The British accent isn’t just one. Depending on regional location, your accent will differ, and despite best efforts, there is stigma attached to some. The UK has different attitudes to its regional accents. What are these attitudes, and do they influence an employer’s decision to hire you? DCS Multiserve, an industrial cleaning service company, has investigated whether accents influence employment.
According to research, your accent can have an impact on how employable you are, and how you are treated in work. A strong accent can impact an employer’s decision to hire you. In fact, eight in 10 employers admit to making discriminating decisions based on regional accents, according to a report by law firm Peninsula.
Accord to the Guardian, a teacher from Cumbria was advised to “sound less Cumbrian” by employers. 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.
Is your accent more employable than another?
According to research reported in the Recruiting Times, some employers have been known to favour some accents over others. This research was carried out by Professor Lance Workman of the University of South Wales. Workman discovered that people who speak the Queen’s English, or RP, are more likely to be recruited – despite being spoken by only 3% of the population. This was linked strongly to perceived levels of intelligence associated with a Queen’s English/RP accent, ahead of other regional accents – the Yorkshire accent was also discovered to be associated with intelligence.
Workman commented: “Despite changes in attitudes of the general populace to RP, when it comes to recruitment to the elite professions, it is clear that many of those with regional accents are still hitting a class ceiling.”
Whilst the Queen’s English seems to be favoured by employers, on the contrary, the Birmingham accent was considered to be less intelligent – 16% of Brummies have attempted to reduce their natural accent in job interviews.
How do attitudes differ for regional accents?
These attitudes can be positive or negative, but all assumptions are made based on accents in Great Britain. 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.
Devon was voted as the most ‘friendly’ regional accent
In the survey, respondents voted for the top five ‘friendly’ accents, the results showed:
- 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’)
Liverpool was voted as the most ‘unfriendly’ regional accent
The top five ‘unfriendly’ accents, as voted by survey respondents, were:
- 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 was voted as the most ‘intelligent’ accent
In the survey, respondents voted for the top five most ‘intelligent’ accents, the results showed:
- 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’)
Liverpool was voted as the most ‘unintelligent’ accent
The top five ‘unintelligent’ accents, as voted by survey respondents, were:
- 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 was voted as the most ‘trustworthy’ accent
In the survey, respondents voted for the top five most ‘trustworthy’ accents, the results showed:
- 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’)
Liverpool was voted as the most ‘untrustworthy’ accent
The top five ‘untrustworthy’ accents, as voted by survey respondents, were:
- 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.
Fighting discrimination as an applicant
When you’re going for an interview, the last thing on your mind should be worrying about your accent. To avoid accent discrimination you could apply some of these approaches:
- 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.”
Fighting discrimination as an employer
Although, some employers have admitted to favouring some accents when employing new staff, as an employer you should avoid making choices based on an applicant’s accent. Consider their personality and capabilities. 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.