The Importance of Listening

I know what you are all thinking:

“Of course, we listen.”

Take a moment to think about it. Do you listen?

When a candidate is on the phone and they are explaining their life story and their ideal role, you’re sitting there with various amounts of ‘mhmm’ or ‘yep’. Problem being that they do not fit into the role that you have. So, you’ve maybe unintentionally checked out of the conversation, explain that you don’t have anything available right now and you will contact them as soon as something becomes available. Then you never call back because their conversation is lost to something else more pressing.

Another example could be you find a candidate who teaches DT. A client calls you and requires a DT Textiles specialist. You are desperate to fill the role before your competitors and so you send the candidate you have found who teaches DT. Perfect. You barely recall your conversation on the phone where you asked about their employment and they told you they taught DT Resistant Materials and Construction, and on their CV, it says Resistant Materials and Construction multiple times. But it’s DT, you think to yourself, that’s what the client asked for. So, you send it anyway.

Sadly, within some Education Recruitment establishments these two scenarios are played out repeatedly. The competitive nature of the business, the lack of understanding of key education terminology, the money hungry consultants that are only out for gold. These faults bring bad blood and bad practice to a sector that offers so much to the education sector, and it really makes me angry.

Before, I worked in recruitment I worked in secondary schools in South London and Gloucestershire. One of the things we would ask our children to do was to ‘Actively Listen’ to teachers, staff, adults and each other. They would show they are doing so was by looking at the teacher or staff member and once they had finished they would be asked to summarize what they had just been told. This way their brain can fully compute the information being told to them and allow them the time to compose any questions that they may have. It seems that some recruiters forget or are ignorant to this key skill. The ability to Actively Listen is not something you can learn straight away, it is a process, the ability to listen with all your senses doesn’t come without a little practice. The process of listening to someone is a conscious decision. A decision made by you.

“How do I actively listen when I am on the phone?” I hear the recruiters cry.

Well, the signs for Active Listening are both verbal and non-verbal. Here are the verbal examples:


We as humans are forgetful, it’s in our nature. In order to assist this issue, I personally, write notes. It sounds simple but writing down small notes allows you to go back to points raised, corroborate information from other documentation (ie. CV) and it can be used as proof of a conversation taking place.


Asking relevant questions is a powerful tool in recruitment when you are listening to a candidate or a client. By asking questions you are forcing the speaker to explore and expand their initial narrative, so you can additional understanding of their situations, experience and needs.


This could also be understood as paraphrasing. By do this you have shown comprehension to the speaker and reinforces their confidence in you understanding their message.


These are open questions that you would use to make sure you have the correct message that they are trying to convey.


Probably the most important of all. To go over the key points of the conversation, the real proof that you have listened to the entirety of the message given. At this point you would have instilled so much confidence in the speaker tat you had comprehended what they have been saying to you that they will feel extremely comfortable in your ability to do whatever it is required.

Starting with these points will give you the positive habits required to begin the ability to Actively Listen. I cannot stress enough what a difference this will make to your candidates, to your clients, and once you have got used to it you will find it valuable in many aspects of life. You will see how much of the world will open to you if you only listen. If you’re a Disney fan like I am you will know this quote from Pocahontas:

“Listen with your heart. You will understand”

Although, I’m not saying to take this literally, in this context, what I am saying is to listen with more than your ears would be more beneficial, more profitable and more satisfying for all involved.

by Charlotte Allen