I have noticed a problem when interviewing entry-level candidates in the recent past. These are well-educated, beautifully-presented candidates, with good CVs; but they have a problem. 
The problem is they sound like morons. 
Why? Because they pepper their speech with qualifiers and irritators and because they don’t seem to be capable of uttering simple, emphatic, declarative sentences.
Now, on the one hand, this is a good thing – it makes my job as an interviewer much easier as I can winnow out the most incoherent candidates with relative ease. On another hand, this makes my life much easier because my career management practice is kept busy by unsuccessful candidates who come along to Fortify “looking for a few pointers” on where they are going wrong at interview. On yet another hand, it makes me very sad that the combined efforts of parents and teachers are producing a generation of people who sound like idiots.
I came across an article in one of the Sunday newspapers a while back that captured this for me. The reporter interviewed a series of teenagers by the simple expedient of leaving her Dictaphone in the middle of the table and then WROTE DOWN EVERY WORD those teenagers had uttered. Here’s Holly, aged 16, from Dublin:
I like going out with my friends and, like, we sometimes go to the cinema, or just, like, go to someone’s house and just hang around or, like, we’d go to the Wes [a teenage disco in Dublin]. Like, it’s not bad at all, like, I love going there.
You’ll find it’s all different schools going there and, like, all, like, my friends are in different schools as well, so it’s good. I was thinking of doing event management, and then, like, maybe doing a business course first and moving on to that. I think they have like, a bad reputation, but like, not all teenagers are bad. I don’t know any that would be rebellious. 
I have, like, just a good amount of freedom, like, not too much but, like, I’m allowed go out a lot and, like, go out with my friends and stuff. Like, my parents wouldn’t be really strict, but they’d be, like, normal strict, like. They wouldn’t let me go off to town at night, like. If I’d want to do something, my parents would give me money. So I wouldn’t really know anything about the recession.

Mostly, like, my sister Georgia would be my influence because she is a model, but, like, she’s always been, like, my sister – she hasn’t, like, changed or anything because she’s in the newspapers and stuff.

Most of the guys that I hang around with, like, we’re really good friends, so I wouldn’t mind if I went out with no make-up on, but, like, then I would go out with make-up on, but if I didn’t have any make-up on and I met them on the street, like, I’d say “Hi.” I wouldn’t, like, mind.
Is it just me, or does Holly seem to have difficulty uttering a simple sentence?
Is it just me, or does Holly sound, like, just a little uncertain – about everything?
Is it just me, or does Holly sound like a gushing, incoherent, half-wit?
I’m not trying to be cruel or mean here folks, I’m really not. But I wouldn’t hire Holly to put up a shed in my garden, much less to represent my company to … like, anyone
I have written about this before and referenced the film Clueless with Alicia Silverstone, in which she brilliantly parodied this vacant, Valley Girl mode of delivery. It seems to me that a whole generation missed the joke – because they started copying her! One of the commenters on that post remarked: “Ten years ago, talking like this was satire. Now it is how US vice-presidential nominees articulate their views. Sigh.” Sigh indeed … Have another little read of those words of wisdom from Holly:
I like going out with my friends and, LIKE, we sometimes go to the cinema, or just, LIKE, go to someone’s house and just hang around or, LIKE, we’d go to the Wes. LIKE, it’s not bad at all, LIKE; I love going there.
You’ll find it’s all different schools going there and, LIKE, all, LIKE, my friends are in different schools as well, so it’s good. I was thinking of doing event management, and then, LIKE, maybe doing a business course first and moving on to that. I think they have LIKE a bad reputation, but LIKE, not all teenagers are bad. I don’t know any that would be rebellious.
I have, LIKE, just a good amount of freedom, LIKE, not too much but, LIKE, I’m allowed go out a lot and, LIKE, go out with my friends and stuff. LIKE, my parents wouldn’t be really strict, but they’d be, LIKE, normal strict, LIKE. They wouldn’t let me go off to town at night, LIKE. If I’d want to do something, my parents would give me money. So I wouldn’t really know anything about the recession.
Mostly, LIKE, my sister Georgia would be my influence because she is a model, but, LIKE, she’s always been, LIKE, my sister – she hasn’t, LIKE, changed or anything because she’s in the newspapers and stuff.
Most of the guys that I hang around with, LIKE, we’re really good friends, so I wouldn’t mind if I went out with no make-up on, but, LIKE, then I would go out with make-up on, but if I didn’t have any make-up on and I met them on the street, LIKE, I’d say “Hi.” I wouldn’t, LIKE, mind.
Is it just me or is that far too many uses of the word LIKE? I was at a marvellous evening of storytelling some months back and shared a few pieces and thoughts with the audience. When I read out those gems of Holly’s, the audience rocked with laughter and I’m sorry to say I don’t think they were laughing with Holly …

UPDATE: The male of the species does this too. The ubiquitous filler-word for females is “like”, the males seem to favour “ya know” and “sorta” – frequently with an interrogative lilt in their tone. Why are these people afraid of sounding like they know something, like they’re sure of something? Are certainty, lucidity and knowledge completely outmoded concepts now?

Must-see