Thursday, May 26, 2011

Interview Tip: Don't Hide Your Stutter

Here's a tip for anyone out there who stutters and who is about to interview for a job:

Don't hide your stutter.

When I interviewed for my current job five years ago, as well as for the job before that four years prior, I didn't hide my stuttering. That's not to say that I didn't try to speak fluently - I did! But I also talked about my stuttering with my interviewers, who also went on to become my bosses.

For a person who stutters, speaking perfectly fluent in an interview is a huge accomplishment. But to me, if you are perfectly fluent and never bring up your stutter, then you may actually be selling yourself short.

The thing is, you may really want to work somewhere because the pay is good, the work is interesting, it's a cool place to work, etc. But for me, I always also wanted to work where people wanted me to be there. It wasn't just about finding the right amount of money - it was about finding the right family. You'll be spending at least eight hours a day with the people you work with, so you'll be much happier if you get along with them.

It would be a lie to say that everyone at work is completely comfortable with my stutter. I hate to hear myself talk or watch myself on video, so I'm sure there are people that I work with who don't particularly like it as well. That's OK. But your manager should at least be comfortable with it. And if you have a good manager, he or she will vouch for you if you need some extra muscle behind you.

I actually do interviews now, so the tables are turned. And what I've noticed is that everyone has something that requires a little patience on my part. One person we interviewed years ago was an extremely slow talker. Some people have thick accents that are hard to understand, especially on a phone interview. Some people are blessed with perfectly fluent speech, but talk about the most boring subjects.

I had a good talk this week with the guy who hired me for my current position. He and I had spoken about my stuttering during the interview and have spoken about it since then, but he told me that after our initial interview he went back to his team and told them that he met a guy who stuttered, that it required a little extra effort to understand what I was saying sometimes, but that he could tell that I was a really sharp guy.

It would have been easy for him to write me off due to my stuttering. But he didn't. He chose to listen, even though it took more effort. Quite frankly, those are the kinds of people that you want to work for and work with. Those are the people who you want to become your mentors. I'm very grateful for the opportunity to work with people like that, and have learned a lot from working with my current team.

So... if you are going on an interview soon, don't worry too much about your stutter. You will find someplace to work that accepts you for who you are, who will foster your personal and professional development, and who will reap the benefits of having you as a part of their team.

Good luck!


  1. Great Post! Tomorrow I have a competition in Madrid, where I have to give a 1 min speech about why mi idea (for a start-up company) must be supported.
    I don't care too much about the interviews, most of the times I do a good job. Probably we have learned to listen better, and we know it's better to have few things to say but things that really matter.
    Lately, I have been struggling too much to introduce myself, you know the basic stuff like your name and what you do for living, but sometimes it's just hard.
    Anyway, tomorrow I will do my best to not discard my chances of speaking up. I recently bought some books about public speaking and how to deliver better presentations. They argue you need to practice, practice and practice. At least in my case I don't devote too much time to practice the day (or week) before I have to a give a speech, which I strongly think, reduces my chances. I will try not to find excuses to avoid practicing.
    This month I am moving to Berlin, I am a "would be" entrepreneur, and I am thinking to assist to the toastmaster's sessions in that city. There's something inside of me that suggests me I should practice, I should practice in front of people as much as I can; and I know that if I can do it I will sharply increase my chances to change and help the world. It sounds weird I know but, so far I have done an excellent job in the university, have really good friends, have won some nice university contests but I have also discard many opportunities only because I am afraid of giving a presentation in front of high profile people and fail. And I really hate, to see how people that decide to go and present an idea or a project can't understand what really matters and only say things because they had to say something. I will do all my best to accomplish my dreams, which are big, and in the close future, some years I will be giving a speech in the TED's initiative.
    I have a blog, it's not about stuttering but when you feel like reading something, check it out:
    *Sorry for the big message I posted! Keep writing!
    J Gabriel

  2. Thank you for the comment!

    Good luck with your competition! I'd love to hear how it turns out for you. I love that you are not shying away from things like this and are pushing yourself. That's very inspirational.

    One of the blogs that I've linked to is of another stutterer who has joined ToastMasters. I'm really impressed with you guys for pushing yourselves like this.

    Thanks for leaving your blog link. I've checked it out and will link to it.

    Good luck!


  3. Bobby,
    Although I had some difficulties when communicating my idea to the people, they understood it. Many of them who talked to me before the speech couldn't get how it was possible I was speaking to them without bumps before, and all told me I was very brave.
    We all know that braveness does not mean you have accomplished your goal, it's tricky but it shapes your attitude. I know I need to find a way of better communicate my ideas verbally. If ideas and task were required to be reported only on paper, many of us would be champions on that. I just want to embrace my full responsibility for doing what I feel I have to do, I will let you know what happens when I move to Berlin and join to toastmasters. It's gonna be an adventure. I don't have anything to loose because I have never had anything apart from my ideas and my dreams. The rest -my family, friends and social status- has been just a partial loan from life.


    *Btw, can you tell me which from the list is the other blogger who goes to toastmasters.

  4. Thanks for the update! Definitely keep in touch about ToastMasters.

    The other blogger who goes to ToastMasters is Dhruva. His blog is My Stammer. I purposefully tried to be vague about which blog it was because I wanted everyone to have to check out everyone else's blog to find it. :) You got me!

  5. Great stuff here! Nice to see you have linked to my blog - appreciate that.
    And I have been involved with Toastmasters myself now for 5+ years.
    It has been a tremendous support for me.

  6. Great man jus great. Right now my life is in stage where i have totally lost hopes of getting job since i failed in 10 companies final round interview, because of my STAMMERING problems. So many HR humiliated me about my stammering issue and cracked joke in interview. (I'm studying mechanical engineering, 7th sem R.V.College bangaluru) Your statements bought so some rays of hope to do something in my lyf. Thank u so much for that. I'll remember all your point when i'm attending next interview. Thnx...

  7. I dont stutter but my son does. I have never thought of searching blogs for stammering or stuttering. My daughter actually began doing this and sent me a few entries and I am so intrigued. I agree with your statement in an earlier blog entry...stuttering definitely shapes who you are. I know that it has made my son the sympathetic, empathetic, broadly accepting and brave young man that he is. As you also stated in your previous blog...I (as his Mama) would LOVE to take it away for him. No matter how it has shaped him...I find it hard to bare watching him struggle with anything. The severity of his stutter comes and goes but he has realized that even if it will probably come again. In spite of his struggles, like you, he has done many brave things in his life as well. Currently he is a missionary in Nicaragua and has just finished his 24th month teaching ... and in Spanish! Yes...much to his disappointment- he stutters in Spanish as well. I am sending him the link to your blog. He will enjoy it as much as I have.

  8. Thanks for the comment! Kudos to your son for doing missionary work, for traveling abroad and for teaching - in a second language, at that! All of those are great and amazing things on their own, and not letting his stutter stop him from doing those things just magnifies his accomplishments.

    I love how you and your daughter were reading up on stuttering online - I hope you found some positive stuff. I've linked to a few sites that I think really send out a good vibe.

    Thanks for reading!