Accent. Everyone pretends it doesn’t matter. But after interviewing both employers and internationally trained professionals, it was the one topic that was consistent on both sides of the equation. Immigrants say accent stops them from getting hired. Employers say they have to consider accent with regard to how it could affect their business, and have mentioned that it is a prime reason for not promoting people who are otherwise qualified. (read on…)
To find out where this accent prejudice originated, read this article from the Canadian Encyclopedia. It shows that accent prejudice is one of the negative effects of colonialism and is rooted in conscious or unconscious white superiority. On a less frustrating but still irritating note, a recent study by the University of British Columbia found that people prefer accents that sound most similar to their own. That is the bad news. So, like it or not, your accent is the elephant in the middle of the interview room.
But are we going to let this stop us from getting good jobs? Certainly not! Let’s name that accent beast and shrink it down to size.
“You have probably noticed my accent, I’m from _______ and we speak ________language(s) there. You might be worried that my accent would be a shock to your clients, and you certainly don’t want to lose business! I have been paying attention to how my accent is received and made a few adjustments, and I have noticed people no longer say “pardon?” or look confused when I speak to them. Of course when you look at my credentials and recommendations, you will see that I have been instrumental in increasing business for my past employers. Some of the difficult and resistant clients I won over have become so loyal that they still send chocolates and flowers to the company at Christmas, years after I left!”
Here are a few speech studios in Alberta, but an online search will turn up quite a few more wherever you live:
The Speech Studio does customized vocal coaching to meet your specific requirements.
A cheaper alternative to coaching lessons are online practice sessions. Here are a few YouTube clips that are quite helpful – and free:
There are also accent reduction podcasts – free – and more instructive than the YouTubes:
Should you decide to go mobile, two accent reduction apps for android phones are:
To recap, your accent is a part of you that you can have some fun with. Rather than lamenting the accent prejudice of employers, use Mark Goulston’s technique for naming the objection others might have with your accent, shrinking it, and then getting on with showing your skills. Then, if you are willing to make some small accent changes to get that next promotion, there are quite a few accent reduction tools to fit every budget. Now that you know how to shrink that elephant in the middle of the room, enjoy your new powers and go get that job!
Check out our new video “How to use your accent as a job advantage” by clicking below.
Want to stay in touch with people who share your interest in this topic? Join our LinkedIn Group: Canadian Workplace Culture!