Experts Say: How You Speak Speaks Volumes

By Tanya, Wall Street Services Reporter

On May 29, 2008, while the country was still in recession and millions of young Americans were graduating college, The New York Times published an article that explored how “In desperate times, applicants look for creative ways to stand out.” These desperate measures included a Craigslist ad where a job hunter wrote “I will give you a million dollars for a well-paid sales job,” and another eager jobseeker who in a suit and tie, stood outside a company’s headquarters and handed his printed business cards to anyone willing to take them.

At the time the article was written, the unemployment rate rose from 5.0% in April 2008 to 5.5% in May 2008. Today, although the recession is over, the latest BLS figures report the unemployment rate reached 9.0% in April 2011. This may sound like bad news for the Class of 2011. But the resilient, hopeful youth could learn how to professionally stand out from the other 1.5 million students who graduate from college each year.

First and foremost, it is imperative they shed the college campus jargon and college pub vernacular they have been using for the past four years. After all, like, job interviews, can be um, really, you know, nerve-racking experiences. And nervous emotions usually cause applicants to lapse into familiar speech patterns.

According to D.A. Hayden and Michael Wilder, experts for first-time job applicants, “How you speak speaks volumes” about your professional self. Many books and articles have focused on how to write a professional e-mail or connect with employers with innovative social networking sites. But in Hayden and Wilder’s book, From B.A. To Payday: Launching your career after college, the career counselors return to the basics: how to speak appropriately during the job interview.

Here is a sneak peek into Hayden and Wilder’s tips on how to speak more fluently and professionally:

  1. Speak slowly. Take a deep breath to slow your heart rate and make a conscious effort to slow your pace.
  2. Answer the question then stop talking. Nervousness sometimes causes us to ramble and blab, even after we’ve answered the question and stopped thinking.
  3. Learn to pause. Don’t fear a second or two of silence to think about the question at hand. Interviewers will appreciate thoughtful answers.
  4. Modulate your voice. Sound natural and genuine to express your passion for the job. In other words, don’t sound like a robot who memorized cookie-cutter answers to typical questions.
  5. Practice makes perfect. While you drive around alone in your car, practice answering interview questions out loud.

And my favorite tip on how to start speaking like an intelligent future young professional: As fun as this summer will be reuniting with all your hometown buddies, make sure to engage in more conversations with intelligent adults, professionals or people of authority. Proper speech is contagious.

These bullets brush the surface of not only Hayden and Wilder’s speech coaching. But they delve deep into a wide array of topics facing young job applicants, from how to utilize career services, deal with overbearing parents and networking skills. Throughout the book, they even provide tips on transitioning from campus-life to your parents’ house, a rough move that can easily distract one from a productive job hunt.

The real crux of their job hunting philosophy is branding your professional self, to help any college grad turn their B.A. to a real Payday, despite a sluggish economy.

And as an additional side-note here are tips on e-mail etiquette:

  1. Properly label the subject, and never leave them blank: “John Doe, Financial Analyst Application”
  2. Don’t start your cover letter with “Hi Jane!” Instead, write “Dear Miss Jane Smith:”
  3. Send it to a proofreader to give it a second-look, be it a good friend or an older sibling.
  4. Keep them brief. It should never exceed one page. Make sure you print preview to ensure it fits onto one page.
  5. If you know you often misspell and misuse punctuation, print your e-mail and edit it on a hard-copy, then apply the changes in your word document before hitting the send button.