Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Stammering my way through an interview

Besides posting acid rants about my desillusioned state with the current job market, I have another characteristic: I stammer. (by the way, is it stammering or stuttering?)

I have a serious doubt. How do you guys, the ones who handled recruitment and job interviews, handled candidates that stammered?

When I speak under certain conditions, like when I'm talking to my boss or under the stress of an interview, I stammer a bit. So far, I have no idea what the person on the other end thought about me and how did it affect my ability to get the job. Can you guys give me an insight?

RP
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I do-do-do-do-don't kno-no-no-know,
sorry :)


Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Did you try pretending they are naked, tied to leashes, etc etc...

*no it doesn't help me*

Li-fan Chen
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Do you stutter in your native language? If not, could it be nervousness based on an unfounded fear of screwing up your translations?

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I know an extremely senior and influential engineer at a very large hitech company who stutters.  So you can succeed!

i like i
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Yes, I stutter in my native language, but then again only under certain situations.

Come on guys, what do you think?

RP
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

There are programs for stutterers - I'm not sure what they embody, but I've seen a lot of people have success with them. Check the web to see if there's anything near you...

FWIW, I've also interviewed people who stutter, and I never held it against them.

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I feel for you man - I used to stutter, especially on the phone.  I couldn't even pick up the phone and say "Hello."  It came out "um um um um um he he hello."  Ordering at a drivethru was particularly painfull, especially if there were other people in the car thinking it was pretty funny.  It sucks dude.  The way I solved mine was to face it head on.  A counselor gave me an assignment each week, like make 20 phone calls a day.  I'd call restaurants and ask their hours, etc, etc.  It wore me down so I couldn't stay at the tense level that caused my anxiety so I started to succeed, which was very reinforcing.  Now it's gone.

Good luck.  See a speach therapist or phychologist if you think it would help.

Sven
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I worked with a guy that stammered even when he wasn't under pressure and he's managed to switch jobs when the market seemed pretty dead (might have had a lot to do with his being a genius though).

If you're interviewed by a halfway decent interviewer they'll look past stammering, I certainly would. If you're going for an engineer role then stammering shouldn't effect your ability to do the job, so I don't see why it should matter. Trouble is, there are a lot of companies out there who are pretty clueless when it comes to interviewing so who knows.

John C
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

The last interview I gave was to someone that stuttered.  I had serious reservations about hiring him, but he came very highly recommended from a co-worker whose oppinion I respect very much.  I didn't hold the stuttering against him, but on the downside, he failed to communicate with me well.  If you can't get it across to the interviewer that you're an excellent candidate, than the stuttering could indirectly effect the decision.

In retrospect, I'm glad I trusted my co-worker's oppinion as it's turned out very well.

Elephant
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

What you just said is what worries me the most.

The problem with stuttering is not the way it affects your speech, it's the way it affects your psyche. I get so nervous thinking that I'm going to stutter, that I end up looking like a mental retard (no offense meant, that's exactly the way I feel).

I never seem to be able to get into the idea that "being a stutterer is ok".

Damn, not only am I ugly as hell, I also had to stutter....

RP
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I think an enlightened organization would not hold it against you in an interview.

I think the best bet is to say up front somthing along the lines of 'When I feel enthusiastic about a subject, I may speak quickly and begin to stutter. I will try to minimize that during the interview, but please bear with me.' This shows that you are confident and comfortable, and not stuttering because you are unable to cope under pressure (which an unenlightened person may assume).

Also, remember that this may tell against you in an interview for a customer-facing job. If you stutter in interview, you will probably stutter in business meetings, which may give clients a poor impression.

Good luck!

Astarte
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

"The problem with stuttering is not the way it affects your speech, it's the way it affects your psyche. I get so nervous thinking that I'm going to stutter, that I end up looking like a mental retard."

Well, then, I'd say you do have a pretty serious problem. You haven't said "Yes! I'll get therapy for it!" yet. I hope you consider it, because communication and thinking on your feet is pretty important in an intellectual job.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I've had therapy before. It helped *a lot*, but I feel I haven't gone the whole 9 yards. I'm currently looking for something to complement what I've done so far.
Meanwhile, with or without therapy life goes on and interviews keep on coming, so.........

RP
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Tell the interviewer up front that you stutter, that it has been a problem since childhood and that you are getting speech therapy for it.  Once the interviewer understands that it is a speech problem and doesn't mean you are being deceptive or stupid, he will likely adjust his perceptions of your responses.  IT may even work slightly to your advantage.

Your real problem getting a job is that you are very ugly.  This bothers people much more than speech impediments.  Fortunately you have chosen an excellent field to be unattractive in.

name withheld out of cowardice
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I interviewed people with stammers, and one very severe example.  It didn't make any difference other than the length of the interview and if you are an impatient interviewer, I think that makes you a bad interviewer anyway. One of the other interviewers - the supposed professional interviewer - was very impatient and caused the candidate to lock-up completely.

