Good news! Foreign accents in job interviews may not play as big a role as many of us had thought. As long as the speech is intelligible, the following study seems to suggest that it plays a small role in the deciding process.

 

Role of Accents in Job Interviews: Stereotypes and their Effect on Job Acquisition

by Shatoria Lunsford

Accents, like other identifying factors, give us categorical cues to place a person into a certain ethnic group or socio-­‐economical status. The current study evaluates the effects that a foreign accent has on an individual’s employability using the personal employment interview. The focus was to determine and effectively analyze the relationship between an applicant’s job placement and the thickness of his or her accent. Both the communication requirements of the job as well as its status were used in the analysis to determine whether or not the applicant was hirable. Results showed that candidates with a less understandable accent were seen as using the English language improperly and also placed into lower status job positions.

Introduction

For as long as human beings and culture have existed, there have been accents to distinguish where an individual hails from. As the world continues to become more global, countries are becoming more culturally and ethnically diverse. This increased diversity spills over into the workforce, in which applicants of different races, ethnicities, and cultures apply for jobs of both high and low status. Over the past few decades, research has begun to indicate that accents, as categorical cues, can affect a candidate’s chances of being hired (De la Zerda and Hooper 1979; Henry and Ginzberg 1985; Hooper and Williams 1973; Rey 197; Singer and Eder 1989). In addition to affecting a candidate’s employability, accents and dialects have been shown to influence our perception of others outside the workplace (Eisenstein 1983; Garner and Rubin 1986; Giles, Bourhis, and Taylor 1977; Giles and Johnson 1981; McKirnan and Hamayan 1984). The current study utilizes previously collected data (Deprez-­‐Sims 2012) for the following purposes: (1) to evaluate the effects of a foreign accent on an individual’s employability and (2) to assess whether persons with non-­‐native accents are viewed as more suitable for jobs with low status and low communication requirements.

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