By Stephanie Clark
While musing on this topic, my mind wandered back in time to weekly staff meetings where, round-table style, 21 staff shared the previous week’s trials and successes. One staff never missed her turn. Long winded, she also saturated her delivery with “umms...” After a 15-minute rundown, and after an endless and distracting number of “umms,” I was ready to tear my hair out! Which, umm, brings us to this blog topic. Communication takes many forms. There is the written word, body language, style, and of course, the spoken word. From the perspective of the interview, once you’ve established a great first impression with your appearance, the spoken word either confirms or brings into question your suitability as the ideal candidate for the job. If you are unable to express your value in an articulate and confident fashion, you are unlikely to beat out the other interviewees in the competition for an offer. Remember, the interviewer's aim is to eliminate all but one. Confidence is communicated through a good understanding of one’s skills and accomplishments in relation to the needs of the position applied to, and also through the ability to converse in a pleasant manner.
Which brings us to those words that infiltrate our speech especially when we are nervous or under pressure: umm, you know, err, aah, and like. These are called crutch words, word whiskers, silence fillers. These filler words muddle your message as they break its flow. And when used to excess, these words can become excruciatingly annoying, akin to nails scraping a chalkboard. The listener may indeed focus on the frequency of repetition rather than on your message. How, though, to rid oneself of this habit? Here are a few ideas:
--Embrace the silence. Likely your interviewer won’t mind a pause during which he or she can catch up on taking notes. Few interviewers complain that candidates speak too slowly with too many pauses!
--Become aware of how often you insert these words. For example, have a friend count your word whiskers over a 15-minute conversation; or video-tape or record yourself delivering a few answers to typical interview questions. This tactic will heighten your awareness.
--Snap yourself out of it. With a new awareness of your habit, wear an elastic band on your wrist, and gently snap it each time you find yourself using your favorite crutch word.
--Learn from the best. Watch videos of great orators and note the pace of their speech patterns.
--Join Toastmasters or a similar group. Practice is key, and regular, formalized practice will not only eliminate word crutches, it will undoubtedly improve your conversational ability overall.
Perhaps the best advice for the interview setting is to demonstrate your enthusiasm. When we are excited about something, we rarely rely on those “ums” and “ahs.” But demonstrating engagement requires that the candidate know him or herself very well, and know how to communicate his or her value in terms that ring true with the interviewer...a topic for another day!