Sometimes silence is comfortable, sometimes it feels excruciating. How about in a job interview, when you’ve just been asked a question?
Filler words, the “ums” and “ahs” and “basically” and “well” can feel as though they’re coming to the rescue, by filling the dead air while you get your thoughts together. However, if use them a lot, you run the risk of sounding ill-prepared and immature.
Pause –it’s ok!
If you’re feeling stressed in an interview, even a second of silence when it’s your turn to speak seems like an eternity. This then makes you more stressed, and suddenly you find yourself using filler words while you work out your response.
Remember that it’s fine to pause and collect your thoughts before you answer. This will be a lot more impressive that a sentence full of fillers – which are lose-lose; you’re not answering the question and you’re giving the interviewers a bad impression.
What’s your normal filler-ratio?
We all use filler words in normal conversation, but some of us more than others. Are you aware of your voice patterns? Are you oblivious to a particular “verbal tic” that is driving your family and friends mad with irritation? Ask an honest friend if there’s anything you need to work on.
You can do all the research in the world, but sometimes your preparation flies out of your head in the interview environment. Here’s where a mock interview is worth its weight in gold.
Work out some likely interview questions and ask a friend to play the role of the interviewer, and record what happens next. Take it seriously, no collapsing into laughter or having three or four false starts when answering.
How did you sound? Were there too many filler words? What was your tone of voice? Did you sound credible and assured? Or flustered?
You’ll probably find it harder than you think to answer succinctly and to include all of the information you’re hoping will impress the recruiters. Having an answer ready in your head, and communicating it effectively can be two very different things. Your mock interview will give you a wake-up call and a chance to smooth out the bumps.
Keep to the point
Nerves can make you ramble or seize up in a job interview. A way to nip both these problems in the bud is to include some of the interviewer’s question at the beginning of your response. It keeps you on point, and shows you’re a good listener. By repeating back some of their key words you’re also building rapport.
An example. The interviewer asks, “What major challenges have you handled?” Instead of beginning your response with “Well…” or “Um…” your first sentence is actually easy; you use their words. “A major challenged that I handled was…”
Examples of past performance
If you’ve made it to the interview stage, you almost certainly have the skills, experience and aptitude needed for the job. The problem is, so do all the other candidates. Be ready with practical examples of your achievements.
Overall, you only have a very short space of time in front of the recruiters and they will make very quick decisions about you. You don’t want to waste that time with “like,” “you know,” “kind of” and “um.”
Rose Murphy is a writer, blogger and copy editor. After 10 years working in a personal and professional development company, she’s returning to what she loves most, words. An avid reader with an interest in publishing, Rose also spent time in journalism and marketing roles. Currently Rose writes for awinningpersonality.com.