Are you an ‘erm-er’?

First published Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Over the course of the last few days, there’s been an interesting series of adverts popping up on the TV from a particularly well known bank. Launching their ‘LifeSkills’ initiative, the adverts feature young people discussing how best to approach a job interview.

In one, a young man starts several sentences with ‘Erm’ or ‘Um’, going on to explain how doing so in an interview could suggest to the interviewer that the candidate is unsure of themselves, lacking in confidence, not particularly interested in the role they are being interviewed for and so on. The advert finishes with the young man making several further statements without prefixing with ‘erm’ and he does indeed come across far more confidently and directly.

In the other advert, a young woman is explaining how important it is to make eye contact. Again, she suggests that if you are looking anywhere and everywhere but at the interviewer, they will again wonder about your possible commitment and interest in the role, the company, how you may work with other people in team and so on. The advert closes with a far more direct approach, with the young lady delivering the last few sentences with a very clear eye contact with the camera (and by association the viewer!).

Many of us know that these things are important in an interview, and indeed in any business situation, and more. It can be tricky not to ‘erm’ and ‘um’ and look at the ceiling when trying to think of answer to a question, particularly if one is feeling a bit nervous anyway. However it is well worth spending a little time pre-interview to work out a few ‘coping’ mechanisms to settle the nerves a little and consider how you will approach it.

Something as simple as taking a short breath before answering a question can make a huge difference, and of course ensuring that you are looking at the person who has asked that question when you reply. If you’re not sure on a question, or perhaps have misheard it, ask for it to be repeated or rephrased (just don’t do it on every question!).

It’s easy to say ‘just relax’, though far harder to do in person. On the day, so long as you do the best you can, and have taken time to prepare (read up on the job, the company, chosen appropriate clothing, had a wash!), there is little else you can do apart from be yourself. Be aware of what you are saying, and how you are saying it – save the ‘erm’ for when you’re deciding what celebratory drink to have when you get the job!


First posted on The Recruiter Group Blog

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