Is your Strong Accent an Obstacle for your Job Interview?
It’s about time for the job interview that you’ve been preparing for a long time. You think you are ready for your interview and you’ve checked everything.
You had one last look at your notes about the position and company, and you’ve reviewed your answers for their possible questions. You’ve even prepared the right clothes to wear to your job interview, and finally, you think you are ready. But are you, indeed?
You’ve come to the U.S. in hope of finding a job, and you’ve mastered your English. However, do you think you’re competent in your American English accent as well? Have you ever thought that your pronunciation may not be ready for your job interview?
If you’re reading this, we suppose you are not a native speaker of English, or your accent is not very similar to the standardized American English. But what exactly is accent? Read on to find out.
Definition of Accent
Accent can be defined as: “a distinctive way of pronunciation of a language, influenced by the speaker’s native origin, associated with a specific country, area, or social status.” An accent can give some clues about the speaker’s background and sometimes, unfortunately, this can cause discrimination.
Accents are derived from our native tongue and origin; as a result, the speech characteristics of our native language can be seen in our second language as well.
Having an accent is not a problem at all; it is a part of who you are. But, when you have a strong accent, it may be difficult to be understood by others, especially by native speakers.
Therefore, if you don’t work on accent reduction; or in other words, get rid of your strong accent, you will not sound like a native English speaker. Moreover, people may be uncomfortable while trying to understand what you’re saying.
Standard American English Accent
There are lots of accents used in the U.S.A.; from New Jersey, Boston, Southern California, Florida, Southern Ohio, and many more. So, even in the United States, your accent may not be the right one for your employer.
Luckily, there is a standardized American English, the one you’ve always heard from movies, talk shows, and news. It’s called standard because it’s very easy for people to understand and learn; speakers with this standard accent utter words clearly and maintain a pleasant pace, not too slow but not too fast either.
This means you don’t have to learn a Boston or New York accent to impress your employers; a clear, standardized American accent is what they’re expecting from you.
The good news is there are many accent training programs for non-native English speakers to get rid of their accents and learn a standardized American accent. At ChatterFox, we are also here to help you improve your American accent and speak even better than a native!
What Do Your Employers Think About Your Strong Accent?
If you’re reading this, we suppose you are not a native speaker of English, or your accent is not very similar to the standardized American English. Many foreign residents in the U.S. worry that their native accent won’t let them get the job they’re looking for. But what do employers think about candidates with a strong accent?
It’s a widely known fact that discrimination against people’s race, ethnicity, and nationality in employment is forbidden by law. However, it isn’t the same when it comes to accent. Here are the reasons why the employers in the U.S. have a bias against accent:
Your employers will assume you won’t be understandable
Employers tend to favor applicants with standard American accent not than applicants with different accents. This is especially the case when the position is related to customer service jobs; employers don’t want to take the risk of hiring an employee whose speech is not understandable to the customers.
When you are in a job interview, your employers will check if you are a confident, reliable, and dynamic person, so it’s essential for them to trust you and understand you, otherwise, you probably can’t get the job.
The hiring manager may not understand the rate of your speech
Some accents are spoken at a faster rate than others; Spanish, Japanese, and Italian accents are some of them. So, when your accent doesn’t have the same rate of speech as English, your potential employer won’t understand what you’re saying even though both of you are speaking in the same language.
Speaking too fast or too slow will make your job interviewers uncomfortable as they’ll have to try too hard to follow your speech.
You may also misunderstand your potential employer’s accent
Sometimes the roles can be reversed, and you may be in a situation where you have no idea what your potential employer is saying since you’re not used to his or her accent.
That’s why getting accent training is recommended for not only speaking but also listening comprehension. If both you and your interviewer cannot understand each other’s accents, then you may end up in a very awkward moment.
Communication is the key to success, both in personal and business life. Hence, it’s reasonable for your employers to check your communication skills. Your fluency in English is a significant factor, of course, yet it’s not enough.
They will also expect a clear American accent; you can have lots of experience in your field, but it won’t mean anything unless your employers and co-workers understand your speech.
Is There Discrimination Against People without an American Accent?
According to the MPI report, there are 44.5 million immigrant residents in the United States as of 2017, and 26.8 million of them are employed, foreign-born workers.
So, as these numbers indicate, there are many non-native people working in the USA; therefore, you may be thinking that there isn’t any discrimination against the people who don’t have an American accent. Yet, unfortunately, there is actually a bias against people with native accents in the U.S.
What does the research say?
Several studies are showing that people with native accents have a smaller chance to be hired for the positions they apply to. For instance, research was done by using data collected by 167 undergraduate students in Northern California, aged between 18 to 40.
The participants were from different ethnic backgrounds: Asian, Spanish, Middle Eastern, African American, and Native American. Each participant was involved in a job interview, and the feedback from the interviewers showed that non-native applicants had a lower chance of being hired or promoted to a higher position than applicants with an American English accent.
Another research study was conducted for understanding the impact of accents in the workplace. Participants from the U.S. were asked to evaluate the applicants with one of three accents (Midwestern U.S., French, Colombian) for the position of the human resource manager.
The result of the research showed that applicants with Midwestern U.S. accent had more positive feedback from the participants than the ones with other accents.
