Angry radio listeners this month have been making us think about some of the most annoying interview habits – try to steer clear of these!
1. Starting your answer with the word ‘so’. BBC Radio 4’s Feedback programme has this month been focusing on listener complaints about this increasingly prevalent habit (Q: “Why are you taking this action?” A: “So, we’ve taken this step because …”) It’s something that seems to have spread over the past few years from the US to the UK, but as we tell people on our media training courses, ‘just don’t do it’. Too many people in the corporate environment have got into the habit in meetings, and usually don’t even realise it. If the idea is to consciously buy you thinking time, frankly it doesn’t buy you much, better to use a longer phrase like “I think the answer to that is that we’re …” If you want to soften the beginning of your answer, the word “well” does the job more inoffensively.
2. Filler sounds – too many – er’s and umms. At a low level, this isn’t a problem – we all do it. However, if (perhaps through nerves) there is too much hesitancy, you reach a tipping point with the audience when it starts to really grate, and they notice little else. The key is to keep well below that tipping point by properly preparing and rehearsing the main points you want to make.
3. Verbal tics – repeated filler words such as “basically”, “like”, or “Y’know” (some time back a US baseball player from the Boston Red Sox apparently used this 72 times in one three-minute interview). These tics make you sound less intelligent, so don’t try and beat his record! Again, practice making your key points beforehand out loud, and get a partner or colleague to point out any habits that would be better avoided.
4. Starting an answer by saying “That’s a really good question, Tom/John/Jane”. Patronising or what? It certainly sounds that way when used as if to say “thank you, that’s exactly what I wanted you to ask me”. The phrase tends to work better in an American context, less so in the cynical UK. Here, it only feels appropriate if you are genuinely a bit stumped and are using the expression to give you thinking time.
5. Starting an answer by saying “Well if I can just put that into context”. The idea of setting your point in the appropriate context, if the interviewer has failed to do so, is a good one. But pointing this out to the audience can make it sound like you are trying to avoid answering the question, so don’t flag it up. Just put your point into context in a different way, such as “what you’ve got to remember here is that we deal with hundreds of cases like this every week … (or whatever).
Please let us know if there are any other habits that particularly annoy you!