After the recent statistic that 8 out of 10 employers admit regional accents influence recruitment decisions, our HR Consultant, Sarah Peters, looks at how regional accents can affect interview success – or failure.
In terms of headlines, law firm Peninsula recently reported that 8 in 10 employers admit to making discriminating decisions based on regional accents during recruitment.
So, are some accents favoured over others?
Let me point out here that I am a proud Brummie. I was born in West Bromwich and now live in Stourbridge. Unsurprisingly, I have a West Midlands accent. OK, so it’s not that broad compared to others I know, but you can definitely tell where I come from!
My old pal and University Lecturer Professor Lance Workman conducted research with Hayley-Jane Smith on four regional accents. They found that in terms of perceived intelligence, the Yorkshire accent was perceived to be the most intelligent, followed by the Queen’s English, then silence (or saying nothing), and bottom of the pile – the Birmingham accent. Yes, that’s right - the Birmingham accent surpassed even the control variable of silence.
I should highlight that the study concerned ‘perceived intelligence’. The authors did note that there is no clear correlation between an individual’s accent and their ability.
So, what is a girl to do? I can hardly keep shtum throughout an entire interview. Although the evidence suggests I may fare better this way.
Interestingly, research shows that 16% of Brummies have attempted to reduce their natural accent in job interviews. Would I do this? No, I don’t think I would. I believe that employers value authenticity, or they should. If an interviewer doesn’t judge me on my ability, then it’s not an organisation for me.
Interestingly, this aligns with advice from a Senior Careers Adviser from the University of Bristol who advises, ‘don’t change your accent or the way you speak’. Further, the National Careers Service state that you should ‘stay clear of using regional slang, but don’t hide your accent’.
So, in order to be ‘bostin’ and prove I am not ‘saft in the head’ or ‘half-soaked’, I will just limit my Birmingham and Black Country phrases while being interviewed – well just for a short while. I’m still going to ‘gi it some ommer’ though!
‘Ta-ra a bit’.
Does having a strong accent have an impact on recruitment decisions, and on our perceptions of candidates? Facilities management company DCS Multiserve did some research, and the results were surprising. Accents affect employability Research proves a clear link between employability and recruitment, but surprisingly continues to shape the way employees are treated at work. Eight in 10 employers admit to making discriminating decisions based on regional accents, according to a report by law firm Peninsula. For example, a teacher from Cumbria was advised to “sound less Cumbrian” by employers, according to a Guardian report. The same report also noted that a school in the West Midlands recently banned pupils from speaking regional slang to improve their chances of getting a job.