Upward Inflection Can Ruin an Interview

As a career empowerment coach, I have recently had a “spate” of clients with the same issue when it came to preparing for interviews. That is an upward inflection at the end of each statement or sentence. This seems to creep in once people go into “interview response mode”. Even the most confident, solid candidate can fall into the trap without knowing it. When I point it out they are totally unaware. When I replay back to them they are horrified. It is an inflection that makes people sound unsure, questioning, lacking in confidence.

The voice of power is low and slow. If anything, inflection should go down on the last or second last word in the statement to demonstrate confidence. Try it!


I spoke to voice expert, Richard Lawton, (author of “Raise Your Voice”) about this topic. Here’s what he had to say:

A recruiter recently told me about the perils of the upward inflection. You know the sound of it - that rising note at the end of a sentence - and you may also know that women are more prone to it than men. One popular theory says that the reason Aussies are particularly susceptible is because we are young as a nation and aren’t quite certain of our place in the world, (though that is changing fast.)

The recruiter said that he sent a woman along to an interview for the role of 2 I.C. in a very demanding job that needed a public face. He thought she was very well qualified for the role but when the C.E.O. heard her speak she was rejected straight away because of her upward inflection. She said the candidate sounded unsure.

If you recognise this trait in yourself or a colleague – what can you do about it? It’s no use telling yourself just to stop it, because the subconscious doesn’t deal in negatives, so you have to give it an instruction in the positive.

Two remedies:

1. Get a trusted friend to make a hand signal when you’re doing it in conversation and when practicing for an event such as interview.

2. As practice, try speaking standing up, (which is of course, essential practice if you’re giving a talk,) and at the end each phrase or sentence, make a downward motion with your dominant hand. This is a psychological gesture, which will anchor the new behavior into your thought and speech.

(If you make that move right you’ll coincidentally look like you have cred. in the rapping community.)


Richard Lawton is a master Voice and Presentation consultant, who has specialised in helping people find their confidence through voice work. He has been the communications trainer for the Victorian Bar Association since 2012 and taught voice up to post-graduate level at Monash University.

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