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The dreaded job interview: secret tips from an employer for people who stammer!

Chris Roach | 01.04.2005

In the first of two articles, management trainer Chris Roach shows how you can give yourself the advantage by knowing what employers are looking for in an interview.

The dreaded job interview: It's one of our biggest fears. Why? Because so much is at stake. The difference between us and the competition is obvious, isn't it? One of us faces negative and stereotypical views which question cognitive, emotional and social capabilities. One of us is viewed as not as skilled or able to integrate with others in the workplace as the other one.

I must be talking about us because of,... you know, the stuttering?

No! Stuttering has nothing to do with any of this.

I'm talking about the person who fails to compete; the person who is unprepared, unpolished, and unenthusiastic. I'm talking about the person who doesn't strive to learn, grow and achieve.

Employers are looking to find the fastest, cheapest and easiest way to have a work force composed of productive, dependable and honest employees. Do you know what their secret is to achieve this? They hire people who are productive, dependable and honest!

Every interview is structured to measure and predict your compatibility, your capability and your likeability. Many issues are measured such as problem-solving capabilities, technical skills, behavioural competencies, value judgments, etc. Candidates at every level are tested thoroughly and we are all required to sell ourselves.

So how do we compete while stuttering? Frankly, the same way that we would compete if we weren't stuttering. But misperceptions and stereotyping are potential hurdles. Fear and embarrassment can taint a potential employer's judgment. Despite all the preparations, positive attitude and persistence in the world, how can a stutterer confront these challenges?

  1. Don't disclose your stuttering - disclose what you do with your stuttering. Whether on a CV or in an interview, mention all the incredible things you do because you stutter. Describe your membership in the BSA. Talk about the article you wrote for Speaking Out. Express your interest in meeting people from around the world who stutter. Mention the wonderful workshops you've attended or led.
  2. Introduce your stuttering - don't let your stuttering introduce you. Walk in, smile, focus on the eyes, extend the hand, and say, "Hello, my name is ....... As you can tell, I'm a person who stutters. I like to mention this for several reasons. First, this will help explain why I may have some repetitions, blocks and hesitations. It's only due to the stuttering, nothing else."
  3. Open up the issue: "If you have any questions about stuttering for yourself or perhaps a family member or friend, I want you to feel free to ask me because I really enjoy helping others where I can." You've just spoken volumes beyond your imagination about you and your compatibility, your capability and your likeability ... and the interview has just started. Wow!

Get on with the interview like everyone else. Remember to be planned, be prepared, be polished, be poised, be professional and be positive. These are choices and you can control them. Isn't the difference between us and the competition so much more obvious than it was at the beginning?

 You can introduce stammering during the interview with positive examples when:

  • you are asked a question that needs an example of a challenge that's been very tough for you. You could say that because you stammer, you have worked hard to communicate clearly and to show your capabilities
  • -ou are asked to describe your strengths and weaknesses (a very common interview question.) You could say that due to your own journey of having to overcome fears and inhibitions, you have a sensitivity to others' personal challenges and hurdles. You could say that you could have easily adapted to others' limitations on you due to your stuttering, but that you won't allow that!

ALWAYS let them see that YOU see it in yourself as a strength and not a weakness.

From the Spring 2005 edition of Speaking Out