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I Resemble That Remark: Why You're Not Getting Offers

Not too long ago, a post on the Career Hub blog turned me on to the hilarious web site Not Hired, which gives positive proof that sometimes it's your own damn fault you're not getting hired. All kidding aside, if you're getting interviews but not job offers, maybe it's time to examine your speech patterns. Plenty of words and phrases that we use every day without thinking (and without malice) can be hurtful, hateful, or just plain offensive to others. And dropping an insensitive remark in an interview can cost you the job.

"That's so retarded!"

How did that statement make you react?

  • If you don't happen to know anyone with neurological or cognitive differences, it may just sound like a harmless, if flippant, way to make a point.
  • But if you're the parent, sibling, relative, or friend of anyone with an autistic spectrum disorder, or Down Syndrome, or a traumatic brain injury, or any of the other conditions that people tend to lump under the heading of "retarded," it probably struck you like a kick to the gut. Let something like that slip in an interview, and your candidacy will meet an early demise.

For an in-depth look at this topic, check out the Sensitive Language page of the Words@Random (as in Random House) site. As they point out, you need to be aware of "patronizing or demeaning expressions" and "language that excludes or unnecessarily emphasizes differences."

Specifically, they mention gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, and age. And I'd like to add religion and size to that list.

Here are a few examples of biased remarks that seem positive at first, but then make you stop and think, "Hey, wait a minute!"

  • "Men are such simple creatures, they're a lot easier to manage."
  • "Those people are so warm and family-oriented, I bet she'll make a nice coworker."
  • "This girl I worked with was such a computer whiz."
  • "The old guy in accounting has a great collection of vintage sports memorabilia."
  • "Hey, Big Guy, can you tell me where the vending machines are?"

I hope you will clean up your language in all aspects of your life, because we could all use some more acceptance and understanding. After all, outside of Hollywood, hardly anybody meets the societally ingrained gold standard of being a tall, white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant, thin, able-bodied, clear-complected, heterosexual young male with good social skills, lots of money, and a full head of fabulous hair.

But I'm not the PC police, nor am I perfect in my own speech patterns; I'm just a career advice blogger. You can do and say whatever you like.

All I'm saying is that if you're landing interviews, your resume and cover letter are doing their jobs. If those interviews aren't turning into job offers, it may be something you said.

Ever heard (or made) a verbal blooper in an interview? Please share!

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