J. Nick Augustine J.D. is the principal of Pro Serve PR, a public relations firm serving law and professional service firms. Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition based on his experience in legal marketing, public relations, and practice management. Nick shares career growth experience and innovation with legal job seekers.
Good listening skills are a strong asset in an interview. Whether meeting with the hiring partner or arriving at the first meeting with a placement agency, the interviewer will scrutinize your answers. Imagine you are interviewing several candidates to whom you pose the same question, would you notice when the other person is clearly not listening? Certainly.
There are several important benefits to practicing good listening:
(1) Good listeners who directly answer questions seem engaged;
(2) Interviewers will remain engaged with candidates who answer directly;
(3) Effective listeners sense the pattern of questions and spot an opportunity to offer a direct answer with added value;
(4) Effective listening helps both parties avoid assumptions; and
(5) Interviewers appreciate candidates who care enough to listen and offer the best answer.
First, a good listener who answers the question posed appears engaged. Directly answer the question asked or the interviewer could think you: (a) are not paying attention, (b) cannot understand the question, (c) do not really care about the interview. If you relax and directly respond to the posed question you are more likely to appear engaged in the discussion.
Then, once you appear engaged, likely the interviewer will remain engaged in dialogue. Law practice requires effective listening and interviewing, if you cannot listen in an interview, how will you perform with clients? Interviewers who meet with several candidates are likely to continue the process with those who keep them engaged.
Next, when listening to the pattern of questions most people can identify the inquiry sequence. If you sense there is an opportunity to directly answer a question and offer an additional benefit then you can impress an interviewer who might have not learned the additional information. Be certain you fully answered the question before offering an additional response.
After engaging in effective dialogue, both parties likely sense a complete exchange of information. When listening for questions that do not come up, make a mental note of follow up questions that move the parties away from assumptions. It is appropriate to make short notes during an interview. Candidates who ask follow-up questions for certainty appear to show initiative.
Finally, interviewers are often thankful when a candidate waits for the sequence of questions. If you are a witness in court, the instructions are, “Please only answer the question asked,” and this applies to interview settings as well. Remember that you have one chance to make a first impression. Good listeners have great interviews when their responses convey knowledge, skill and confidence.