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Even before the age of digital distractions, people could only remember about 10% of what was said in a face-to-face conversation according to a 1987 study that remains a key gauge of conversational recall. Most people can think more than twice as fast as the average person talks, allowing the mind to easily wander. Sue Shellenbarger writes in the WSJ Work & Family section that it’s possible to improve your listening skills and prescribes these steps to help you be more effective during a job interview.


  • Clear your mind of distractions.
  • Prepare a list of questions or topics you want to cover.
  • Plan in advance to limit your time giving answers – be concise, but thorough.
  • Drop assumptions that you already know what the interviewer will ask or say.
  • Leave cell phones or other mobile devices in your car.

During the Interview

  • Take notes to stay focused while listening.
  • Paraphrase what you think the interviewer said and ask if you are on point.
  • Ask clarifying questions to sharpen the focus of the conversation.
  • Notice the interviewer’s body language and facial expressions as potential sources of meaning.
  • Use pauses to reflect or draw out more information.