Employment Advice Column: Active Listening

Dear Joanna,

I just graduated high school and attended Reena’s Summer Employment Transitions (SET) program. One of the virtual job search skills workshops was on “active listening”.  I learned that I have to improve this skill for my job search, as a potential employee and in every area of my life. Please can you help me become a better communicator by improving my listening skills.

Signed: Listener on Alert

Dear LA,

I am impressed with your self-awareness and interest to learn!. Listening is one of the most important SOFT skills that you can have. How well you listen can help you obtain and understand information. We listen for enjoyment and we listen to learn!.

Some active listening skills that we use can include observing non-verbal behavior, focusing so you don’t do anything else while listening, acknowledging the message even if you don’t agree with it; and respect – don’t interrupt and let the speaker finish!

Active listening has plenty of benefits. For example, it can reduce your nervousness during a job interview or starting a new job! Active listening show others that you are ready to help out, that you think of others, and helps you understand what the other person is saying to you.  

Here are six techniques to help you improve your listening skills as recommended by the SET job coaches as well as from

Technique #1 – Open-ended questions. This technique helps to build trust and rapport with the other person including the interviewer or co-worker. Here are some examples:

  • “Please tell me what I can do to help.”
  • “I was really impressed to read on your website how you donate 5% of each sale to charity.”
  • “When would be a good time for me to follow up after the interview”?
  • “What are important skills for this job”?

Technique #2 – Paraphrasing. This technique shows that you understand the person who is speaking. Some examples:

  • Is this what you mean….(repeat what the speaker just said)
  • “So,  you’re saying that it’s important that all employees come on time to work?”

Technique #3 – Affirmation. This technique shows the speaker that you are listening and care about what he or she is saying:

  • “Thank you. “ “I see,” “I know,” “Sure,” or “I understand”
  • “I appreciate your time in speaking with me about the kitchen helper job to me.”

Technique #4 – Asking specific (closed-ended) questions:

  • “When will you make a decision to hire? “
  • “What time do employees start work?”

Technique #5 – Non-verbal communication cues. These show the speaker that you understand and that what he or she is saying is important. For example, nodding, eye contact, learning forward and smiling.

If you want to assess the level your listening skills, here’s a quiz that can give you an idea of what you do well and what you would like to learn.

Now the ball is in your court to start practicing good listening skills. Choose one technique at a time and practice it with friends and family. Be open to constructive feedback so you can apply these skills in all areas of your job search. 


Note: You are invited to email any questions and concerns regarding your job search, employment and career in confidence to 

About Joanna Samuels

Joanna Samuels, B.Ed (in adult education), M.Ed, CMF, RRP, is an employment resource supervisor at She has over 12 years of frontline experience in providing supported and customized employment/career coaching, job development, and workshop facilitation to unemployed and underemployed job seekers from diverse communities and fields who are individuals with disabilities and multi-barriers. She also helps employers with building an inclusive workforce through innovative recruitment programs, as well as offers “train the trainer” courses. Also, Joanna is a certified Life Skills Coach, and certified Personality Dimensions Facilitator. She is a published author, and employment advice columnist as well as a guest speaker on issues related to employment and careers at conferences and podcasts as well as being featured on Kelly & Company, and