Improve Your Observational Skills to Get the Job

Solid observational skills will make you a better job hunter and a better employee.


We’ve all heard the saying, “You have two ears and one mouth for a reason,” meaning it’s more important to listen than it is to talk. Never underestimate listening skills when it comes to career success. However, we also have two eyes; have you considered how to improve your observation skills? A true leader (and a successful job seeker) not only listens well, but also develops a keen sense of what is happening in the environment.

Improving your observation skills will help you read and interpret body language, allowing you to “listen” with your eyes to communicate better. It will also improve your decision-making abilities, and help you to be more accurate in written and verbal communication. Memory and observation skills are linked; improving your ability to notice what is around you should help boost memory and recall.

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Additionally, strong observational skills improve your ability to interact and respond appropriately, which is key to success during interviews as well as in all workplace environments. People with strong observation skills:

• Notice tension in a group

• Sense individual feelings

• Recognize is someone is being left out

• Acknowledge reaction to comments

Most of us don’t have strong observational skills, as indicated by the fact that most of us would not make good eyewitnesses. Studies show as many as half of eyewitness accounts are incorrect. Additionally, the same studies explain how observation skills suffer when the observer is under stress. (And how many of us are under stress at work or during a job search?) Clearly, it isn’t easy or typical to demonstrate keen observational powers.

Try testing your observational skills with some of these “spot the difference” quizzes or see how you fare as an eyewitness in this video.

If you find your skills lacking, here are some suggestions to help improve them from the Make Art. Transform Life blog by Beth Vendryes Williams:

• Choose one thing per day to remember. Beth suggests selecting a conversation, a scene, a book or article, a recipe, etc. Other suggestions to try to remember: a list, a series of numbers, names of people in a room.

• Focus on how you can always be “in the moment.” Her advice: “Relax and allow yourself to use your senses to take in all of the unique qualities of what you feel, see and hear.”

• After observing the event or scene, reflect on what you would like to remember about it. This may be more difficult than you expect. What do you want to remember? The colors? What people said? How someone acted? The smells or sounds in the background? Choose details you think would be most important if you were re-telling the story.

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• Write it or draw it, preferably in a portable journal. Beth reminds us not to judge ourselves. It may be a good idea to record what you remember about events in a journal regularly. That way, you’ll have some practice being accountable for paying attention to details you may not otherwise notice.

Ignore this important skill set at your peril. Research shows employers hire not only for technical abilities, but also incorporate emotional intelligence, or soft skills, in their decisions. In fact, many companies, including Whole Foods, PepsiCo., L’Oreal, and Coca-Cola are investing in assessing and developing emotional intelligence to improve their bottom lines. Instead of spending all of your time looking for jobs online, broaden your focus and work on improving your skills in an expanded array of areas to be most competitive as a job seeker and as a valued employee.

Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success. Connect with her via Twitter @Keppie_Careers.


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