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Accent Discrimination Affecting Employability

As an employment agency that recruits for various roles across the UK and Europe, we come across lots of different accents. There is no avoiding the fact that everyone has an accent. Your accent will differ depending on where you come from. Although employers try to avoid accent discrimination, there are always going to be stigmas attached to an accent.

Does your accent affect your employability?

Accents are an integral part of our personal identity. But the way we speak makes us prone to quick judgments and stereotypes. It takes less than 30 seconds to linguistically profile a speaker. Everyone does it. We believe we can decide their ethnic origin, social class, intelligence and their backgrounds just by the sound of their voice. Studies have found we have different attitudes to accents and are more likely to be biased against speakers who have accents different to our own. Certain values are assigned to certain accents e.g. pleasantness, prestige, intelligence.

Does your accent influence an employer’s decision to hire you? There seems to be a hierarchal view of accents. Most people are not aware they have linguicism or "accenticism" meaning they impose judgements about a person (or community). We unconsciously group people and prejudice against them based on their accents. Because of stereotypes of your regional accent, we can create a bias and use it to discriminate. However, an employer cannot discriminate against you because of your accent. If you are a strong candidate and can complete the job role then your accent will not be taken into consideration.

Accents and Employment

Your accent can have a major impact on working lives and careers. Regional dialects can be an asset in some industries and actively encouraged, but in a lot of cases strong accents seem to be squashed. There are some workplaces that offer accent training programmes for their staff. These businesses are generally call canters that need their staff to be easily understood.

Speech specialists at Manchester University have found that employees with strong accents who do not work in their home counties are angrier at work because they have to compromise their regional identities.

According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, many people feel frustrated by having to drop their regional accents in the workplace for fear of being discriminated against.

Avoiding Accent Discrimination

It is hard enough preparing for an interview without having to worry about your accent. Here are some interview approaches to avoid accent discrimination:

  • Speak Clearly. Practise speaking slowly and calmly, don’t rush your sentences and trip over the words. Take your time when in the interview and think about how to correctly phrase each answer.
  • Avoid Regional Slang. Don’t hide or change your accent but try to speak ‘properly’. With certain regional accents, many people drop consonants or flatten vowels. In the job interview, ensure you are speaking using all the correct letters.
  • Focus on Grammar. Having good grammar and an eloquent style of answering questions can go far to remove any perceived negative connotations that your regional accent may have.
  • Be Positive. Identify the good traits associated with your accent and work with them. For example, Geordie accents are said to be very friendly. Find out what people’s perception of your accent are and play up to the positives.