6 Common Speech Habits To Avoid In A Job Interview


By Emma Serlin
May 31, 2021

You've come dressed with a smile, you're wearing the appropriate attire, and you've nailed the firm handshake. Congratulations! You've passed phase one of the interview process (and that alone is an important phase!).

From here on, the way you speak during the interview could make or break your chances of getting the job offer you seek. To show how your unique skills and characteristics align with the job description and company culture, you need to articulate your responses with clarity and confidence. So let's review six common speech habits that you want to leave outside the interview room. 

1. Fillers

Avoid speech fillers in interviews

Preparation is key for nailing an interview. Being able to respond enthusiastically to questions shows the interviewer that you’ve done your homework on both the company and the role. It also provides a springboard for you to demonstrate how your values, skills and characteristics align with the culture and vision of the workplace.

Under preparing for an interview hampers your ability to deliver a composed and intelligent response to unforeseen questions. If you have ever under prepared for an interview you may have suddenly caught yourself using words such as "um," "ah," "you know," "OK" or "like". These are known as filler words. We use them to drown out the silence whilst we formulate an intelligent repost. 

In everyday conversation, fillers are a customary part of speech. We cannot be expected to have a pre-planned response to every impromptu question. However, in an interview situation, you are expected to know what you are talking about when you open your mouth. After all, the questions are about you, and you are the expert on you! Over using fillers in this context shows the interviewer that you lack confidence in what you are saying, or; understanding in what is being asked. The resulting effect is a less authentic and engaging connection between yourself and the interviewer.

A better strategy is to think before you speak, taking pauses and breaths when you lose your train of thought. Pauses help you sound steady and in control of what you are saying. They give you processing time to work out what the next thought is or how best to articulate that thought. Most importantly, they allow your listener to keep track with you as you are speaking. Uniting up your speech with bite-size chunks shows your interviewer that you are calm and confident in what you are saying.

2. Upward inflections

Avoid upward inflections in interview

Upward inflection or rising intonation is when the tone of our voice rises at the end of an utterance. We use upward inflections in questions to provoke a response in our listener. “Can you pass the salt please?” 

A singsong or rising inflection at the end of every utterance creates a tentative impression and makes it sound as though you're asking a question instead of making a definitive statement. This instils a lack of conviction in what you are saying. It suggests that you are seeking approval and therefore not confident in what you're saying. Bringing your intonation down when ending a sentence will ensure that you’re speaking with assertiveness. 

3. Weak speak

Avoid weak speak in interviews

The language you use to describe yourself creates the canvas for the impression you give. Use positive, strong, confident language, but more importantly own it. This gives your interviewer an impression about your level of confidence and conviction. Peppering your conversation with words that modify or water down your conviction will give the opposite effect.

Avoid using words such as "hopefully," "perhaps," "I feel," "kind of" and "sort of". These convey a degree of uncertainty and a lack of confidence. Instead, use power words such as "I'm confident that," "my track record shows," "I take the position that," "I recommend" or "my goal is."

4. Mumbling

Avoid mumbling in job interviews

Building rapport with your interviewer is essential to making a good first impression. Doing so requires you to let out emotion. If you don’t open your mouth very much when talking, you impede your ability to get your mouth around the vowel sounds and therefore express any genuine emotion.

Mumbling gives your interviewer the impression that you don't really believe in what you are saying. It's important that you know the meaning of each point you are making and that you speak with intention and brevity. Articulating each word clearly by emphasising verbs, adjectives and nouns will help you to connect, inspire and communicate your passions and ideas in a convincing way. Read our blog on mumbling for more on this topic. 

5. Rambling

Rambling speech

One of the tell-tale signs that you have not prepared for an interview is by giving long-winded and meandering answers. It also shows an inability to clearly articulate your fit for the role and back it up with definitive, objective proof.

Before the interview, prepare for some generic questions that the interviewer will likely ask. e.g. "Tell me something you're proud of." Whilst the delivery of the questions may vary slightly compared to the ones you have rehearsed, a few well thought-out, pre-planned answers will enable you to formulate your main points in a structured and intelligent manner. e.g I worked on X it was a tricky situation because of Y and Z and I achieved against all odds ABC and these are the numbers to prove it.

If during the interview you feel you need time to structure your answer, thank your interviewer for the questions and ask if you can take half a minute or so jotting down your main points. Your interviewer will respect you for taking this time to formulate a response in an efficient manner. 

6. Sloppy Speech

Avoid sloppy speech in job interviews

To avoid slurring and increase understanding, speak slowly during an interview. Make a list of commonly mispronounced words, and practice saying them into a tape recorder before the interview. Some common incorrect pronunciations include "aks" for "ask," "ath-a-lete" for "athlete," "wif" for "with" and "dree" for "three."

 

A job interview is your chance to shine. Don't let sloppy speech habits get in the way of your ability to  show how you're a great fit for the role. The important thing to remember is to stay calm and speak with clarity. Doing so will convey a confident impression. Follow these simple tips to help you be the best possible you in your job interview. If you'd like to learn more about how our interview technique training course can help you get the job you deserve, visit this page. 

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