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Potty-mouth…to swear or not to swear


Those of you who know me will be snorting in derision at the thought that I , Margaret, Queen of the vulgar, obscene, inappropriate language will be offering advice on what naughty words NOT to use in interview and, if you’re lucky enough to get the job, in those crucial first few months of employment. Not that you should refrain from swearing for 90 days and then feel that you can legitimately let rip. But once a company knows and loves you, they are more likely to smile indulgently at the little oopsies.
We live in a world that is more casual than our parents’ time and they most likely said the same thing. Beware of sentences that start, “In my day….”. Part of that lessening of formality is use of language that wouldn’t have been tolerated back then, especially in young people, and sometimes it was even worse for girls than boys to use certain language. “Not lady-like”. But times change…..I can testify to this because I’m so old I have actually been around for decades to see it happen. I could now usefully give you a few ripe examples of words that are completely acceptable these days and would have had people reaching for the smelling salts 20, 30, 40 years ago but then again, perhaps I shouldn’t. Sometimes people these days don’t even know what the words originally meant and when you tell them, there’s a shock, horror, “REALLY?” (you can email if you want a couple of juicy examples).
Be careful at interview. A former colleague had a candidate who inadvertently used a “sh*t” at her first interview. Nice HR woman forgave her and passed her on to the actual owner of the hedge fund. Whereupon she let slip the f bomb at him. Sigh. Probably her language was so fruity all the time she didn’t even think about the words she was using but, if that’s your attitude, you have to be prepared for the consequences i.e. m-u-c-h less likely to get hired by a corporate-type company. Some executives may not mind, but some will very much mind, and they’ll ALL be afraid to let you loose on clients, or possibly even just their managers. There are exceptions to never being allowed to swear – tripping and falling flat, spilling coffee on the desk (ok, spilling it into the keyboard allows you a major obscenity) – but my point is, it shouldn’t be part of your everyday speech. It hampers the professional image, it means that those who get truly offended will start avoiding you and it might even get you dragged into the HR Manager’s office for a reprimand.
Now that I’ve finished this blog article, I’m going to start hitting the phones again, to clients, candidates, potential candidates and I’m going to try to remember to practice what I just preached.