The Dreaded Job Interview: Secret Tips From the Inside -for Stutterers!

roach.jpeg About the presenter: Chris Roach is a 49-year-old banker, litigation consultant, and crisis manager. His career has abundantly demanded that he sell himself many times to clients, customers, employers, the public, and peers. He's also participated in the interviewing of hundreds of individuals. His insights to how we who stutter can be competitive and confident will be as meaningful to young people seeking their first part-time job to veteran employees in the mainstream workplace.

The Dreaded Job Interview: Secret Tips from the Inside -for Stutterers!

by Chris Roach
from Texas, USA

You've prepped for weeks, practiced for days and polished for hours - yet you still might throw up! And that's just at the thought of introducing yourself.

The dreaded job interview: It's one of our biggest fears. Why? Because so much is at stake. Standing behind us are those who love us, rely upon us and need us to succeed. Standing next to them are others who love, rely upon and need our competition to succeed.

The difference between us and the competition is obvious, isn't it? One of us faces negative and stereotypical views which question cognitive, emotional and social capabilities. One of us is viewed as not as skilled or able to integrate with others in the workplace as the other one. One of us is considered to be a likely embarrassment to the company's image if exposed to the public, to customers or to the marketplace. And one of us is considered to be a probable liability and costly employee because of a handicap.

Huh? What's that you say? I must be talking about us because of,... you know, the stuttering?

No! Stuttering has nothing to do with any of this.

I'm talking about the one who fails to compete - the one who is unprepared, unpolished, and unenthusiastic. I'm talking about the one who is lazy, uninterested and non-committal. I'm talking about the one who doesn't strive to learn, grow and achieve.

I'm talking about the pessimist, the defeatist and the cynic.

Employers are looking to find the fastest, cheapest and easiest way to have a work force composed of productive, dependable and honest employees. Do you know what their secret is to achieve this? They hire people who are productive, dependable and honest!

They understand that the first and absolutely necessary step in assembling a top-notch group of employees is to hire people who are highly likely to perform well on the job. And the key goal of evaluating and assessing job candidates for the employer is to predict how applicants will perform on the job before they are hired - thus the interview process.

Whether you're applying for your first after-school job, summer internship, college part-time work, or first step into the mainstream workplace, every hiring official is watching for the same things. Every interview is structured to measure and predict your compatibility, your capability and your likeability. Interviews are designed for an employer to find reasons to hire you and reasons not to hire you.

So study up on that company, polish those shoes and press that blouse, comb that hair, throw back those shoulders and flash that smile - it's time to walk in, extend that hand and show that interviewer why you're a person who they'll want to hire...who just happens to stutter.

Let's take a peek at some of the critical factors that an employer looks for in an interview to be able to predict how an applicant will perform on the job. Follow an interviewer's checklist below then decide where stuttering prevents you from meeting the employer's measurements. Hint: Be warned! It will be harder than you think.

Interpersonal Skills


  • Enjoys socializing
  • Looks forward to being around people
  • Likes doing things with friends
  • Creates good first impression
  • Smiles readily
  • Exudes warmth
  • Is outgoing
  • Is gregarious


  • Takes charge of projects or tasks
  • Follows up repeatedly
  • Pushes herself into situations to make an impact
  • Leans forward in the interview


  • Can work alone or work in groups
  • Bothered by people who slow down work or who make mistakes
  • Likes collaborating
  • Displays positive emotional facial expressions when talking about working with others

(So far, this sounds like most of the people in the stuttering support community, huh?)

Verbal skills

(Okay, so here's our first hurdle...)

  • Gives straightforward answers (...not necessarily fluent answers...)
  • Uses words correctly and is grammatical (...the right words, not just fluent ones...)
  • Clearly explains ideas, situations and events (... explains, not speaks perfectly...)
  • Phrases complex statements in easy-to-follow manner (...let's see, easy-to-follow not particularly perfectly spoken...)
  • Mumbles (...most PWS I know have never been accused of mumbling...)
  • Speaks confidently to hear ( these are the PWS I know!)
  • Shows ease in finding right words to use (... again, the right words, not right-sounding words...)
    (Now, let's go back to your ability to shine and show your cognitive capabilities...)


  • Makes comments that sway interviewer
  • Displays mannerisms that interviewer finds convincing
  • Gives answers that satisfy interviewer that candidate is right on some potentially controversial topic
  • "Sells"interviewer on his qualifications for job
  • Looks interviewer in the eye


  • Disagrees tactfully
  • Shows respect for others' viewpoints
  • Mentions being bothered by other people's bad or rude manners
  • Takes the "politics"of a situation into account before taking action
  • Is polite and mannerly
  • Shows consideration
  • Expresses self tactfully
  • Treats everyone with respect before, during and after interviews
  • Is pleasant with receptionist or secretary
  • Does not act bothered if interview schedule does not go according to plan

( where does stuttering penalize us? Aha! I didn't think so. Read on...)


  • Openly acknowledges problems or mistakes
  • Answers questions about his/her weaknesses
  • Readily admits difficulties
  • Does not try to hide potentially negative information
  • Does not hesitate before admitting problems
  • Does not flinch or look uncomfortable while discussing errors he/she made

Personality Traits


(Talk about an incredible advantage for PWS! Persistence. Here's where we can shine.)

