There’s an epidemic that’s infiltrated millions of modern English speakers and it affects people’s everyday speech and interactions. This occurrence is known as “slang interjection,” and for some people it seems to be inevitably used in everyday conversations. This aspect refers to the overuse of common slang terms in daily speech, and some prominent examples include the words “like”, “so”, “literally”, and “totally”. When you are talking, you may not realize how frequently you drop the “like” bomb, but when you start to become a social observer you can understand how this word and many others hurt a person’s credibility as a speaker and future employee.
The history of the popularity of using the word “like, outside of it’s normal use as a verb or adjective, dates back to Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novel Kidnapped, shows up in the 1982 hit single Valley Girl, and is executed in many other prominent works from before and during the 21st century. But “like” isn’t the only word sneaking into everyday conversation. “Literally” has become increasingly popular in regular word use, and in fact so common that many well-know dictionaries, including Merriam-Webster, Cambridge, and Oxford, have actually changed the definition of the word to include it’s informal use for emphasis and to exaggerate strong emotions.
While the use of these words in a casual sense is fairly harmless, how does it sound in an interview with a prospective employer? To understand the potential harms of using these basic phrases in daily speech, I interviewed two career advisers to get their insight on the modern English dilemma. Paul Timmins, a career counselor for the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota, recently provided his input on how it is perceived in an interview to use “slang interjection” Paul mentioned that employers understand that we are human and it is natural for these interjections to slip up, but if the language becomes distracting it could negatively affect an employer’s’ first opinion of you during the interview. He highlighted that it is important to be conscious and professional when you are speaking in an interview and understand that an employer is evaluating how your communication style will contribute positively to a work environment. Martha Krohn, a career adviser for Career Services at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, explained that not all employers perceive the use of fillers and slang interjection the same, but they could perceive the candidate using the language as immature or not confident. She commented that if you are aware of your speech patterns you can change the habits that are distracting or unprofessional. Both Martha and Paul reiterated not to obsess over your speech and offered excellent suggestions for how to practice making your language concise and consistent.
Here is a list of recommendations on how to improve your language habits before an interview:
Use websites that have pre-recorded interview questions and that let you record your response to a question, count how many times you used fillers such as “like” or “uhm”, and play back and evaluate your session. An example of this resource is http://interviewstream.com/
Utilize your university or college’s career services, Sign up for mock interviews if available or meet with a career counselor to receive feedback and guidance for better language use.
Practice hearing yourself talk about yourself. On the way to the interview speak out loud and answer the question, “Tell me about yourself?” or “Why should I hire you?” If you are confident in your answers when the actual conversation occurs, the employers will notice.
The main purpose of these exercises and practices is to encourage critical feedback from a peer, a professional, and from yourself. Everyone has the power to change their language, and it is important to understand when to speak informally and when to sharpen up your vocabulary.