Enough with the biz babble

If you are an executive who is in transition, there are some bad habits that you have developed which can actually keep you from landing a new job. One of those habits which can be deadly to the job search is the tendency of executives to obfuscate rather than enlighten with their speech and answers. Too many babble corporate jargon instead of English. Too many executives say far too much when a brief answer would be better. And some executives come across as defensive or desperate.

Here are a few tips to help you speak simple English when you’re looking for a job.

1). Understand that you are babbling jargon. You’d be surprised at how much time we have to spend with our clients to get them to actually speak English. Many executives have babbled jargon for so long that they are unaware that they are doing it. If your spouse is also entrapped by corporate-speak, you could go days, months or even years without saying anything meaningful. So, as in many things, the first step to break the addiction is to recognize you have it. If you’re an executive or simply have worked in the upper levels of corporate America for a few years, you probably babble.

2). Utilize one of your kids or borrow one. Children normally don’t understand the bovine effluvium that is proceeding from your mouth, and, given permission, will tell you. Use a child who is in second or third grade. Give them your “elevator speech.” Then have them explain back to you what you just said, and what you do for a living. If it isn’t spot on, you’re using corporate jargon. Let the kid go play for a while, polish your speech, and try again. When the child can understand, so can most other people.

3). Avoid acronyms and the like. When you’re at a networking event or sitting in an interview, your acronyms, unless they are completely common to your industry or the world in general, can kill your chances for a job. Spell things out, avoiding all acronyms as far as possible, even ones you think everyone knows.

4). Don’t babble on. Whether in an interview or in a networking event, learn the value of brevity. Too many executives fall in love with the sound of their own voices. You aren’t defending a dissertation. You are trying to get a simple point across.

5). You don’t need to defend everything. Too many job hunting executives want to defend themselves, and why they are currently unemployed. It isn’t necessary. About a third of executives in our country are either unemployed or under-employed. People no longer assume that you were a poor executive if you are currently between positions.

6). Answer the question. Many executives want to give background and context to everything they’re asked. This is a mistake. You want to come across as sharp and focused, not professorial. If asked how many direct reports you had, answer with how many direct reports you had, not with the context of why you had that many direct reports. If asked to “give a time when,” give a time when, not your philosophy of management.

Corporate executives are so used to giving evasive answers (which is one of the problems with American business) that they often seem to have a very hard time giving a straight answer to anything. Practice giving simple, direct answers to simple, direct questions.

7). Don’t be cute. We had a woman from a failed North Denver company who came to see us once. She couldn’t open her mouth without jargon spilling out. She referred to herself as “the brand.” She referred to administrative assistants as “The Secret Society of Admins.” And so on. She thought she was being funny and clever. We all thought she was just silly and babbling. Speak English, and don’t try to be cute.

8). Don’t come across as desperate. Answer questions calmly and in control. Show that you understand “command presence.” Behave as if you don’t need the job, and you’ll be much more likely to get it.

Keep in mind that you are no longer in a company. You are on the outside trying to get in. Until you do, you should make sure that you aren’t going to shoot yourself in the foot by babbling, coming across as evasive, defensive or desperate. The above tips should give a start on your quest to actually speak the English language, rather than corporate speak, in your quest for new employment.

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