Non-verbal communication is a much bigger deal than most people realise (70%?) and I think that in this industry, verbal communication skills have never been a priority. People often seem to communicate by email if at all, even when they sit next to each other. So, I would say it doesn't matter as long as the persons technical capability is good.

In this case, the candidate didn't measure up technically. My biggest problem was convincing the interview panel that I was rejecting the candidate on technical grounds because they had a fit of right-on-eousness and wanted to take the person regardless. I had to examine my motives very carefully but I think the call was right. I don't want to give people jobs on sympathy and then have them struggle.

As for advice, I would say demand patience. The company is looking for a developer not a silvertongued salesman. If the interviewer gets narked just ask to slow it down, explain that you are selling your technical capability. The interviewer should be looking for those skills, not an easy life or a power trip. Interviewing effectively is hard work. If necessary, resort to the whiteboard or pen and paper - I appreciate that can seem like a defeat or a sign of weakness.

Woodentongue
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Hi, fellow stutterers!

Now I know that it's not only me that stutters :-) By the way, it's so coincidance for me that this topic brought to me again. Last week I just attended a public forum "Are you a stutter?". I found teachers, parents, and even the stutters themselves attending it (I am included). (I found a stutterer who stutter more than I did)

By the way, the lecturer said that the sooner the better. It can be classified as mild or chronic. Males dominate the percentage, and the statistics say that less than 1% of total population have it. (Then I am not lucky). Mostly it is caused by genetic (it can be by accident).

There are some ways to overcome it:
1.  Lidcombe (only for children below 5)
2. Prolonged Speech (for adults)
3. Caperdown Program (better version of prolonged speech)
4. Auditary Feedback Device (use external device, can reduce up to 90% of stuttering speech, however only works for 80% of stutterers)

More info??? Find on google. I do not remember all of the detail of the lecture.

Give it a try for the therapy! I will go for it this Friday (already book an appoinment)

note: I am stutter in an unexpected conversation. However during "normal" and "planned" conversation I am perfectly normal and extrovert. (I usually plan a dialog before I speak)

Richard Sunarto
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

No particular expertise here, but I would echo the advice to explain to the interviewer up front about your issue.  If you have any oportunity to communicate via email prior to the interview, you may want to inform the interviewer or HR person arranging the inverview that way, and include a link to information on how to engage with people who stutter, such as this.

http://www.mankato.msus.edu/dept/comdis/kuster/InfoPWDS/Listeners.html

IANAL, but if you are interviewing in the US, it is illegal for a company to discriminate against you on the basis of a disability. I don't know if stuttering qualifies, but the possiblity might occur to the interviewer and cause him to adjust his thinking accordingly.

MacSqueeb
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I can't remember whether I've specifically interviewed anybody with a stammer, but to me it's really no different than any other variation in speech, such as an accent. Which is to say that in most cases I don't think it would be an issue, although if it were severe enough that it fundamentally impeded communication I'd be a bit concerned. I agree that it would probably be to your benefit to make a comment about it up front, which illustrates that you are confident about yourself and not somehow ashamed or unusually nervous.

John C.
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

BTW, the link above was gleaned from the homepage

http://www.thomer.com/index.html

of a guy who is in a PhD program at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at M.I.T.  I note that because on his page he is very up front about his stuttering, and in describing himself it is clear that he is highly intelligent, thus helping the reader breakdown the instinct to subconciously assume the person stuttering is somehow less intelligent.  Anyway, I thought it might be encouraging to read about a fellow stutterer, who has tackled it head on as well as  racked up some impressive accomplishments.

And by the way, best of luck on the interview!

MacSqueeb
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I have no experience with stuttering, but I'd expect directed therapy to be most effective recourse. But possibly learning to communicate more effectively, and so reducing your anxiety, would help your stuttering.

I've been involved with a local Toastmasters club ( http://toastmasters.org ) for five years. It's helped me a great deal with both prepared presentations (Ph.D. defense) and spontaneous Q&A (job interviews and Ph.D. defense). I don't know if participation in Toastmasters ever helped someone with stammering, but it enables people to become better communicators and helps them reduce and control their anxieties.

David Fischer
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Unless either (0) you're going for a job in sales or (1) your stammer is very bad or (2) you write code like

    int int int mamamain(vvvoid) {{{{{
      ret ret retu ret ret return 0;;;
    }}}}

(both of which seem unlikely) there's no reason why any sane interviewer should hold it against you. Some interviewers are insane and liable to be prejudiced against people who stammer, or who have skin a different colour from theirs, or aren't the same age as they are, or whatever; that hurts, but there's nothing you can do about it. Work on the assumption that your interviewer is not insane. If you're worried about it, then by all means bring it up at the start, though I'd have thought most interviewers would understand without needing to be told explicitly.

