Reducing Accent Discrimination in the Workplace: How Accentedness in English Influences HR-Students and Working People’s Perceptions of Job Applicants and how to Reduce this Influence.

Thumbnail Image
Issue Date
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
As the number of non-native speakers of English keeps increasing, the number of interactions between non-native speakers does so too. In the business context, this increase has led to a phenomenon called employment discrimination. The present research studied the effect of a written prejudice control measure (PCM) on the judgements regarding understandability, attitudes and hirability of Dutch listeners (HR-students and working people) towards Dutch non-native accented English speaking job applicants versus American native accented English speaking job applicants. A PCM was expected to make listeners more lenient towards non-native accented speakers and therefore potentially reduce employment discrimination. In an experiment, 142 Dutch HR-students and working people evaluated an audio fragment of a job pitch recorded by either a moderately Dutch-accented speaker or an American speaker. A PCM would either be present or not. Findings showed that, as expected, the non-native speaker of English was generally evaluated less positively than the native speaker of English. However, surprisingly, the written PCM did not make non-native listeners more lenient towards the non-native speaker. These findings indicate that a written PCM does not seem to have the positive effect a spoken, face-to-face PCM had in previous research. After the experiment, the speakers did seem to differ slightly in voice characteristics, which was not the case in the pretest. The present findings show how understandability and attitudinal evaluations are predictors of hirability and to decrease employment discrimination, individuals should be made aware of the biases they hold against non-native speakers, in which case, an implicit written PCM does not seem to have the desired effect.
Faculteit der Letteren