May 7, 2015

4 vocal tics that could cost you job offers


Honestly, if a job candidate has an annoying vocal trait or habit, it takes me about three minutes before I simply cannot get past the way they are talking. These vocal styles and verbal mistakes can hurt your career and job prospects.

Vocal Fry. 

Google hot vocal trends for video demonstrations of this low creaky vibration. A study compiled by The Atlantic regarding journal PLOS One research found that after listening to vocal fry examples, 800 study participants were asked for their impressions on which were more educated, competent, trustworthy, attractive and appealing as a job candidate. Respondents preferred the normal voices by 83 to 86 percent.


If you are a child of the 80s you probably remember - or might still use - this form of rising, questioning intonation when making a statement. This affirmation seeking style can imply a confidence problem. Although uptalk people may be perceived to be easily approachable with a positive outlook, it doesn't make them sound credible or authoritative.


High-pitch, quiet voices get less attention than commanding voices. According to the Wall Street Journal synopsis of a Duke University study, a CEO's pitch should be more James Earl Jones less Gilbert Godfrey. There is a high positive correlation between male executives with voices on the deeper (that is, lower-frequency) end of the scale in relation to earning and assets. Pay averaged $187,000 more per year and $440 million more in assets.

Sloppy grammar.

The things that hurt the most are use of the word ain't and double negatives. Mental Floss has a great YouTube video on the 38 Common Spelling and Grammar Errors for your education and enjoyment.

It is normal to dislike your own voice. Common self-criticisms include: whiney, high, slow and/or fast, nasal, loud or soft, unclear, unconfident, monotonous, breathy or nervous. Your dislikes about your voice can differ significantly from what others perceive. The best way to get a feel for what the world hears when you open your mouth is to create a video with you speaking. Create a mock interview session with someone that you trust – or go to an outside company like C-Virtual – then assess what you see and hear.

You have two choices in terms of actionable results. The first is to embrace your vocal style and make it part of your brand. Think Kristin Chenoweth, Tony and Emmy award-winning actress and singer, whose nasal voice is often called annoying yet knocks it out of the park on stage with her vocals. The second option is to change your style and perhaps some bad habits like "ums" and "uhs" include hiring a vocal coach, viewing online video tutorials and joining a group like Toastmasters.

Remember, voice plus delivery equals affect. Just because you have a "good" voice does not predict success. Set your expectations. Be real with how your voice may or may not be a good fit for your industry, preferred job and professional relationships – then work it or change it!

Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today's workplace. Celeste Johnson and Tom Miller, Applied's division directors, contributed to this article.

Read article in the RGJ here

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