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Updated: Apr 8, 2020

It’s uncomfortable for us to have breaks in the flow of conversation even though the right words aren’t always readily available. When our mouths work faster than our brains, we use crutch words to fill the gaps. Some default to the same filler words such as ‘like”, “um”, “so”, or “and”. Other times we use generic phrases, such as “the thing is” or “each and every”. While all of these words and phrases have appropriate places in our speech, they are often unknowingly abused as mere time killers. They become crutches with over-repetition or when they don’t contribute to the essential meaning of the sentence.

Why crutches matter in a job interview

Unfortunately, many job interviews don’t give you the opportunity to actually show off your skills. Instead, recruiters must judge the way you present yourself in an interview to decide whether or not they trust your words. Crutch phrases and words subtly undermine your perceived intelligence. Whether the interviewer is consciously aware or not, every time you fill silence, you take meaning from the words you actually want him or her to remember.

How to stop using your fillers

The first step is always recognition. Because the discomfort with pauses lies in our subconscious, we aren’t deliberately using crutches and therefore it becomes almost impossible for us to detect them on our own. To identify your fillers, try recording a conversation of yours or asking those around you to pay attention to your use of words. Once you know your go-to’s, your friends can make a game out of calling you out. Or, you can just try speaking more slowly to avoid your crutches, become more comfortable with silence, and make careful word choices.

Here’s a list of possible crutches to look out for:

  • Uh/ um

  • Actually

  • And

  • Okay

  • Yeah

  • In terms of

  • Great/ awesome/ cool

  • You know

  • So

  • And

  • that

  • sort of

  • thing

  • Well

  • Literally 

  • Like

  • Look

  • Honestly

  • SeriouslyBy

  • any chanceIs

  • there anyway

  • thatKind

  • ofDefinitely Totally

  • Basically/ essentiallyReally/ veryJust

  • The thing

  • isFor

  • what it’s

  • worth In a

  • weird way

  • RightAnywayLike

  • I was sayingAnd

  • so on and so

  • forthI guessI

  • thinkAbout/ aroundIn

  • order

  • toGo

  • andEach

  • and

  • everyApparentlyIf

  • that

  • makes

  • any sense

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