Of course that's much easier to say than to do...

Gareth McCaughan
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Sing.

Seriously.

T.J.
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Singing your way through an interview - that's an interesting idea. Like one of those musical Simpsons episodes. Bonus points if you can get it all to rhyme. ;-)

But seriously. The guy who came second in the UK version of Pop Idol a couple of years ago (Gareth Gates) has a rather bad stutter when he speaks in front of the camera but doesn't do it when he sings (even in front of 10,000 screaming teenage fans). So it may not work for everyone.

John C
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

That is exactly what I am recommending FOR the interview.

It is not an immediate cure for suttering -- it immediately supress the cause of suttering by forcing you to speak in pace.

T.J.
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

It'd take some amount of bottle to do it though!

John C
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Th th this is a a st st st st stutt ttt stuttt tut stutter.

This, uh, this, uh, um, uh, this, uh um uh this is a stammer.

(More or less.)

Martha
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Gareth ROTFL!

Seriously RP, what you need is to be happy (content) with yourself. You're not seeing Brad Pitt when you look in the mirror, fine; but at least a healthy, fit man you can be.

Go to the gym 3 times a week, work your arms and body, lose the flab (if any), and keep in shape. You'll like yourself.

Alex.

PS Funny method by Winston Churchill: he always imagined the other guy sitting on the toilet bowl.

Alex.ro
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

FWIW, MacSqueeb is right -- discriminating against someone because of a stutter probably violates the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as similar state laws.

http://www.nsastutter.org/material/index.php?matid=191
http://members.aol.com/wdparry/ada.htm

As a practical matter, one problem is that your stutter might make the interviewer nervous and lead to a difficult rapport.  It might help if you could set the interviewer at ease by making a lighthearted comment or quip about your stutter at the start -- just to address the issue and let him know it's not a big deal.

Think of the character Jimmy from "South Park," a kid with a stutter and a physical disability who's also an amateur stand-up comedian.  He does a great job at disarming his audience through (really bad) jokes --  "I ju...  ju... just flew in and and buh... buh... buh... boy are my crutches tired."

Robert Jacobson
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

My wife is a speech-language pathologist. One of the areas they treat is stuttering (and, I assume, stammering).

She said that, ironically, most of our professors who taught stuttering-treatment STUTTERED. So, *that* treatment isn't completely effective. ;-)

The real Entrepreneur
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

"real entrepreneur" is right. When I attended the public seminar on stuttering, the speaker (head of the department) stuttered during the presentation. I do not know whether she did this on purpose to get empathy or really a stutterer. She spoke fluently, however she had a lot of fillers and did word repeatition.

Richard Sunarto
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Well there’s a mixed bag of advice… and that pretty much reflects the state of peoples understanding where stammering is concerned.

I’ve been a stammerer all my speaking life and I was formally a “severe stammerer” which means that when I was stammering I was down to something like a word or two a minute accompanied by spasms, head jerks, jaw lock, dribbling and stomach cramps. The thing about stammering is that what you, the non-stammering populous see is the very tip of the iceberg. There’s a whole dark world of depression and psychology attached to it that drags you down pretty much as low as you can get. To top it all off it’s not like you’re in a wheel chair or you’ve got no arms, people can’t tell you’re about to have a problem speaking. Society finds it confusing; why can you talk perfectly fine to your cat/wife/child or sing etc but yet when you get in front of an authority figure and you instantly fall apart.

Don’t be angered by posters of comments like “I do-do-do-do-don't kno-no-no-know”… just as in life it’s peoples ignorance showing through – it’ll do you no good to get hung up on negative experiences… move on. Here in the UK we’ve had a few high profile stammerers pop up and it’s resulted in a batch of good primetime documentaries that showed the effects of stammering on the individual and the help that’s out there. I’m pleased to say that I myself and people I’ve spoken to have noticed a marked change in attitudes. The perception of stammerers as bumbling idiots isn’t so rife now. Besides, you’re in good company, famous stammerers include Lewis Carrol, Charles Darwin, Marylin Monroe, Napoleon, Isaac Newton, Theodore Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.

Stammering and stuttering are the same thing. Generally in the UK (where I live) we call it a stammer and in America it’s called a stutter.
No one is sure what causes it. Habitual stammers are usually formed at childhood and are compounded by bad experiences through school and right into adult life. Stammers are organic, they constantly morph. If you manage to find a trick (which is what things like singing, tapping your foot, nodding your head etc are) then for the majority the trick only lasts a certain amount of time before the stammer reshapes to surface again. What you need to do is work on the cause of your stammer and not the symptom. For every stammerer this is different. I would advice you seek specialist treatment. Your doctor can refer you to a speech therapist but most speech therapists are trained to deal with impediments caused by age, injury or disease (heart attacks, brain injuries, oral cancers etc). I would recommend you do what I did and seek out a specialist course, one that helps stammerers only. Personally I would avoid using tricks or gadgets if I were you… they seem to have very limited success and the last thing you want is to replace one outlandish habit with another (such as singing everything).

