BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE : SEPTEMBER 11, 2000 ISSUE
UP FRONT

Job-Seekers' Tip: Lose the Accent


Can someone's accent affect the type of job they get? In recent years, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has increasingly been asked to rule on accent discrimination--usually in cases dealing with immigrants. Now comes word that even for native-born speakers, having an accent can hurt job opportunities.

The evidence? In a recent experiment, two researchers at the University of North Texas asked human resource directors to listen to identical recorded passages of text spoken in different U.S. regional accents--and then recommend the best type of job for the speaker. Researchers Patricia Cukor-Avila and Dianne Markley found that job-seekers with identifiable accents, such as a heavy Southern drawl, were more often recommended for lower-level jobs that offer little client or customer contact, such as support positions. Those with a less identifiable accent, such as that found in the Midwest, tended to get recommended for higher-contact, higher-profile--and often higher-paying--jobs in public relations and marketing.

Bottom line: Too often, employers still think that when it comes to talking the talk, bland is best.

By Taeyma Sapp
EDITED BY ROBERT McNATT

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