Secretaries have an interesting job. They do some pretty boring tasks, like filing and organizing, and then they do some pretty interesting tasks, like talk to people.
I’ve had a few secretary positions in my life at various places. Some places were small local businesses, some were large corporations with important CEOs. No matter where I was, I’ve dealt with plenty of people who were there to meet with someone important. Some people walked in well dressed and confident; I was happy to call the important person they asked for and announce that someone who seemed worth their time was waiting. Some people, however, weren’t so put together.
It wasn’t really their clothes that bothered me, it was how they spoke. You can always have someone change their clothes and adopt a wardrobe better suited for your business, but how someone speaks says a lot about who they are. People who walked in and couldn’t say a single sentence without an “um,” “err,” “uh,” or “like,” drove me insane. I never liked announcing their presence to someone important. It was embarrassing. Even if they had 3 PhDs and a genius IQ, speaking with fillers just made me think that they didn’t care about who they were speaking to or what they were saying.
In reality, people often use fillers when their minds aren’t completely focused. They’re either nervous, distracted, or too busy anticipating the next question to pay attention to the current question. No matter why you use fillers, it doesn’t help you charm potential clients or win over future employers.
We’ve already talked about how to get your interview outfit together to make a great first impression, so here’s how to dazzle your interviewers with a great first conversation devoid of all fillers.
1. Take a breath
Before you speak, take a breath. Not a giant inhale, not a short gasp, just a regular breath. This will not only help you collect your thoughts and keep you from wasting time with “uhs” or “ums” while your brain gets your words together, but also help your voice come out strong and clear.
2. Take your time
There’s no need to rush. You can pause for a few seconds before answering, especially in interviews. It makes you seem thoughtful, as if you carefully consider every option before making a decision. This is good to use in every day conversation as well. Have you ever had a conversation with someone who kept changing their opinions or constantly adding “well, that’s not really what I meant” because they spoke before they had their thoughts together? Don’t be that person in an interview or in daily life.
3. Say what you need and nothing more
Everyone’s experienced word vomit, constantly talking to the point of gibberish without control (almost like real vomit), in their life. It happens. It doesn’t need to happen during something as important as an interview, though. Word vomit often leads to fillers because you realize you didn’t mean to say something and you know you have to correct it, but you aren’t quite sure how, so you just say anything. Anything eventually turns into some sort of filler.
When asked a question, say the answer and nothing more. Do this for the first few questions. After that you should start to relax. Once you’ve settled in and gotten rid of your interview jitters, you can start to talk a little more, even add an anecdotal story or two, into the conversation. Word vomit rarely occurs when you’re confident, which means those filler words are less likely to crop up when you’re relaxed.
Filler words are horrible. Not only are they distracting to the listener, they also show that the speaker is distracted. You can change lots of things about a person, but you can’t change how their brain works. Don’t give someone the wrong impression based on pointless filler words.