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Is Your Voice Costing You the Job?

As a professional public speaker, I’m always conscious of how my own voice sounds when I’m presenting to groups. And as you may recall from a prior post, I’m also a voracious consumer of the spoken word--audiobooks and podcasts accompany me while I’m driving, running, and doing chores.

Every once in a while, I come across a podcast and find that while I like the content, the host’s voice completely turns me off. What is it about vocal patterns that can create a negative impression that overshadows what the person is saying? And how can knowing more about this help us in our jobs?

Three types of vocal mannerisms that are likely to hurt your employment and promotion prospects are vocal fry, verbal fillers, and upspeak.

Vocal Fry

Vocal fry is not a specific millennial trend, but its use has increased among young people, particularly women. Vocal fry is when a person uses the lowest register of his or her voice, creating a sound that’s almost like buzzing. I hadn’t realized that I knew what vocal fry was until I heard examples of it, and there is some speculation that it has increased because of its prominence in pop culture figures.

Regardless of why vocal fry is on the rise, what’s more important is what it means in a professional context. This video from researchers at Duke University explains vocal fry and the research as to why using it can be harmful to one’s employment prospects. In short, the conclusion is that vocal fry creates negative impressions, so you should avoid it.

Verbal Fillers

Verbal fillers are a common problem for many. Interspersing words such as “like,” “you know,” and “I mean” into sentences becomes a habit. And of course, the “ums” and “ahs” creep into most people’s speech as well.

You may be thinking, “But so many people do this! Can the use of these common fillers really make a difference in a professional context?” You bet! According to experts, like those quoted in this article, the use of verbal fillers can cause you to lose credibility, particularly when you’re younger or lacking experience.


Upspeak, or high rising terminal, is when the pitch of a person’s voice raises at the end of a sentence. It has the effect of making statements sound like questions. For many, upspeak makes a person sound less credible and confident. And the use of upspeak, again primarily by women, can hurt a person’s job prospects. This article gives a great overview of how upspeak may be more common among younger people but may create negative impressions with older listeners, like interviewers.

Take a minute to reflect on yourself. What are your vocal patterns, and what impression do they give in a job interview? What can you do to improve your voice? In learning more about ourselves, we can’t overlook the benefits that an outside opinion can bring. Last year, I hired a running coach because I wanted to shave a few more minutes off my half marathon time. The best advice I got from my coach was a tiny change to my running form--one I never could have figured out on my own, because I can’t see myself run and I haven’t trained hundreds of runners.

What small changes could you make to your vocal patterns if you had an expert listen to you answer job interview questions and provide constructive feedback? Is your voice holding you back in job interviews? Are your vocal mannerisms making you appear less credible and confident than you really are? Getting personalized, professional interview preparation can help you be your best self in an interview.

Want to learn more? Contact me today!


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