Is your accent a hindrance on employment?

Whilst we might class ourselves as British, there isn’t one British accent that fits all. Accents differ across the country region by region – and the UK has different attitudes to its regional accents. Industrial cleaning company DCS Multiserve uncovers what these attitudes are – and what it means for employment and recruitment.

How do accents affect your employability?

Following recent research, it was revealed that employers have admitted to letting an applicant’s accent influence their decision to hire them. In fact, figures show eight in 10 employers admitted to this – 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.

Which accent is the most employable?

Professor Lance Workman of the University of South Wales has revealed that there are some regional accents that employers seem to favour when hiring new staff – as reported by Recruiting Times.

In fact, he discovered that the Queen’s English, or RP, is the most favoured accent because of the perceived levels of intelligence linked to the accent. This could be worrying as it is spoken by only 3% of the population. The Yorkshire accent was also discovered to be associated with intelligence.

Unfortunately for the Birmingham accent, the research revealed that it was considered to be less intelligent. 16% of Brummies have attempted to reduce their natural accent in job interviews too.

How do attitudes differ per regional accent?

In 2013, ComRes and ITV interviewed 2,006 adults in early August, 2,014 adults in mid-August and 2,025 adults in September to determine the attitudes to different regional accents. They discovered that…

  • 28% of Brits feel discriminated against because of the way they speak. 14% feel accent discrimination in the workplace and 12% in job interviews.
  • Discrimination in different situations varies, with 20% also feeling discrimination in social situations and 13% when being served in shops or restaurants too.

The Devon accent

Respondents voted the Devon accent as the friendliest accent, followed by:

  • Devon (65% of votes as ‘friendly’)
  • Newcastle (56% of votes as ‘friendly’)
  • Edinburgh (51% of votes as ‘friendly’)
  • Cardiff (51% of votes as ‘friendly’)
  • Cockney (49% of votes as ‘friendly’)

The Liverpool accent

Respondents voted the Liverpool accent as the most unfriendly accent, followed by:

  • Liverpool (26% of votes as ‘unfriendly’)
  • Belfast (24% of votes as ‘unfriendly’)
  • RP/Queen’s English (23% of votes as ‘unfriendly’)
  • Manchester (21% of votes as ‘unfriendly’)
  • Birmingham (21% of votes as ‘unfriendly’)

RP/Queen’s English

Respondents voted RP/Queen’s English as the most intelligent accent, followed by:

  • RP/Queen’s English (62% of votes as ‘intelligent’)
  • Edinburgh (38% of votes as ‘intelligent’)
  • Devon (28% of votes as ‘intelligent’)
  • Belfast (23% of votes as ‘intelligent’)
  • Cardiff (23% of votes as ‘intelligent’)

The Liverpool accent

Respondents voted the Liverpool accent as the most unintelligent accent, followed by:

  • Liverpool (37% of votes as ‘unintelligent’)
  • Birmingham (33% of votes as ‘unintelligent’)
  • Cockney (32% of votes as ‘unintelligent’)
  • Newcastle (26% of votes as ‘unintelligent’)
  • Manchester (22% of votes as ‘unintelligent’)

RP/Queen’s English

Respondents voted RP/Queen’s English as the most trustworthy accent, followed by:

  • RP/Queen’s English (51% of votes as ‘trustworthy’)
  • Devon (51% of votes as ‘trustworthy’)
  • Edinburgh (44% of votes as ‘trustworthy’)
  • Cardiff (37% of votes as ‘trustworthy’)
  • Newcastle (36% of votes as ‘trustworthy’)

The Liverpool accent

Respondents voted the Liverpool accent as the most untrustworthy accent, followed by:

  • Liverpool (29% of votes as ‘untrustworthy’)
  • Cockney (24% of votes as ‘untrustworthy’)
  • Belfast (20% of votes as ‘untrustworthy’)
  • Birmingham (17% of votes as ‘untrustworthy’)
  • Manchester (17% of votes as ‘untrustworthy’)

In terms of accent discrimination itself, the survey respondents were also conscious of doing it – 6% admitted to discriminating against someone’s accent in the workplace and 4% in a job interview.

How to put a stop to accent discrimination in recruitment and employment

When applying for a job, as an applicant, you don’t want to be penalised because of your accent. There are a number of different (and somewhat conflicting) approaches that can be taken to accent discrimination. Some of the approaches recommended include:

  • Stay clear of using regional slang, but don’t hide your accent – advice from Francesca Turner, a National Careers Service adviser.
  • Don’t change your accent or the way you speak – advice from Brian Staines, Senior Career Adviser at the University of Bristol.
  • Embrace your accent – back in 2014, Liverpudlian jobs minister Esther McVey advised people from the North West not to feel pressured to change their accent. McVey argued that people make a variety of judgements when looking for employees and that ‘we just need people who reflect other people’ and that her accent hadn’t held her back in her career. McVey also added: “I think it can be a colourful accent.”

As an employer, when you advertise for a position, you want to hire the best candidate for the role. That means an applicant’s accent should not influence your end decision.

For employers reading this article who want to avoid making choices based on accents, there are a number of preventative measures you can take – according to HR Daily Advisor and HMR. Some of these include:

  • Make sure those with accents are not singled out in any way.
  • Make sure all parts of the interviewing process do not discriminate.
  • Try to avoid placing individuals with certain accents in certain roles.
  • Avoid questioning the suitability of certain accents for roles over others.

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