How poor listening affects interview panels

Members of selection panels need to have first-class listening skills.

Six behaviours that get in the way of quality listening are:

  1. Not focusing on what the applicant is saying. If your mind is elsewhere, such as on the applicant’s clothes, their choice of ear rings, the smell of tobacco, you will hear less of what is actually being said.
  2. Not paying attention to all the relevant messages. A check list of the key details that must be covered in the interview responses helps to ensure panel members are listening for relevant information.
  3. Allowing personal biases to get in the way. We all have biases. They affect how we interpret information. During an interview panel members need to work at suppressing their own biases.
  4. Skewed motivation. Our motivation affects who well we attend to what a person is saying. If we know an applicant we may assume they will say what needs to be said and pay less attention. If we like an applicant we may be more motivated to listen than if we dislike them.
  5. Continuing to interview when tired. Fatigue reduces our capacity to listen well. Resist the temptation to squeeze another interview into the day just to complete the interviews. Fairness to applicants means giving them all quality listening time.
  6. Not probing further when insufficient information is provided.

When an applicant assumes you know background information or gives too little information, panel members must probe further to gain all the information needed. Check lists of what information you are seeking helps with identifying gaps in what an applicant says.
Effective listening involves more than simply hearing what an applicant has said. It involves the search for a full and accurate understanding of the meaning of what the applicant is saying both verbally and non-verbally. Skillful panel members are able to:

  • help applicants make their case to the best of their ability.
  • keep their attention focused on the applicant’s information.
  • organise the information they receive so that they can make sense of even complex or badly structured information, in accordance with what they are assessing at interview.
  • minimise the affect of personal bias.

Preparing for listening is essential. What panel members can do to prepare to listen includes:

  • reviewing applicant’s background information
  • reviewing job requirements, the selection process, the objectives of the interview
  • putting aside distracting or preoccupying concerns
  • arranging an environment that has few, if any, distractions
  • scheduling interviews at times when panel members are least likely to be stressed or fatigued.

This preparation is the responsibility of both the panel chair and panel members.

Dr Ann Villiers, career coach, writer and author, is Australia’s only Mental Nutritionist specialising in mind and language practices that help people build flexible thinking, confident speaking and quality connections with people.