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Listening Power –The Jobseeker's Secret Weapon

Former U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk once said, “One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears – by listening to them.” If you want to increase your chances of getting the best job, be a better listener According to knowledgeable experts we communicate during 80% of our waking hours. How do we communicate? Communication authority and former Executive Director of the International Listening Association, Dr. Lyman K. Steil has found that 9% of our communicating time involves writing, 16% is used to read, 30% is used speaking to others, and the largest segment, 45%, involves listening. All of us were taught reading, writing, and speaking skills, but how many people are ever given formal training in listening, the communicating skill you use most frequently? According to numerous university studies, the average person’s immediate recall of a spoken message is only 50%, and that falls off to only 25% within forty-eight hours.

Most managers and executives love to talk about their companies and themselves. When you listen, you acquire knowledge, and knowledge gives you power. It allows you to channel your marketing efforts to emphasize how your acquired skills will help a company to solve their problems and contribute to growth and profits. It helps the employer see you as a better “fit” for their specific organizational culture. As the famous Greek philosopher Zeno of Citium said, “The reason why we have two ears and only one mouth is that we may listen the more and talk the less.” Following are 15 key rules that will allow you to hone your listening skills.

  1. Try to comprehend what you hear. The contrast between hearing and really listening is dramatic. If you are not effectively listening to the interviewer, it is the same as the salesperson not listening to the needs of their buyer. It will make the difference between success and failure.

  2. Don’t think about what you wish to say next while someone else is talking. Don’t take notes when being interviewed. Don’t shuffle papers or try to work on other projects while you are on the telephone. Focus your attention only on what is being said. When you are writing, you are not listening. Take your notes after your discussion while things are still fresh in your mind.

  3. Keep an open mind and try to be receptive to someone else’s point of view. If you do not understand a statement or question, then ask for clarification. Clarity works wonders.

  4. Whether you are in an in-person interview or participating in a telephone discussion you should have keep a script of points you wish to cover in front of you. That way if you are thrown off track by unexpected questions or comments it is easy to recover.

  5. When in an interview, always maintain eye contact. If you look at the person who is speaking to you, they will feel like you're really listening, not just hearing them.

  6. Ask questions to show you care. Good questions give you additional information and a better ability to effectively sell yourself.

  7. Try to care more about the other person and their concerns. Be empathetic. You will be a more attentive listener.

  8. Be open-minded. Nod to show the speaker that you understand and are in agreement. If you disagree with something and you really want the job, an interview is not the place to vent opposition. Try not to be judgmental.

  9. Pay attention to the speaker’s body language. Non-verbal cues can be as important as what is being said.

  10. Paraphrase or summarize important points.

  11. Don’t change the subject or fail to acknowledge important statements.

  12. To be an active listener, you must begin with awareness. Do others get angry with you for poor communication? When do you have problems communicating? How were you listening at these times? It takes guts, but don’t be afraid to ask others what you could do to become a better listener. Others will see your faults much better than you do.

  13. According to Michael Purdy, coauthor of Listening in Everyday Life, “To be a successful listener, you must also believe that listening is power. Because our society places so much emphasis on speaking as the way to win friends and influence people, good listeners can quietly have a powerful and subversive impact. You should also remember that speakers have little power without listeners. Speakers share their wisdom and try to persuade, but listeners make meaning of what is heard -- they make the ultimate decision to act on what they hear.”

  14. To learn more about effective listening: Read books, visit the International Listening Association’s Web site ( for tips, or take a workshop or class on effective listening. Then be sure to practice what you learn.

  15. Finally listen to your heart. Whenever you listen to your heart, you listen to that part of you that is most interested in your well being.

- Lawrence Alter

Author Lawrence Alter is president of L.D.A. Enterprises, Ltd.; a Minneapolis based outplacement and career management firm. He is a recognized expert in career growth techniques. Call (952) 697-3663 or send ideas and questions to: