Upspeak – A Big Mistake in Your Job Interview

My job is to help clients do whatever they can to present themselves more effectively in this job market.Dog w gramaphone

It’s pretty competitive out there and I want my clients to be memorable in their job interviews –  but memorable in a good way.

So we talk about the importance of establishing a rapport with the interviewer. Have good eye contact, ask smart questions, smile, and be engaged in the conversation.

I’ve recently noticed, however, a weird development among some members of the younger generation (20s and 30s) that may make them memorable as a job candidate – but not in a good way.

Upspeak can be the difference between getting a job and being turned down.

Upspeak or uptalk got its start back in the ‘80s when it was known as Valley Girl talk.

I’ve also heard upspeak referred to as high rise terminal. To me that sounds like a piece of hardware, but the terms mean (I had to look it up) “towards the end of the statement (the terminal), the intonation starts high and rises.” Wow, don’t you love it!

We’re now in the midst of a resurgence of upspeakers, mainly people aged 16 to even late 30s. And it’s not just women. Men can be upspeakers.

So What’s Upspeak?

Upspeak is when your voice goes up at the end of a sentence, turning statements into questions – when you’re not asking a question at all. Here’s an example:

“Tell me about yourself”, asks the interviewer from a major urban hospital.

“Well, my degree is in biochemistry, but I’ve always wanted to be a doctor? I’ve had summer internships in hospital labs and am very interested in the job opening at your hospital?”

What is that all about, you may be asking yourself?

Now read those same sentences as sentences –  without the question marks.

This candidate’s response is pretty good: Clear. Articulate. Strong. As a hiring manager I probably want to learn more about this person.

But add the upspeak and this same candidate comes across as immature, tentative, and inexperienced. Not the qualities one looks for in a job candidate.

Why Do People Upspeak?

I think it’s a habit, likely picked up in high school or college from friends with a similar habit. But it’s a habit that needs to be broken.

When I ask upspeakers why they do it, the typical response is: 1. they don’t realize they’re doing it and 2. they think it helps them sound interested, enthusiastic – and might actually be an asset in their job interviews.

Is Upspeak an Asset?

Let me respond as quickly and as firmly as possible: NO!

Upspeak will not help you. It is not an endearing trait and in fact distracts from what you’re saying – in the same way that saying “like” multiple times in one sentence.

But that’s another subject, for another article.

As the interviewer is looking at you in disbelief, wondering why you’re saying every sentence as a qustion, she’s also asking herself: Is this the person I want on my staff?

The response I’d give at the end of the interview is: “Thanks for coming? I’m not sure your background is appropriate for this position?”

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