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Do accents speak louder than words in a job interview?

15 Jun 11 - 12:00AM  | General

By Sue Walder

Accents and how they may affect your job prospects have been in the news lately.

First we had the Cheryl Cole story – apparently ‘sacked’ from the US version of The X Factor because American audiences couldn’t understand her Geordie accent.

And this week, prompted by poor old Cheryl’s experience, a survey was published that seems to show that people in various parts of Britain believe their regional accents may be hindering their careers. 

The survey, of 450 people, was carried out by CitySocialising, an online2offline network for young city dwellers. So, what did the results show?

The top five accents voted ‘most likely to hinder your career’ are:  Glascow (33%), Birmingham (30%), Manchester (27%), Middlesborough (25%) and London (21%).
Interestingly, only 8% of Geordies felt their accent let them down, despite Cheryl’s experience.

And could the popularity of the TV show ‘The only way is Essex’ be the reason that 60% of people with Essex accents feel the way they talk actually helps them get jobs?  Other helpful accents include Cambridgeshire (67%) and Irish (51%).

But if we were really so concerned about how we sound, surely strong regional accents would start to disappear?

Not so, according to a recent article in The Economist, which reports that: 'the pronunciation and prosody of spoken English seems to vary as much as ever across the country of its birth.'

And in an interview with BBC Radio Sussex, Dr Christian Uffmann, a linguist from Sussex University, suggested that issues of class and self-perception could also be at play in the CitySocialising survey.

It’s true that we accommodate our accents in certain formal situations. We notice that some people put on a ‘phone voice’. So, it’s not surprising that in a job interview we might try harder to make ourselves understood.

Regardless of where you come from you should always strive to be yourself in an interview. Prepare well. Be confident and clear.  And stay calm – it can never be as bad as this ...

You can read Sue's blog, Having a Word, here.

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