The Art of Listening

How do we, as Human Resources professionals, learn to listen?

Concept of Communication. Listening closely and mindful with empathy is an important rule

In the practice of the Human Resources profession, interviewing is part of the job. We spend an enormous amount of time talking about the process of interviewing candidates. Our studies focus on the systems of interviewing tactics that are used to screen in and screen out candidates for a particular position.

We are trained to focus on ‘how’ to interview the right way. We learn the importance of asking the right questions. We learn to rate and evaluate responses. But do we know how to listen to what a candidate is saying when the interview is taking place?

As part of the preparation for interviewing candidates, we also need to focus on how we are prepared to listen.

In a social media world that is filled with sound bites and Twitter blasts, the ability to listen seems to be decreasing in both practice and preparation. It is something that we think we do every day, but many of us could stand to refresh these skills in a world where we may have less of the patience needed for really listening to each other.

In a recent Ted Talk, Celeste Headlee provides us with a reflection on how to listen in a way that provides learning and value.

Click here to watch and listen to Celeste Headlee’s Ted Talk.

Even though Ms. Headlee’s reflections are based on an American perspective, as a professional interviewer she provides some key messages that are applicable to the on-going practice of the Human Resources professional. We can use the skills of listening for understanding to learn more deeply about the person being interviewed and the experiences they bring with them.

When we are able to improve our own listening skills, we can move beyond the skills needed during the event of the interview  Listening is a process, not an event. If we are able to embed active listening into our daily interactions with others, we become better Human Resources professionals both in preparation and in practice.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What steps do you take to ensure that you are listening actively to another person?
  2. Why is active listening so difficult?
  3. Describe a recent conversation you had with someone where active listening did not take place? What was the result?

Winning or Losing in Labour Negotiations

The Art of Hearing in Labour Negotiations


Is there a difference between hearing and listening? Yes, there is; especially in labour contract negotiations?

Hearing is a physical action that takes place whether we are conscious of it or not.

Listening is different, listening occurs when we place cognitive meaning on what we have heard.  To be successful in labour negotiations. listening is one activity you must excel at.

A very wise executive coach, Kent Osbourne once taught me that “listening is a decision” not a skill.   When I am at the negotiation table I make an extreme effort to listen. Making a decision to listen during negotiations has been instrumental through my collective bargaining career.

Ken Godevenos gives some great advice on the art of collective bargaining. Mr. Godevenos stresses the point; what is said at the negotiation table is not always what it seems.

My motto is, an excellent negotiator must become a master of “what is not said” and listen to what message is truly being delivered.  If you can do that you will be well on your way to success at the negotiation table.

Discussion Questions

  1. Name five things a Human Resources Professional can do to improve their success in labour contract negotiations.
  2. How would you specifically try to improve your listening?
  3. How would you practise listening for upcoming negotiations?