had been listening, her next question should have been, “Is there a specific reason employees leave?” She may, or may not, have a gotten a forthright answer, but she would have been able to make her own judgment, and observe the interviewer for signs of discomfort with the question. Observing is another way of “listening” or taking in information.

The Other Candidate – who listened and asked questions

Jerry, listened and observed while he interviewed and picked up a thread of questions pertaining to stress and long hours. When it was his turn to ask questions he asked, “On a scale of one to ten, with ten being high, how would you rate the stress and pressure levels in this department?”

He noticed the two interviewers look at each other when he asked this question, and they agreed it was a “six.” Jerry figured that must mean an eight or ten, and continued to ask more questions about the subject. He followed up with another question, “Is this the norm, or a seasonal level workload?”

He listened carefully – reading between the lines. He gathered information he wouldn’t have known had he not been on their wavelength, tuned in and listening.

Jerry had already worked in a “sweat shop” where he was expected to work 60 plus hours a week. He wasn’t about to walk into that situation again. He now had enough information to make the decision as to whether he wanted to work for this company – in this department.

Rewards of Listening

When all you can think of is the answers that you will be giving, you miss a premium opportunity to garner information about the situation you are about to enter, if you take the job. The bonus of listening is that you impress the interviewer by the fact that you have heard what was said, and sometimes what was not said.

The best questions you can ask come as a result of listening. Turn up your listening and intuitive skills. Read between the lines! You’ll be surprised at what you hear.

The Interview Coach, Carole Martin, is a celebrated author, job coach, and speaker on the subject of interviewing and recruiting. Contributing writer at and featured on talk radio. Carole is using her proven methods for coaching job seekers on competitive interviewing skills in technical and non-technical industries. Follow The Interview Coach on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin by visiting to learn about current workshops and seminars Carole is offering.