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The Art of Biting One’s Tongue

The Art of Biting One’s Tongue

Teena Rose |

April 23, 2010

“I could have explained that much better. What I briefly mean is…”

Even under the best of circumstances, we have all found ourselves in a position where we could have explained something better. It’s perfectly acceptable to revise and consolidate your answer, even shortly after the incident in question — presuming your second stab at an answer is short and sweet, of course. Take this sample Q&A between an HR rep and an interview candidate:

HR rep: “Tell me about your time with ACME Tool Company.”

Interview Candidate: “Well, I joined the company in 1993. I started as a machinist where I stayed for about 18 months. I was then promoted to an interim manager, which required the management of 3 full-time machinist and 2 seasonal members. The original manager went on sick leave — the reason I was only an interim manager for a while. I guess they liked me within management, because I was promoted to a full-time shift manager when my predecessor decided to take an early retirement and not come back to the company. I served as manager for about 5 years, before leaving the company. I left the company because they decided to bring in an outsider for the executive position I applied for.”

Wow, what a mouthful! Do you think this is what the HR rep had in mind for an answer? Could the above we whittled down into something far more concise, yet just as informative? Yes, I believe so too. How about this instead:

HR rep: “Wow, it sounds like you had quite an adventure over at ACME.”

Interview Candidate: “Yes, let me give you the shorter, less painful account of my time at ACME. I worked within management for 5 years before moving into my current management position, where I’ve been for the last 3 years. No doubt, leadership roles are a perfect fit for me. I consistently reduced employee turnover by 3-5% year-after-year; and I had great success as a change agent, which reduced my employer’s dependence on certain vendors for example.”

Better, right? Did you notice how a couple of achievements were strategically placed in the answer?

Why bother changing your speaking habits at this stage of the game? If you’re someone who works in a back room, and your only career ambition is to stay employed beyond lunch, well, you’re probably staying just the way you are…and where you are. But, for those individuals who are seeking professional advancement, promotions, pay increases, respect from colleagues, and a slew of other benefits, it’s probably time to raise the bar and reach for it.

Speaking habits — whether excessive tongue action, slang fillers, or misguided interview answers — give an impression. You have the choice whether it’s a good or a bad one.

This article was originally posted on

Teena Rose is a Personal Branding Strategist, Career Coach, and Professional 10-Year Resume Writer with She is highly endorsed and recommended, making her your best choice for job-search and career success. She has been helping professionals grow, excel, and succeed since 1999. Contact Teena by her website Resume to Referral, follow her on Twitter, and check out her LinkedIn page.

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