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A Hard Habit to, Um, Break

No matter how well you prepare for an interview, you will almost always be asked something new. While some people shine at thinking on their feet, others can get flustered. You want to appear confident and knowledgeable while still sounding succinct and eloquent. So what do you say?


Used often as a filler word, most of us say it every day and it's very difficult to stop but with some thought and practice you can make a huge difference to any conversation.

Take your time

Remember, you don't have to answer straight away. The interviewer doesn't expect you to, so take a deep breath and relax.

It's okay to be silent

'Um' gives the impression that you're not sure what to say but a silent pause says you're just gathering your thoughts. Get used to being silent before answering questions.

Slow down

This is a good tip in general for interviews. Slowing your speech down gives you more time to think and your speech will flow better, leaving less room for any 'ums' to slip in.

Stay calm if you slip-up

This really is a hard habit to break and under pressure you may very well slip back into it. Don't worry. It's much better to make the occasional mistake than amplify it by cringing or backtracking. Just realise you're doing it, stop and then carry on.

Mind your body language

The reason people say 'um' is because it tells the other person that they're thinking and you still need to show this. There's no right way to do it but things to avoid are looking down or fidgeting. This might sound obvious but with so much pressure it can be easy to slip into other bad habits.


It's not a quick fix but it's tried and tested. Practice every chance you get whether it's with friends and family or at the shops; start feeling comfortable taking that pause.

But, like, what else?

There are plenty of other filler words out there that you may also be guilty of. Ask your friends and family. If you do it they will have noticed.