It’s not only what you say but how you say it

February 24, 2010 at 3:40 am Leave a comment

Just as a professional appearance is crucial in making that all-important first impression in an interview or networking situation, so is one’s speech. Yet recruiters report that candidates who do everything else right often mumble, swallow their words,  ramble or otherwise mangle their speech so much that the interviewer is distracted from the importance of what they’re saying by how poorly they’re saying it.

Yep, here’s another thing to worry about in a job interview — and especially in the increasingly common pre-interview screening call: you’ve got to sound serious, confident, friendly and capable. And journalists, so attuned to the written word, aren’t always as skilled with the spoken ones. But with practice and attention, hiring managers say this too can be mastered. Here are some tips:

*Clear, concise and direct is what you’re going for in spoken language, just like in your writing. You want to make your points in a straightforward fashion so use a normal, conversational tone — not too loud but not too muted either — to get your thoughts across. Look directly at the interviewer when speaking; don’t talk into your hand or lower your head while in an interview situation. Smile when appropriate and gesture (though never wildly) if that is your normal speaking style. Sit up straight — this projects confidence and also helps you project. Practice your interview or networking speaking style in front of a mirror at home so that you get comfortable; this may seem silly but it will give you greater confidence in person.

*When on the phone in a pre-interview, make sure you are speaking into the mouthpiece, though hold it an inch or two away from you. (And make sure you turn off all other electronic devices in the room so they don’t start beeping and chirping during the call.) If you have a landline, it’s better to use it than a cellphone, on which your voice can warble and sound distant — and you may suffer interruptions in service. Pretend that the interviewer is sitting across the table from you rather than on the end of the phone line. And figure that you may be on speaker phone, with others listening as well.

*Give a brief, general answer to a question and then follow up with a concise example, but don’t ramble. Make sure to breathe between answers. If your tendency is to speak quickly — especially when you’re nervous — practice (again, in front of a mirror) slowing down your answers and monitoring your breathing. You don’t want to sound as though you’re rushing through the interview.

*Never interrupt an interviewer, even if their questions seem to resemble speeches more than queries. (Remember, not all interviewers are especially comfortable in this situation, either.) Wait a few seconds after stop talking to make sure they don’t have more to say, and then try to repeat part of their question in your answer. Appear eager to answer questions, but not to pounce the moment they are done asking. And try to make this as much of a conversation as possible rather than a drawn-out Q&A. Use a friendly tone — as you would when chatting with a friend over lunch, for instance — rather than sounding as though you are a witness in a courtroom.

*And it’s not the worst thing in the world to admit that you’re nervous. Some hiring managers will appreciate your honesty. Especially if you stumble or speak too quickly or ramble, you might acknowledge that the importance of this interview has given you a bit of the jitters. Then smile and go on to give a polished answer.

*The following link, to a piece on, features a great idea from the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists: an event being billed as “Freelance Love.” Akin to speed dating, the  SPJ chapter is “hooking up” — for five minutes at a time — freelancers with assigning editors from local papers and magazines. Quick, someone in D.C. should steal this idea and make it happen here! Any takers?

*This next piece, from, provides some smart strategies, resources and solace for those trying to “reinvent” themselves as journalists after age 40 and beyond:

Bill Lucey: How Do Laid-Off Journalists Reinvent Their Careers?
Unless you’re Houdini or David Copperfield, it can be quite the challenge to reinvent yourself in your late 40’s 50’s, or even 60’s to fit into the new era of journalism. But it’s by no means impossible.
*As always, some job leads to consider:
*APR Consulting is recruiting for a client in D.C. that is seeking an En Espanol Managing Editor for a 5-month contract to work on a Web editorial project:
En Espanol Managing Editor (774449) — NEW !
APR Consulting, Inc. – Washington, DC
web manager, editor, journalism, communications, spanish, bilingual, online publishing, web design, web… an En Espanol Managing Editor for a 5 month contract… $55 – $65 an hour
From APR Consulting, Inc.

