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Is your accent hurting your career?

Written by on July 8th, 2015.      0 comments

So you have the skills and qualifications required to do the job, you know English very well, but you speak with an accent.  You get an interview, but fail to secure the job.
 
Can it be that your accent is hurting your career?  Do accents really make a difference when it comes to the employer deciding who the successful applicant will be?
While there are strict guidelines regarding discrimination in the workplace, psychologists know that people can often make judgements and decisions based on assumptions, biases, and stereotypes.  We can observe this in comments like, “he looks honest”, or “she sounds well educated.”   So how you look and speak can sometimes affect judgements that people make about you.  
 
When employers are looking for the right person for the job, they are concerned about a number of things and this would obviously depend on each particular job.  However Graduate Careers Australia asked more than 350 graduate employers from a range of industries about the most important selection criteria they use when recruiting graduates. Employers were presented with a list of ten common skills and personal attributes and were asked to select their top three (which were in addition to relevant qualifications).
The most common quality nominated by employers was interpersonal/communication skills, with nearly 75 per cent of employers rating this as one of their most important selection criteria.
 
While some employers may place more importance on communication skills than others, and this can be dependant on the type of job, it shows that oral communication is certainly one key aspect that most employers will take into consideration.
 
It is extremely difficult to speak any language acquired later in life without an accent.   Having an accent is very much part of who you are and reflects your particular background.  It is not a negative thing and certainly should not affect any hiring decision.  As long as you can communicate your responses clearly and effectively during an interview, then your accent should not be an issue.  If the job description states “excellent communication skills” then you need to demonstrate that.
 
Where it may affect the decision making process, is where your accent may be impeding on the messages you are sending.  If the interviewer/s cannot clearly understand what you are saying, then questions will be raised regarding the effectiveness of communication with colleagues or clients etc and how that may impact on productivity.
 
If you are concerned that your accent may be affecting your job opportunities, it may be worth taking action and pursuing accent reduction training. The goal of accent reduction training is not to eliminate an accent completely, but to improve the clarity of communication in English. Participants learn how to change their speech pronunciation patterns and with practice and guidance, learn to communicate their ideas more clearly and effectively with a neutral English accent.
 
Of course, there are other aspects that employers will take into consideration, including how you might fit into the workplace culture and how you might interact with others in the team. While accents may have varying degrees of impact on prospective employers, your other personal attributes may well override any potential question-marks raised from the presence of an accent.
 
Softening an accent has proven to improve clarity in speech and increase ones chances of success.  When you are in an interview try to slow down a fraction when you speak, focus on understanding the questions and try to state your answers clearly. 
 
Don’t make a point of telling the interviewer that you have weak English communication skills.   They will most likely notice the presence of an accent anyway, focus instead on your strengths, don’t give them reasons to doubt your ability. 
 
If English is not your first language and you have a mild or strong accent, consider undertaking professional accent reduction guidance to help increase your career and job promotion opportunities. Australia English Institute are the accent reduction specialists.  They have specific Accent Reduction training programs that can help individuals prepare for the job interview situation as well as programs that cater for speakers of specific languages.  You can contact them here for more information and other career advice.
 
 

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