  • Completes long-term projects
  • Is tenacious despite encountering roadblocks
  • Resolves to finish whatever he or she starts
  • Shows pride in completing long-term or difficult project
  • Looks for work experience that rewards the persistence needed to earn a degree or to attain certain positions


  • Generates imaginative solutions
  • Reports tackling projects in innovative ways
  • Mentions completing tasks without always following the procedures or rules laid out
  • Enjoys creative endeavors
  • Plays with ideas and alternatives
  • Smiles confidently when describing innovative methods
  • Spends more time reporting on imaginative problem solving than on uncreative problem solving

(Okay, so maybe we coverts do have a little advantage here. We have mastered some fairly creative techniques, but, seriously, most PWS have found creative solutions in their lives to break through and overcome barriers. Emphasize these strengths and strategies.)

Handles obstacles well

  • Mentions bouncing back from defeats or downfalls
  • Is emotionally objective when discussing hurdles
  • Views problems as opportunities in disguise
  • Develops skills through overcoming roadblocks
  • Relishes chances to show resilience
  • Looks confident about tackling obstacles

(Wow! Talk about an opportunity for us PWS to show our best! What a perfect chance to show how we manage our stuttering instead of letting stuttering manage us...)


  • Focuses on solutions rather than the problem
  • Happily grapples with solutions to any problems
  • Has a can-do attitude
  • Enjoys overcoming obstacles
  • Does not mention feeling burned out or overly stressed
  • Expresses enthusiasm and exuberance
  • Appears confident
  • Shows pride in describing accomplishments

High energy

  • Does not indicate feeling worn out even after putting in long hours at work
  • Exerts effort with vigor and great stamina
  • Likes physically moving, not just sitting in one place
  • Maintains high energy level throughout interview
  • Exudes zest and vitality

(Once tell me where our stuttering keeps us from being competitive so far?)

Poise under pressure

  • Describes thriving under pressure or stress
  • Doesn't mentions feeling burned out or overloaded
  • Never indicates getting upset or out of emotional control
  • Won't focuses on anxiety or nervousness
  • Seems to enjoy interview
  • Doesn't twitch, tremble or blink excessively while talking

(Even our secondary characteristics of stuttering can be done with a sincere smile and constant eye contact.)

Being a self-starter

  • Tackles tasks and projects without being prompted
  • Sets goals and goes on to achieve them
  • Expresses no need to be told what to do by others
  • Exudes pride when talking about showing initiative

Desire to increase knowledge

  • Loves doing "research"and learning from job
  • Goes out of her or his way to uncover data or other information
  • Asks interviewer for information on a variety of work-related matters, e.g. company facts and figures, history of job.
  • Shows alertness to new information
  • Expresses a curiosity for knowledge

This is but a sample of an interviewer's perspective. Many issues are measured such as problem-solving capabilities, technical skills, behavioral competencies, value judgments, etc. Candidates at every level are tested thoroughly and aggressively -- whether you're trying to convince a newspaper courier that you'll be the best paper girl on the street or a homebuilder that you'll sell more homes than anyone else in the city. If you're one of one hundred vying for that one scholarship to the University or you're a father of four seeking that critical job after a year of no work, all are required to sell themselves.

So how do we compete while stuttering? Frankly, the same way that we would complete if we weren't stuttering.

But reality is not innocent. Misperceptions and stereotyping are potential hurdles. Prejudice and ignorance are not inescapable. Fear and embarrassment can taint a potential employer's judgment. So despite all the preparations, positive attitude and persistence in the world, how can a stutterer confront these challenges?

Perhaps these three fundamental suggestions might help as you mail in that resume, put that best polished foot forward and extend that hand in confidence.

Don't disclose your stuttering - disclose what you do with your stuttering. Whether on a resume or in an interview, don't mention simply or only that you stutter. Mention all the incredible things you do because you stutter. Describe your membership in the NSA. Tell about the stuttering youth camp you helped. Talk about the article you wrote for a support chapter. Express your interest in meeting people from around the world who stutter. Tout the wonderful workshops you've attended or led. Share your inspirations from Annie Glenn, Alan Robinowitz or James Earl Jones.

Introduce your stuttering - don't let your stuttering introduce you. Walk in, smile, focus on the eyes, extend the hand, and say, "Hello, my name is Julie. As you can tell, I'm a person who stutters. I like to mention this for several reasons. First, this will help explain why I may have some repetitions, blocks and hesitations. It's only due to the stuttering, nothing else. Also, I like to remind people that stuttering is a disorder of speech production, not a cognitive, emotional or nervous disorder. And finally, if you have any questions about stuttering for yourself or perhaps a family member or friend, I want you to feel free to ask me because I really enjoy helping others where I can. Now, about that position as the bookkeeper, I'm really excited to be here and learn more about it..." Nothing else need be said about stuttering. You've just said it all...and spoken volumes beyond your imagination about you and your compatibility, your capability and your likeability...and the interview has just started. Wow!

Get on with the interview like everyone else - and knock 'em dead. Remember now - be planned, be prepared, be polished, be poised, be professional and be positive. And remember - your stuttering has nothing to do with any of these and it has nothing to do with being productive, dependable and honest. You may not be able to control your stuttering but you can control your choices.

Now, isn't the difference between us and the competition so much more obvious than it was at the beginning? One of us faces negative and stereotypical views which question our cognitive, emotional and social capabilities. One of us is viewed as not as skilled or able to integrate with others in the workplace as the other one. One of us is considered to be a likely embarrassment to the company's image if exposed to the public, to customers or to the marketplace. And one of us is considered to be a probable liability and costly employee because of our handicap.

Gee! Now don't you feel sorry for those other candidates who aren't as good as we who are prepared, positive, polished...?

September 1, 2004