Watch Your Language in Your Next Interview

When I was little, I occasionally got to spend the night at my friend’s house. I’ll never forget the day she sassed back at her mom and had to sit with a bar of soap in her mouth for–well, it seemed like an hour, but it was probably only a couple of torturous minutes. A few misplaced words really caused her a lot of pain and suffering.

Have you considered what kind of language could get you into trouble in an interview? Of course, foul language and swearing certainly could. In one of our recent job searches, a couple of candidates had to be rejected for a managerial job opening. Although they were fairly qualified, their use of foul language in their interviews signaled that they would not be a good culture fit for a leadership role in the organization.

But there’s another type of language you may want to evaluate in your own speech patterns. I’m not referring to the use of bad grammar either, although candidates are sometimes rejected because they don’t speak professionally enough to perform the job. I am talking about how your words directly affect your personal brand.

Tara Sophia Mohr, the founder of Playing Big, a women’s leadership program, warns job seekers that how they talk impacts how others perceive them. “A lot of people have negative speech habits, such as using hedges like just, actually, kinda, and almost. For example: “I’m just really grateful to be talking to you today” or “I’m kinda thinking I want to transition into this job.” These hedges make you come across as less confident, less authoritative—and less employable. Same for using disclaimers like ‘Well, I’m really not an expert on this.’ People think these types of statements make them seem more likable or down-to-earth, but they undermine credibility.”

How can you fix this branding problem? Mohr suggests that before your next interview, you should ask a friend to listen to your speech for any bad habits, since you don’t even realize what you might be doing. For a few days, focus on each bad habit to get rid of it until you’ve cured yourself of them all. (For more warnings about common interview mistakes from RealSimple.com, click here.)

Using foul language or negative speech patterns may not land you a painful bar of soap in your mouth like it did my friend. But it may slam shut the open door you need to receive further consideration for the job. So watch your language in your next interview, and take the opportunity to make a credible first impression.

Check out these tips on how to handle your next video interview.

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