When preparing for big interviews, most food & beverage professionals focus on what they’re going to say – about their work experience, accomplishments, goals, strengths and weaknesses.

While it’s certainly essential to know how to speak intelligently in an interview, it’s just as important to know how to listen.  A good recruiter will critically evaluate your listening skills as closely as he will your speaking skills.  In a market where competition is fierce, your ability to truly listen will help you make a better impression and may tip the scales in your favor.

Hone Your Active Listening Skills

In an interview situation, active listening is much more than just waiting for your turn to talk.  It involves not only hearing the words that are said, but also fully comprehending what the interviewer is asking you to do.  Use these tips to enhance your listening skills and perform better in your next interview:

Give the interviewer your full attention. Try to remain focused during the interview and devote your full attention to what the interviewer is saying.  Develop the habit of reminding yourself to focus every time your attention begins to drift.  Throughout the interview, maintain appropriate eye contact and avoid the temptation to formulate your response while the interviewer is still speaking.

Listen with your ears, eyes and brain. Communication experts say that only a fraction of the meaning of any conversation is in the actual words that are being said.  To understand the interviewer’s true meaning, you must glean other nonverbal cues from his tone of voice, posture and facial expressions.

Adopt an active listening posture. Show that you’re listening through your posture.  Sit with your shoulders set straight, while inclining your body and head slightly toward the other speaker.  Your hands may be used to take notes, or be folded either on the table or your lap.

Think before you speak. The more poised you are when you speak, the more intelligent your response will be.  So take a moment after hearing the question to formulate your answer.  A second or two of silence will help both you and the interviewer organize your thoughts and prepare for the turn in conversation.

Confirm understanding. If the interviewer asks a complex or multi-part question, paraphrase what he’s asked to confirm your understanding before beginning your response.  This will help ensure your response is both complete and accurate.

Answer the question that you’re asked. Listen carefully to the entire question before you answer it.  For example, the question “When do you feel that experience matters?” is significantly different from “How do you feel that experience matters?”  Make sure you pay attention to the nuances of each question and that you accurately answer what’s asked.  Avoid rambling answers that stray too far from the question posed.  If the interviewer wants to know more about something, he will ask you to elaborate.

Becoming a better listener won’t just help you land the job you want; it will make you a more successful professional.  So try incorporating a few of these tips into your next interview.  Do so and you may soon be listening to your next job offer!

Contact Kinsa Group for more assistance with your executive food & beverage job search.

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