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Active listening: The Key to Interviewing

Interviews are great. You learn about someone, keep an ear out for gold, share vulnerabilities and earn trust and rapport with people.




My first couple of interviews were extremely daunting. Some were train wrecks, others gave me a chance to listen to some incredible stories.


One of my university professors at the University of Wollongong Siobhan McHugh would often emphasise with us the importance of deep and active listening.

To listen with empathy and engage on improvisation and curiosity.


Humans are social creatures. If you're nervous, imagine you're having a friendly conversation with a mate and remind yourself, you're not the one on camera!


Below are some tips that I've learnt doing interviews over the past eight years.


1. Build trust and rapport. Have a pre-interview chat.

Humans are social creatures. If you have the time before an interview, introduce yourself and have a chat. You never know what might come out of a conversation that might be interesting to raise during the actual interview. If you can warm up, the interview will be natural.


2. Actively listen with curiosity and empathy.

As mentioned above, the key to a good story is to pick out the details. So, listen, engage and appreciate what is being shared with you.


3. Ask questions based on what you're listening to.

What did they say about the nosy journalist? Go ahead and ask questions.


4. Create a safe, calming space.

Being in the hot seat can be nerve wracking, especially for the newly initiated.

Try and make it as comfortable as possible and as calm as possible. You want everyone to have a good time, you don't want anyone to feel shame or bad about the experience.


5. Feed an answer through a question (If you need it, get it)

If there's a line that you need for the edit don't be afraid to feed it to be repeated. Or if you need the response to be answered by the question, state it before it's their turn to respond. e.g. Q: "How does climate change make you feel?" A: "Climate change makes me feel...xyz"


6. Respect above all.

I don't think this point needs further explanation. Respect goes two ways.

Show respect to earn it.


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