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Your attention please! The impact of your voice during the interview

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Your voice “speaks volumes” about your personal brand. In the last part of this three-part post, our vocal and communications coach Susan Heaton Wright shares some tips on how to influence with your voice during the interview process.

There’s no doubt your voice can make a significant impact during an interview, and influence the decision making of the interviewer. A grating voice; boomy voice; quiet mousy voice or a very strong accent could put off the interviewers.

Take time to receive feedback from trusted friends/mentors about your voice. An alternative could be to record or video yourself, to see how your voice projects. There might be something you are not aware of, that could be worked on. Characteristics might be:

  • Verbal tics “Like” “You Know” “Yah” etc. These really annoy interviewers. Awareness is half the battle. Try to work on eliminating these ticks.
  • The voice going up at the end of sentences. Australians do this, and some younger people – yet it REALLY ANNOYS many people because it sounds as though a question is being asked.
  • A loud, boomy voice (and laugh) is fine in a bar, but in an office – particularly an open plan one – it doesn’t work, and interviewers will be aware of it.

  • Likewise, a weak or quiet voice. Not only does it give the impression the speaker doesn’t want to be there, it also gives the impression the speaker lacks confidence, authority and gravitas.
  • I am a great advocate of British Regional Accents: variety adds spice to a workplace. However, there is a difference between an accent and a dialect which is challenging for many people to understand. Whatever accent you have, make sure you speak clearly and if necessary, modify your accent to be understood.
  • I cringe at poor grammatical errors in English speakers. “You was great” “We was hot” are heard on the TV more often than I wish, but are totally inappropriate for senior positions in an organisation. Not only does it imply a lack of education, but a lazy, colloquial approach to communication. It does not generate respect or confidence, with the possible exception of Lord Sugar.
  • Nasal or unpleasant voice tones switch off many people. Within a recruitment situation, it could impact a decision. Check your voice isn’t annoying to listen to and if it is, do something about it.
  • Ladies voices are higher pitched. Many gentlemen find it difficult to listen to high pitched voices and will switch off. If ladies are stressed, the vocal pitch rises. These are all points for ladies to be aware of; if your voice is high pitched, work on lowering the pitch (as Margaret Thatcher famously did). Be aware of when you are stressed; avoid your voice going up. Create gravitas by lowering the pitch of the voice so people will listen to what you have to say.
  • Drama queens. We all know people like this; those that believe the spotlight is on them when they speak. The mannerisms; head and hand movements and dramatising everything. That’s fine at the wine bar after work, but for an interview – and being considered for a team, the interviewers are going to be put off. They want people speaking clearly without feeling they’re bit parts in your soap opera.

© Susan Heaton Wright 2012

Susan Heaton Wright helps successful individuals to make an impact with their voices and physical presence. Using her experience and expertise as a high quality performer and vocal expert, she has devised a range of techniques and exercises within training programmes to coach her clients to successfully communicate. She can be found at executivevoice.co.uk.

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