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Accents: Now Killing Offers at a Company Near You (Unless You're Crocodile Dundee)...

Let's count the number of people who have thick accents that you think are cool:

1. The Geico Lizard.

2. Anyone from Australia, especially Crocodile Dundee if you're over 40 or just know your historicDeepSouth pop culture.

3. Sean Connery.

That's about it, right?  Maybe some of you are thinking a cool British accent because you're Monty Python freaks, but let's face it - we think most accents are a little strange.  That's because we hear them and automatically think, "you aren't from around here, are you"?

And it impacts our hiring decisions.  I was on the phone with a friend in the hiring biz last week and she proceeded to tell me the story - great candidate, right skill, right knowledge, great personality, easy to get along with. 

And a deep southern/Texas accent that made her sound like the child of Larry the Cable Guy and Flo from Mel's Diner on Alice.

She was the right candidate at the right time at the right price.  And she couldn't get to the offer stage because the hiring manager couldn't get past the drawl.

Accent Bias - it's alive and well, whether you're a guy from the deep South (we call it "LA" in Birmingham, but it means Lower Alabama, not Orange County), or a gal from the Bronx trying to get hired in Charleston.  People like you, but they won't hire you, especially if the job involves phone work or deep customer contact of any kind with a national customer base.  Note: I'm not talking about people who can simply tell you're from the Bronx or the South.  I'm talking about the outliers from a dialect standpoint.

What can a candidate do?  Be aware.  Practice interviews and tape yourself.  Try to drop the accent back a notch.  It's for your own good.  There's a reason you don't hear TV anchors with deep accents, even in local markets where they might be accepted.  Because we eat our young when it comes to the thick accent.  We're suprised.  Then we judge.  Then we'd change the channel on that anchor.  We also move on to a weaker candidate.

Practice being Midwestern for best results.  Git R Done.

UPDATE: Based on some twitter chatter, I thought I would add the following - if there's bias among hiring managers due to accent, I'd tell you the bias is much stronger towards very strong regional US accents than it is anything global in nature.  It seems to me that we expect people from other countries to sound different, but we're more critical of those born in America with deep accents... Interesting, but true, I believe...Something to keep an eye out for...


Mary Ellen

OK, you know I hate this. But it's true.

I went to an excellent public boarding school in Louisiana for high school, and I had a teacher who gave us very similar advice: If you want to stay and work in South, you can keep the accent. If you want to leave, tone it down. I toned it down -- to the point where Yanks often claim to not hear it. (I don't believe them. I think they just have a very stereotypical notion of what a "Southern accent" sounds like, when there is no such monolithic thing. My husband and I are both from the same state and we don't have the same accent.)

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