*PBS in Arlington has an opening for a vice president of corporate communications:
Vice President Corporate Communications
PBS – Arlington, VA
Vice President, Corporate Communications DEPARTMENT: Corporate Communications STATUS: Full-time/Active… communications program including crisis communication
From PBS

*A solar energy company in Beltsville, Md., is looking for a director of marketing communications:

Director of Marketing Communications
North America’s Largest Solar Energy Services Provider – Beltsville, MD
issues in the communications area * Manages promotional and advertising activities; implements business-to-business and investor communications. * Oversees…
From Doostang

*The Department of Energy in D.C. is seeking blogger-journalists for a digital press project:

We are looking to assemble a team of technology-savvy / blogger-style journalists for a new digital press initiative being run out of the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficency and Renewable Energy.


–            Newsroom / Desk reporting experience (local/ student/ specialty)

–            Interest in energy, environmental and public-policy issues

–            Experience with digital publishing platforms and technology

–            Interest in New Media (video, audio, photos) reporting

–            Demonstrated editorial experience

–            Ability to manage multiple tasks and assignments in a deadline driven environment

Positions available immediately. If interested, please contact Lauren Cole; or 202-256-4369.

* in D.C. has an opening for an online channel editor:

The New Media team at Kiplinger seeks an energetic, collaborative online editor to curate selected channels on, working closely with colleagues both on our online team and from Kiplinger print staffs to produce and showcase top-quality multimedia content for
The Channel Editor will:
* Conceptualize and create new online content – articles, columns, quizzes, slide shows, videos, podcasts, interactive tools, and more
* Coordinate the development of powerful new tools and robust packages of web content
* Format, optimize, and load new web content into our content-management system
* Regularly update top-level pages on to showcase our most timely and relevant content
Ideal candidates for this position will demonstrate:
* An ability to work across departments to create compelling online content
* Experience with content management systems
* An understanding of best practices in search engine optimization (SEO) and the presentation of online content
* Knowledge of personal-finance and investing issues a plus
Experience with the following technologies are required for this position:
* Content management systems
* PhotoShop
* The Microsoft Office suite
This position with Kiplinger, an Equal Opportunity Employer, is full-time with salary and benefits.
Human Resources
Kiplinger Washington Editors
1729 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006
FAX: 202-496-1817

*And to wrap up today’s leads, the National Journal Group in D.C. is looking for an events editor:

Events Editor, National Journal Group

Atlantic Media Company, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is the parent company of The Atlantic, National Journal and Government Executive magazines. Our publications reach an audience of over one million influential decision makers in the Washington policy community and across the nation.

The Atlantic Media Company is seeking a senior-level Events Editor to develop content and new partnerships for the National Journal Group’s event business. This position will require skills in both editorials conceptualization, talent booking, event execution, and sales, marketing and research in order to identify viable event partnerships.

Major Responsibilities Include:

  • Lead content development for client/partner events including conferences, dinners, and speaker forums (in full collaboration with senior colleagues)
  • Lead ‘high touch’ recruitment of all of the preceding within specific process deadlines
  • Understand client/partner issues, objectives and goals and how they relate to event content
  • Attend all such events and serve as an ambassador for Atlantic Media demonstrating poise, professionalism and full dedication to meeting client’s/partner’s event goals
  • Prepare written summaries or event overviews following all events where the client/partner so desires
  • Represent the ‘event editing’ function to prospective clients/partners as part of the sales and marketing process (in coordination with sales representatives who have principal relationship responsibility) ‘inspire informed confidence on the part of the prospective client/partner in Atlantic Media Company’s ability to execute

Qualifications of Ideal Candidate:

  • Acute understanding of political arena and the ‘business’ of Washington, D.C.
  • Deep, bi-partisan contacts within the D.C. speaker circuit
  • Minimum of 7-10+ years experience in media and politics
  • Strong time-management and organizational skills, with ability to successfully manage multiple projects with varying deadlines simultaneously
  • Meticulous attention to detail
  • Negotiation / brokering skills
  • Extensive knowledge of national and local current events, newsmakers and policy issues
  • Ability to foster senior level client relationship and forge strong connections with strategic partners
  • Capacity to work independently and under pressure, and to meet tight deadlines

Contact to be considered.

Happy hunting out there!



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