Interviewer: So how do you find the office?
Applicant: Sir, uh… I checked your website. Your address is there.
The response flicked the auto-pilot switch inside my head. The applicant didn’t notice that my mind started to wander and think of the 1,340-something emails in my inbox, or the next performance review I needed to co-facilitate. My mind was somewhat in a trance but I did manage to pick up some more glaring language and communication errors:
· We feel that we are not taken cared of – when asked for his reason for leaving his old company.
· ‘Basically’ mentioned at least 2 times per sentence was very hard to ignore.
· When asked about his short term goals, he rattled off very long and confusing sentences for about 4 minutes or so.
The applicant got a handshake and a Thank-You-For-Trying letter soon after.
Did I fail the applicant because of his inability to communicate effectively? Yes.
Did the applicant have the right level of technical skills? Maybe. But I was too distracted by the stuttering, so to speak, for me to even consider seriously evaluating his profile.
Having interviewed close to a thousand applicants to date in my career, here are the most distracting language boo-boo’s that could cost an applicant a job offer, and some tips on how to fix them.
1. Filler words mean nothing – basically.
Drop the fillers: actually, basically, well, and many others that are empty words. While a typical conversationalist might use one or two fillers every now and then, using these filler words too frequently can become a major distraction. Another example is, saying “Basically my name is Armund and basically.. I’m 27 years old…” just sounds really off.
2. Using ‘Legal Document’ English in spoken conversations is lame.
Using words like herewith, aforesaid, and other fancy words in an interview can be a turn-off or a communication barrier. When you communicate with others in English, don’t sound like you’re reading off a legal document.
3. Keep it short and sweet.
Many jobseekers I had the opportunity to interview tend to use sentences that are too long or too wordy. Some tips to keep your interview answers concise are:
· Consider your word choices. Use ordinary words. You won’t impress your interviewer by sounding like a walking thesaurus.
· Avoid restating information already implied and redundancies. Instead of saying ‘at this point in time..’ you might want to just say ‘now.’ Or, why not just say ‘because’ instead of saying ‘due to the fact that.”
4. Don’t just talk. Listen!
Stephen Covey said “most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
I think that for many job-seekers whose first language isn’t English, this holds true.. plus more. On top of focusing too much on what they should answer, they worry about other stuff.
Solution: First things first. Focus on understanding the question.
Everything else should come naturally – your sentence construction, grammar, and even your accent – if you keep number 5 in mind.
In one of his writings, Aristotle said “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”
If you’re a non-native English speaker who wants to become more and more comfortable using English in communicating with others, then you need to practice. Practice with your folks at home, with your partner, or a friend. Practice interviewing yourself and answering your own questions in front of a mirror. When you feel you’ve practiced enough, just keep practicing some more.