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Open Your Ears

Open Your Ears – It will help you land a job

By Lawrence Alter

Every professional sales person knows that if you don’t understand the needs of your prospect it is almost impossible to convince them of the merits of your product or service? As a job seeker you are a sales person, and your mission is to sell yourself to an employer. Listen to the needs of the employer and then target those needs by specifically selling your ability to solve their problems and contribute to the bottom line. Being a good listener helps you to gain enough information about the company and its culture to target your selling efforts most effectively.

Remember that when you are talking, you are repeating what you already know, when you are listening, you are acquiring knowledge. Stephen Covey is quoted as saying “most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

Jacqueline Whitmore who runs a coaching firm called the “Protocol School of Palm Beach” (, and the author of a book entitled Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work (St. Martin’s Press,) suggests the following 10 steps to better listening. Job seekers take heed; these common sense measures will help you to interview more successfully and be a more informed and motivating communicator.

  1. Ask pertinent questions. “When you want to understand what someone is trying to say, ask clarifying questions like, ‘If I hear you correctly, you are saying (fill in the blank) … Is that right?’” If you don’t understand and require more information, ask for specific details or examples. Whitmore says, “Questions are the hallmark of a good listener.”
  1. Practice empathetic listening. Author Frank Tyger is quoted as saying that “hearing is one of the body’s five senses, but listening is an art.” Whitmore says that “The highest form of listening is when you strive to understand how the speaker feels. You don’t have to agree or even sympathize, but you can better identify with what’s being said if you use your emotions as well as your intellect.”
  1. Listen with more than just your ears. According to Whitmore, “Nodding occasionally, making eye contact, taking notes, and being fully engaged all demonstrate genuine concern for the person you’re speaking with. Watch his or her facial expressions, eye contact, and hand gestures” to pick up on body language messages.
  1. Share personal stories. Short stories and real life examples may be relevant to the interview may help you “seem more approachable and down to earth.” Perhaps that’s why our society is so fascinated by reality television shows that feature celebrities. We want to know that they’re real people too.”
  1. Paint a visual picture. Creating a visual image of what the other person (the interviewer) is saying “will help you follow what’s being said and remember it later on,” according to Whitmore.
  1. Don’t interrupt. Whitmore writes that many bright, talented business professionals interrupt or finish other people’s sentences without recognizing what they are doing. Always remember to allow the interviewer to complete his or her thought, it will give you more information and you will be perceived as a more interested and concerned candidate.
  1. Pause before you reply. Whitmore says “Silence, the white space of communication, has a commanding impact.” Don’t be afraid to pause occasionally to consider the content of the interviewer’s message so that you can respond more appropriately. A few seconds of silence from time to time will help you in formulating a better response to an unexpected question.
  1. Eliminate distractions. Don’t shuffle papers or take notes while on the telephone. Don’t let yourself get distracted by unrelated thoughts or concentrate on what you wish to say next when you are in an interview. You will miss what is being said and it could cost you dearly. Don’t try to carry on an important conversation if you driving or engaged in another activity. You cannot concentrate on two separate things at exactly the same time. If the person you are contacting is using a cell phone, ask if there is a better time to contact them – so you might have their full attention.
  1. Speak with a purpose. Whitmore observes “that some of the world’s most brilliant people speak only when they have something important or profound to say.” “When these people talk we all listen. It’s often what we don’t say that makes a greater impression on others than what we do say.”
  1. Don’t give unsolicited advice. Unless you are asked for your thoughts, ideas, or suggestions, keep them to yourself. If you wish to advise someone, ask if they are receptive to your feedback. According to Whitmore, “some people may appreciate your words of wisdom, but others will get defensive and think you’re trying to change them.” It’s best to give advice only when you’re being paid for it or when someone has specifically asked for your opinion or feedback.

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:

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