There's Nothing More Important In A Job Interview Than Listening

women talking cafe

Photo: Chris Blakeley on flickr

Over the past three weeks we’ve covered why you didn’t get the job, and what you can do about the reasons that are within your control.In this last week on this topic, we’ll address all of those things that are out of your control, and what to do about those. If I could put a subtitle on this newsletter, it would be “Listening is the most important interview skill“.

As a reminder, our fictional hiring manager, Betty Boss, shared the reasons she didn’t hire you:

I never saw your resume,
Your resume didn’t grab me,
The interview was a nice chat,
You never said you wanted this job,
I heard back from somebody else first,
I’m looking to build out the team with a variety of perspectives,
I’m looking for somebody with a different industry background,
We haven’t had success with profiles similar to yours in our organisation,
I’m looking for somebody with more / less experience.

Those in bold you can control; those in italics, you can’t.

With regards to those things you can not control, there is a simple answer as to how to handle them.

And, no, that answer is not “have a strong argument to talk them out of their viewpoint.” That can work in rare cases, but if the person with whom you are interviewing has made a reasoned decision to hire a different array of skills and experience for the role, it is pointless, fruitless, useless, to try to change their mind.

Because when these types of roadblocks have been agreed to by the group of people with whom you are interviewing, it is highly unlikely that you, an outsider, are going to persuade the group to change its mind. You won’t have the time, the face-time, the credibility, or the institutional knowledge to make a persuasive case.

Your strategy for your job hunt, therefore, must include finding out as soon as possible if there are any roadblocks for a particular position.

In sales, this is called “qualifying the lead.” And what it means for you is that you’ll need to ask about company culture, the types of people who are successful there, and the particular requirements or desires for the position itself.

What does that look like? It looks like asking these questions of the HR person, the recruiter, the hiring manager, and the other people you interview:

“Who’s been successful here? Who hasn’t? Why?”

“What type of industry / functional / skills-based experience and background are you looking for in the person who will fill this position? How do you assess my experience in comparison?”

“My background is primarily in such-and-such, why do you think that will be, or won’t be, a good fit for the position?”

“In my career, I’ve primarily enjoyed working with big / small / growing / independent / private / public / family-run companies. If that’s the case, how successful will I be at your firm?”

“What types of attributes are common to the people who are considered heroes at your company? What types of attributes are common to the promising people you hired but who then flamed out and failed or left? As I’m considering whether or not I’d be successful here, how should I think about the experiences of the heroes and the flame-outs?”

“What is your reward system? Is it a star system / team-oriented / equity-based / bonus-based / ‘attaboy!’-based? Why is that your reward system? What is the hoped-for purpose of it, and what actually happens when you put it into practice? What are the positives and negatives of your reward system, and if you could change any one thing, what would it be?”

The goal of all these questions is for you to listen. Listening is the most important interview skill. You want to listen to what people tell you, because that is really the only way that you are going to get a more accurate picture of what it’s really like to work at the company, and whether or not you will be a fit and be successful there.

And when you are listening, listen for roadblocks. Listen for the things they desire, but which you do not now have. Determine as quickly as possible if those roadblocks mean there is little chance for your successful candidacy for the position. And if so, politely bow out of the running, and focus your time on more productive opportunities.

That’s really the only way to handle the things that are out of your control…

So, in summary, our interviews with Betty Boss told us about all the reasons that bosses don’t hire you. For those things within your control, have a well-developed strategy and stick to it through to the end. For those things out of your control, realise and accept that they are out of your control, and search for greener pastures.

I’m rooting for you!

Read more posts on TheLadders »

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.