The findings from similar studies indicate that although there were no other supporting factors such as personal characteristics, academic background, or ethnicity; non-native English speakers without an American accent tend to be seen as less competent than native English speakers.
These results show that the discrimination is not based on ethnicity, but on the accent. As long as you get American accent training and get rid of your accent, your chances of getting the job you want will be much higher than you think.
How to Improve a Strong Accent?
First of all, keep in mind that having a strong accent should never be seen as a negative trait, especially in a business as you always have a right to take legal action if you receive any unfair rejection due to your accent.
However, your chances of being employed will be higher when you improve your accent because unfortunately, there is a hidden bias against accents in the business world.
Having a foreign accent is not a bad thing; after all, it’s a part of who you are. Moreover, companies love to have employees from different cultures; they enjoy talking about how internationally diverse their company is.
However, if you have a strong accent that prevents you from being understood, then you need accent training.
ChatterFox will always be here to help you get rid of your heavy accent and speak English fluently; now, let’s have a look at some tips for you to improve your strong accent before your job interview:
Enroll in an American pronunciation program
Improving your pronunciation can open up so many opportunities, especially in business. Luckily, there are lots of pronunciation programs that help you improve your strong accent and speak English naturally.
These courses usually have successful results, and at the end of the program, you will have better outcomes in your career advancement, leadership opportunities, and presentation skills as you will feel more confident and motivated to speak in the workplace.
Be confident and speak up
Don’t be afraid and mumble while speaking. Instead, relax and breathe! Speaking too softly or mumbling words will make you sound like you have a lack of confidence, and this is exactly what you need to avoid in your job interview.
All you need to do is breathe and believe in yourself; you’ve been preparing for this interview for a long time, so there is no need to burden yourself with fear.
Speak with a good rate of speech
As we mentioned above, speaking too fast or too slow will make you incomprehensible. When we are nervous, we are prone to talk more quickly and eventually, what we said is seen as nothing more than nonsense.
When your interviewers cannot understand your speech, they will feel confused and write you off quickly. To prevent that from happening, you need to breathe calmly and enunciate your words slowly but clearly. This will make your accent much more understandable and break the biased view of your employers against your accent.
Be sure that you are clear
When you’re speaking at a slower rate, you can pronounce the words much more clearly and avoid any misunderstandings. Especially when you want to use technical words, you need to be sure that you’re understood clearly.
Repetition can also be helpful in these situations. Do not hesitate to repeat necessary words or terms; repeat them slowly but clearly. Your interviewers will pay more attention to your speaking grammatically than your rate of speech.
Do not hesitate to ask questions
Job interviews are nerve-wracking; there is no doubt about it. There may be times when you can’t catch what your interviewers are saying due to the stressful environment. But don’t panic.
Ask questions to ensure your understanding. This is much better than ignoring what they’ve just said as you show that you’re still interested in their speech.
For instance, you can use some contextual clues like repeating their words to be sure that what you’ve understood was correct. Then, you can come up with a savvy answer to their question. It’s a perfect strategy that allows you to ask questions without sounding awkward during your job interview.
Practice, practice, and practice
Improving a strong accent is not an easy task; you need to be patient, confident and ambitious. You may not see the results of your training immediately, but don’t let it break your determination and confidence. Practice regularly, whether with your friends, on the internet, or by yourself.
You will see the results of your practices later, especially in real life situations. When you start talking with your interviewer, you will see how well you’ve progressed.
However, you should put a limit to your practices; over-practicing can do more harm than good. If you practice too hard, you may end up sounding like a robot and omit your feelings in your speech. This is not something your employers will like at all.
Focus on your qualifications
You’ve practiced a lot; yet still, you’re not confident about your accent. If this is the case, we suggest you don’t stress about it. You are more than your accent, so try to focus on your qualifications instead.
There are many other ways to impress your interviewers and believe us- no employer will want to pass up a qualified candidate. Your academic background, past experiences, or even your perspective on life can lead to your being hired.
You need to prove to your interviewers that you are the one they’re looking for. Having excellent pronunciation with an American accent will make it easier, yet do not depend only on your accent. Be confident and focus on what makes you qualified. Your employers will consider not only your accent but also what you can bring to their company.
To Put It in a Nutshell
Today’s business world has become a competitive job-seeking environment. There are lots of qualified employees looking for a good position in a successful workplace, and thus, they are trying to stand out with their unique qualifications.
Companies also pay a great deal of attention to their job applicants, from their clothing to their manner of speech. Having great communication skills is one of the most important qualities they’re seeking from the candidates, especially in customer-service related positions.
Many non-native English speakers take accent reduction courses because they want to be fully prepared for their job interviews. To some extent, they are right to be worried because unfortunately, there is an unconscious bias against accents in the business world.
Discriminating against employees because of their race or national origin is forbidden by law, but discrimination against accent is not something that you can prove easily. Your employers may not even be aware of their bias against accents.
Your accent may prevent you from getting the job you want, but only if you let it. You should always keep in mind that you can prevent your accent from getting in your way by practicing regularly.
Luckily, there are lots of American accent training programs to help you to get rid of your strong accent and speak even better than a native. ChatterFox is ready to help you improve your American accent and speak English fluently. All you need to do is believe in yourself and practice your pronunciation. Also, you should know that you are not alone, we will always be here to support you in this process, so be confident and follow ChatterFox!