For Tony Danza,
having a thick regional accent keeps him working. But for the rest of us who are
interviewing and looking for jobs, sounding like Snooki from
Jersey Shore or Matt Damon when he played that "wikkid smaht kid," is not
Research indicates human resource professionals hold biases against different
accents, and it affects their decisions.
But which accents are the worst offenders and what can you do to make sure
you avoid being screened out simply for the way you talk? Read on, we've got you
Address the Accent
All it takes is one higher-up making an issue of your accent for you to lose
your footing on the career ladder.
People with strong regional accents can be viewed as less refined or
polished. So if you expect to leave the reservation for a job in a far off
place, career coach Lee Miller says you should consider addressing the accent
Pick Your Industry Wisely
Just how much your prickly pronunciation can hurt you depends upon the
industry you're in.
With a strong regional accent it may be more difficult to get a job as a
newscaster. Client-facing jobs such as sales and customer service may not be for
you because many customers need to be impressed.
If you need to talk for a living and need to win people over, watching them
cringe at your accent or struggle to understand you is going to be
Some Experts Advise "Neutralizing" Accents
Some people don't think they have an accent, or they view their regional
accents as a badge of honor.
No one wants to believe they talk funny. And even if they can cop to their
accent, they probably think it's cute or unique. Therefore they might believe
they shouldn't do anything about it. But they're wrong.
"I recommend you spend some time to neutralize your accent," says Lee Miller,
career coach and author of "UP: Influence Power and the U Perspective---The Art of Getting
What You Want."
After all, how you look and speak are the first things people notice about
you, and they often make snap judgments.
Others Say "Be Yourself"
While some experts advocate for change when it comes to your accent, others
Patricia Cukor-Avila, an associate professor of linguistics at the University
of North Texas, says, "When you try to mask it, you're not going to come across
as yourself. Be yourself, and hope you will sell yourself because of who you
However, if an employer indicates the accent is holding you back from a
promotion, Professor Cukor-Avila tells clients to change it.
Your Hometown Matters
How much can your accent drag you down? It depends on where you're from.
If you sound like Scarlett from "Gone With the Wind," you might be okay. The
so-called "Dixie accent" is among the most well-liked accents.
But if you're sporting one of the other more jarring regional
dialects---we're looking at you Maine, South Boston and Philadelphia---can leave
employers questioning your intelligence and what level of work you can
Which begs the question, which accent is most detrimental to your career?
Despite the Jersey Shore's television ratings, a study by Diane Markley and
Patricia Cukor-Avila found the New Jersey accent is the worst in the United
States when it comes to hiring.
The 56 hiring professionals in the study rated the New Jersey accent as the
most negative and unprofessional, and only 5 percent of the hiring managers
selected someone with a Jersey accent for customer-facing positions.
Cheer up Garden Staters. You'll always have Springsteen.
Don't Let Your Accent Torpedo Your Chances During a Job Interview
So what if, despite all your hard work, a "you betcha" slips out during a job
interview? Don't worry, all is not lost.
Do your best to build rapport with the interviewer if you can. Unless the
person across the desk is from plain-spoken Nebraska, chances are they know what
it's like to have someone comment on their own accent.
Acknowledge your vocal challenges and consider saying something like, "Please
excuse my accent, I expect it will fade once I'm working in this region
The truth is, it probably will.
Prove You're a Good Fit Even If Your Accent Isn't
When hiring, Cukor-Avila's research shows that employers are less concerned
with your potential job performance as compared to how you would fit into the
Friendliness and joviality are vital indicators of success, she says. So if
you can prove you'll be a good fit in the office and a valuable addition to the
existing team, that will help trump your future employer's reservations
regarding your accent.
Don't Like Your Accent? Take Action
For many people, just being made aware of the most troublesome words and
cringe-worthy sounds can help dampen the dialect, Miller says.
But if you decide to seek professional help, there are private companies that
offer accent-reduction classes, online courses, and even
You Can Go Home Again, But Your Accent Might Not
It may be difficult to "go country" after you've "gone north."
If you do dampen your dialect, you can expect to receive some odd looks when
you return home. And if you plan to ultimately continue your career back near
where you grew up, know that it may be difficult to reacquire your verbal
calling card, and you may be viewed as an outsider.
Here's a Video of What NOT to Do!
In the end, tweaking your accent is a small price to pay in exchange for
climbing the corporate ladder. Just avoid the instructions in this video, and
don't get caught up in any "Cawfee Tawk" with Snooki and The Situation at the
Recommended Reading/Self-Help (try an ebook)
Lose Your Accent in 28 Days: Audio and Video training helps you lose your accent in days, not months or years.
Say Goodbye to Your Southern Accent: Workbook & CDs to neutralize your southern drawl.
Accents: A Manual for Actors
Mastering the American Accent:
Second Dialect Acquisition
Accent Reduction Made Easy
Smart Speaking: 60-second Strategies for More Than 100 Speaking Problems & Fears