Much of the time when we think about looking for a job, we think about those situations that require good conversational skills, such as interviews or networking encounters. As a result, job seekers spend a lot of time formulating and practicing effective answers and conversation starters and, of course, crafting a succinct yet powerful 30-second “elevator pitch.” (At least, that’s what career experts hope job seekers do.)
Many introverts say this is the area that they don’t excel at and they lack confidence in. But that’s only one side of the conversational skill set. The other is the art of listening.
In a recent blog, career coach Bob McIntosh highlighted the importance of listening as a job search tool. Bob points out that a person who speaks without listening first will often fail to get the desired results. And listening is a skill that plays to introverts’ strengths. That’s not to say that all introverts are always good listeners – especially if they’re not interested in what the other person is saying (a situation that can be exacerbated when small talk is involved!).
Building on Bob’s advice, here are some tips to help you practice and benefit from active listening in your job search.
1. Focus the spotlight on the other person.
Ask open-ended questions that give the other person the opportunity to elaborate and tell you more about themselves and their concerns. In a job interview, this translates to learning more about the position and the problems facing the hiring manager.
2. Use “active listening” body language.
Make eye contact, smile, lean slightly toward the other person, offer encouraging nods. Avoid the “arms crossed across your chest” stance, which suggests you’re not receptive to what the other person is saying.
3. Concentrate on the message.
It’s easy to get distracted – by other activity in the room, by thinking about what you’re going to say next, by an awkward mannerism or speaking style. Stay focused on the message the other person is communicating.
4. Capture the key points in writing.
This might be on the back of a business card at a networking event or on a note pad during or immediately after a job interview – it serves as a reminder of the essential elements of your conversation.
5. Follow up.
Take the time to reach out to someone you met in a networking context, and use what you learned as the bridge to nurture the relationship. With job interviews, use the key points you recorded as the basis for your thank you letters. In both situations, you get to demonstrate that you were giving the other person your full attention.
Use good listening skills to build relationships and gather information that can help your job search.