Many speakers struggle with using filler words, especially when they are nervous. Filler words include “um,” “like,” “so,” “uh,” or any other variation of word or noise that people make when they are thinking or unsure of what to say. Unfortunately, using these words can seriously detract from what you are saying in an interview. If you use fillers too much, the interviewer may be unable to focus on your words and not remember much of what you had to say, even if it was a brilliant response. Using filler words can make you sound less qualified than you are and could end up costing you a job.
With conscious effort, you can control the number of filler words in your speech patterns. The first step is to become aware of your bad habits. You may want to record yourself as you perform a mock interview with a friend or family member. This recording offers you a completely objective way to look at your use of filler words and become more conscious of how you use them. Many people likely do not realize how often they use these words until they start to consciously pay attention to their speech.
A key to minimizing the use of filler words is recognizing the situations in which you use them. Some people use them the most at the start of a sentence as they think about how to phrase something while others use fillers almost like a period, such as adding “You know?” to the end of a sentence. When you look honestly at how you use these words, you can begin to anticipate using them. If you have a tendency to start sentences with “um,” starting forcing yourself to pause at the start of every sentence.
Ultimately, you should aim to replace filler words with a pause, especially if you use them when you are thinking about what to say. In the context of an interview, silence is much more acceptable than a constant barrage of filler words. In fact, interviewers encourage silent reflection. Taking a moment to pause shows that you are really thinking about your response rather than just saying the first thing that comes to mind. Pausing before you speak makes you sound like a reflective, thoughtful candidate and helps make a great first impression.