Expert interviews 4 Active listening

Active listening is key to guiding interviews

This lesson will look at active listening—this can help you show understanding or show interest. It can also shift the focus of the interview back to you, so you can ask a question.


Responding quickly and sincerely is important in conversation. We'll practice how to do it smoothly and naturally using a style that you are comfortable with.

Warm Up: 

What words or phrases do you like to use to respond to information? What are some phrases to show that:

  • you understand;
  • you are surprised; or
  • you are concerned.

Here are some examples of phrases used in active listening:

  •     I see.
  •     Hmm, I see what you mean.
  •     OK, I understand what you’re saying.
  •     Ah, that makes sense.

You can also respond to what is being said by sympathizing or offering your viewpoint:

  •     That sounds [adjective] (good/ bad/ interesting/ troubling/ problematic…)
  •     That seems like [noun or full sentence] (a good opportunity / your company has a big chance to move forward.)

In an interview, after responding to what the person has said, you can move on to a new question. We will try using active listening to introduce a question.

Respond to what is said, and then ask the next question.

First, we will try this in simple communication. As quickly as possible, try to ask your instructor:

  • Where they are from.
  • About the weather in their hometown.
  • Where they are living now.
  • Which place they prefer.

Now, let's try using this language to guide an interview and ask questions. Try to respond to the information, and then ask the next question. Be firm, but polite. Look at the situations below:

1. The client is having trouble with sales. You need to know:

  • When exactly the sales trouble started.
  • The main reason for the trouble.

2. The client roasts and sells coffee, and they are worried about profits. You need to know:

  • The price that they are paying per kilo.
  • How many farms they source from, and where they are.