Most people say “um,” “like” or some other sort of filler word when they speak. It’s just a way to fill time while we craft our speech in our heads (or it is just a bad habit). Of all of the places to be aware of this bad habit, the job interview is the most important. As a recruiter, we speak to attorneys who have all sorts of interesting speech patterns, and we’ve even learned a few interesting words along the way (side note: cussing is bad in an interview, too).   One of the hardest things to coach pre-interview is the cessation of the nervous “filler” words.

Do you say these things? Chances are that you do. If you are unsure, ask a friend or spouse to pay attention to you for a day and follow up with them to see if you are a frequent or minor offender. No friends? No problem. All mobile phones have a recording feature. Record yourself speaking on the phone or answering mock interview questions. You’ll see if you have had your fill of those filler words.

If you do need to eliminate a few ums, the single best way to avoid saying the filler words is to be aware that you say them and speak a little more slowly. If you have to think about what you are going to say, a slight pause in the conversation is not necessarily a negative thing. Slow down. Pause. Begin again.

The next best way to get rid of these filler words in an interview is to practice. Practice what you are going to say to questions that you know that you are going to get. Additionally, practice speaking slowly and without the filler words with a spouse, friend or even a co-worker (without telling them why you are doing it) to get comfortable with the filler-free conversation.

If, in the interview, a few “ums” slip – don’t panic. Chances are that the interviewer won’t notice the occasional slip. Brush it off and move on. You want that interviewer to concentrate on your skill set and why you are the right candidate, not how you will present if you have to talk in front of one of the firm’s clients!

So before that next interview, just relax, prepare and, umm, knock ‘em dead!