How to Improve Your Vocabulary for a Job Interview: Word-Nerd.com Tip of the Month
You got past the first hurdle. Your potential future employer liked the looks of your resume enough to call you in for a job interview - an opportunity to show you've got enough brains and skills for the job. But while your resume can be edited to perfection before submission, an interview requires you to think on your feet and communicate effectively. A broad vocabulary shows you've got a good head on your shoulders, and it will help you resist the urge to interject a few "ummm's" and "you know's" into your responses. You want to make sure your verbal skills are a match for your perfect resume! Here are a few tips for prepping your vocabulary before an interview.
First and foremost, read! And more specifically, read books, journals, blogs and magazines related to your field. Many, maybe most, jobs have their own particular jargon, and using it appropriately communicates that you've got real knowledge of your field. If you're a restaurateur, you'll need to know words like "chiffonade," "mache" and "ambience." If you're a journalist, terms like "masthead" and "libel" need to be in your vocabulary. Pepper your responses with appropriate words, and you'll show you know what you're talking about!
Second, spend time with people who have the type of job you want. If you've got your eye on the corner office, listen for words or phrases your superiors typically use. If something doesn't make sense to you, be sure to look it up. Not working in your preferred field yet? Strike up conversations with experts in your profession online. Read and comment on their blogs or engage them on Twitter. Twitter can be especially useful for learning up-to-the-minute lingo. You'll get up to speed quickly, not to mention develop useful networking contacts.
Finally, use those words you've learned in everyday conversation with colleagues, family and friends. Using your newly learned vocabulary words reinforces them, so they'll slide off your tongue with ease when you're in an interview. Beware of segregating new words into a "work only" part of your brain. If you use "like" every other sentence with your friends, it's almost certain to pop out when you're nervous in an interview. Use those new words in both your career and personal life, and they'll soon be second nature.
A last caveat: Use your newly learned words with care. If you're not sure of the right usage of a word, choose a word you do know. Vocabulary words used incorrectly will not help your cause. It's also easy to sound pretentious if you're trying to use every word in the dictionary. The goal is to show the interviewer that you're comfortable with using technical terms, and you understand their meaning well enough to use them correctly.
Investing time in your work vocabulary will pay dividends throughout your career. It's like the adage "dress for the job you want," but in this case you're speaking for the job you want. Good luck.
Jennifer Cohen is the President and Chief Word-Nerd at Word-Nerd.com, a site devoted to SAT and PSAT vocabulary prep.