Top 2 tips for active listening from Bagg Group experts


When hiring, it’s great if you’re able to clear a block of time for interviewing candidates.  However, as we noted in a previous blog, it can be a challenge to actively listen for an extended period of time.

At The Bagg Group, listening attentively to our clients and candidates is our trademark.

We’ve won multiple industry awards largely because of our focus on paying close attention when clients and candidates talk of their needs, interests, and expectations.   It’s how we’ve been able to place almost 60,000 people successfully in full-time, contract, and temporary placements over our 40-year history.

So given our experience, we can vouch for these two powerful tried-and-true techniques for staying engaged when interviewing candidates, one after the other:

Repeat back:

We coach our candidates to stay on point since we know it’s not uncommon to ramble during an interview.   We understand why people can get off-topic. In the pressure cooker of an interview room, many feel compelled to share as much info as they can.

The problem is that the impulse backfires.  When someone talks too much and digresses a lot, the listener’s attention easily starts to wander.

An effective way to help you, and the candidate, regain focus is to repeat back a key point the candidate made — in your own words.

  • For example you might say: “So from what I hear, you (recap the point)” or “From what I understand, what you most like to do is … .”  Or, “It sounds like what’s most important to you is …” or “I’m hearing that in a conflict situation, you … .”

This technique also ensures clarity as the candidate will either agree or correct your interpretation.

Switch over from info gathering to curiosity:

Asking questions to collect data can get tedious after a while.  To stay engaged, ask questions from a place of curiosity.  Such questions provoke interesting, insightful conversation.

The great thing about asking questions that arise out of curiosity is that they don’t come with a standard response.   You simply can’t predict what the candidate might answer and that fact alone prompts you into listen.

For example, a data-gathering question is:  “Why did you move from Vancouver to here?” Anyone might predict that a candidate would answer either (a) for family, (b) for more opportunity, (c) for studies.

You can turn that into a more compelling curiosity-based question by asking,What did you hope for when you moved here?

Other examples of curiosity-based questions are:  “What risks are you willing to take?” “What would you change?”  “If you could do anything you wanted, what would you do?”

We know by experience that when you’re curious about the person, not just their resume, you discover a lot about them – and importantly, whether they’d be a good match for your team.

And here’s another best practice for active listening:  Take a break

Make sure to schedule time in between interviews so you can check your messages.  It’s in everyone’s interest to ask your next interview to wait a few minutes so you can clear your head and review your messages rather than going straight into your next meeting and spending the time thinking about your inbox.

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