By Joe Stein
Recently I had an interesting conversation with a Human Resource Professional who happened to be playing the role of Hiring Manager with a couple of open positions. I was picking her brain regarding why she had struggled to fill her open slots for what were entry-level positions. What surprised me was her frustration revolved around one area…oral communication skills. The complaint was not about education or experience, but rather that the candidates could not conduct a professional conversation.
The ability to communicate orally is an essential tool in most positions, but especially with those dealing directly with customers. Job Seekers need to be able to speak clearly and concisely in order to convey their message. Unfortunately, many Job Seekers severely under-estimate how important this area is and how it can be a deal-breaker when it comes to whether an offer will be provided.
Let’s review some basic tips that will allow you to upgrade your oral communication skills in preparation of the job interview:
Don’t Use “Slang” – The Interviewer may attempt to relax you during the interview, in an attempt to create a casual conversational environment. Don’t use this as an opportunity to start speaking as if you were with friends at the local bar, or street corner.
Why is “slang” or “street language” inappropriate?
· The Interviewer may not understand your terms. Don’t assume your Interviewer is going to understand your “slang”. Most likely they will not. The last thing you should want is for the Interviewer to be forced to have to interpret what he/she thinks you are talking about.
· Risk offending the Interviewer depending on the term used. This is especially important when using “street language”. Words you can use with your buddies may be very inappropriate in the business environment.
· The Interviewer may feel that your “slang” is a sign that you do not respect them and their position. Communicate to the Interviewer as if this person is already your supervisor.
· The Interviewer may conclude you are not serious about the job due to the casual language used. If you can’t take the interview seriously, why would you take the job seriously?
· If you are interviewing for a customer service role, “slang” is specifically an undesirable.
· “Slang” may present you as being immature, preventing you from securing a higher-level position.
· No Swearing! – This one sounds very obvious, but unfortunately it is not. Profanity has become so ingrained in many individuals’ vocabulary that they find it difficult or impossible to turn it off for the interview. This includes some of the milder words that may cross your mind (you know what they are!). You are in an interview, not a private conversation with an old friend. An Interviewer may conclude that if you are this unprofessional in the interview, what will you be like when you turn your guard off after you are hired? The idea is to impress and not offend!
· Upgrade the Vocabulary - For most positions, displaying the vocabulary of an English Professor is unnecessary. A quick way, however, to upgrade your vocabulary is to substitute acceptable verbiage for words such as “ain’t” and “got”.
· Be Conscious of Your Greeting – When you are greeting a person is often the time when a person will slip into bad habits. Avoid the “dude”, “whatsup”, or whatever happens to be popular at this time. This does not fall into oral communication, but at the time of the in-person greeting, your handshake should be traditional.
· Avoid “Verbal Crutches” – These can be found in many variations, but amongst the most popular are “um”, “you know”, and “like”. These words become very habit forming and generally start when a person does not know exactly the right word to use next in a sentence, causing nerves to start to kick in. They then quickly overpower your vocabulary, leaving you with an annoying habit that can make it difficult for the listener to follow. It is a much better idea to take a slight pause and collect your thoughts prior to any audible noise. Then, start your response by directly going into your answer rather than using a time-filler.
· Practice! – When you practice your answers to frequently asked interview questions, you will become more comfortable with the words you select and the delivery. Ask a family member or friend to role play the interview with you. Even better, select someone with solid oral communication skills who can provide an expert opinion.
One area of caution is to not artificially inflate your vocabulary beyond your capability. If you are not absolutely sure how to pronounce a word, then don’t use it. This also applies if you are not positive regarding the definition of a word, as you do not want to use it in the wrong context.
Sharpen your oral communication skills and display it during all stages of the recruitment process, in order to secure a real competitive advantage. Work hard on transitioning yourself to a poised and professional Job Seeker, and you may just find yourself receiving that offer you have been waiting for!
As always, best of luck in your job search.