You can achieve your goals… I now run a business, speak to clients daily and I’ve appeared on TV and radio talking about my stammer and how people can get help. Life is fantastic now :o).

About 3 years ago I attended a Starfish Project course in the UK ( http://www.starfishproject.co.uk/ ) which helped me to turn my life around. It dealt both with the overt side of my stammer and the psychology going on underneath it. I was immediately plunged into a massive support network and met a people who had been in the same position as me and were now standing up and speaking with total control of their speech. It was quite a revelation.

If you can get over to England I’d recommend the Starfish Project, it’s a charity organisation so it’s really cheap and you get to come back on any course in the future for free. I return regularly to refresh and help out so you might even meet me there you lucky so and so ;o).

There are some courses that are run as lucrative businesses offering guaranteed cures etc for many thousands of $, pretty much taking advantage of people in a desperate situation. Just be aware of that… always talk to people who have been on the courses and bare in mind that I’ve met hundreds of stammerers and not a single one of them is “cured”, myself included; I work hard every single day to keep control over my stammer and if I let it.

Feel free to email me if you've any questions.

Justin
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

That last bit was meant to say "...and if I let it it would come back full force."

And that's what I get for concerntrating on what I'm saying and not what I'm typing ;o).

Justin
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Even for a software position, verbal communication skills are important. People have to discuss complex technical topics with their coworkers. It's an impediment when they don't understand each other, whether the problem is an accent, stammering, or some other reason. (My biggest communication problem is that I often speak too quickly.)

That being the case, if your stammering is worse in stressful situations, like an interview, say so. The interviewer may be less concerned if you can convince them that your stammering only occurs occasionally.

Julian
Thursday, March 04, 2004

I've interviewed a few persons who have had different kinds of problems with their speech, including stutter, and I've noticed that  if I get them to relax it'll help - it's like if they're constantly worried about their stutter they try to avoid it and it only gets worse.

When I've noticed that someone stutters (or speaks my language (or English) poorly), I've just said it up front like: "I notice that you stutter quite a bit, but don't worry about it, it will not affect the outcome of this interview, and if there's anything that will help you during the interview don't hesitate to let me know".

It's unproductive to me if the person I'm interviewing is not focused on the interview but instead on his/her stutter (or ugly face, or glass eye, or whatever).

Antti Kurenniemi
Friday, March 05, 2004

Heyya,

Just take a deep breath, take your time, and remember that everyone around you is human just like you.

Don't worry if you stuttered - forget about it.
No big deal - just means you're probably a very nice person.

Go ahead and exercise regularly, and that'll help you relax throughout the day.

Think about what you want to say/answer first, and let the words come out slower.

Chris

Chris LaVenture
Friday, April 23, 2004

See web page Hyoid Bone and Stuttering
Since you are an engineer you should be able to
pull all of my work together. Hope it helps.

Alice Hart

Alice Hart
Wednesday, May 05, 2004

hi friends..im from india ..really i came to this topic by chance n found it very interesting as i am myself  stammerer..suggestions frm people here helped me lot..i had to appear for group discussion and interview for mba..i have completed engineering..i had lot of misapprehensions before goinf fr interview ...but the moment i was about to enter the interview room..i took up deep breadth and thought that iwill put a great fight..after one question i told the panel that i wanted to know them that i stammer..but for my surprise they told me ..that u have not stammered till yet and even if that happens,it doesnt matters...dat moment boosted confidence in me and then there was no looking back..so i think that one s hould not be bogged down by stammering..put a brave front...best of luck

saurabh dwivedi
Saturday, May 08, 2004

Try using InterviewTrainer to practice for what you will say on the interview. It's software that lets you experience an interactice 3D job interview with the computer.

http://www.interviewtrainer.com

Itay
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Respected sir,
I am Ramesh kumar, Post graduate in physics,
I can speak very fluently without hesitating, I can read difficulte words finely in my house if i am alonely.
But, I can't do this with others for example, travelling in bus, bank, Interview, and some places.

I tell the first letter of place to bus conductor, and different answer of the question in interview, Just i skip the sentences, some times no sentence or word will comeout.

What i will do, Please give your great advise, this is very helpful for me in future.

Thanking you sir
V. Ramesh kumar

V. Ramesh Kumar
Friday, July 09, 2004

attach file...

nasim(mis)
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home