Accent Bias: Definition and Overcoming it
A study from The University of Queensland found that job candidates from minority groups with accents considered ‘non-standard’ face discrimination in job interviews and were considered ‘less hireable’ (2022).³
Women with standard accents were preferred in hiring over women with non-standard accents, whereas men were judged equally and their accents did not significantly affect evaluations.
What is Accent Bias?
Accent bias refers to how people can be judged purely on the way that they speak. This type of ignorance can have a negative effect on workers’ career paths and their ability to succeed in their fields. Especially if this impacts their progression in the hiring process.
The Impact of Accent Bias
There can be several different consequences for both your business and your employees:
Inclusivity: Accent bias can hinder the diverse mix of perspectives, experiences, and ideas within a team or workplace. When people face judgement or neglect due to their accents, this can impact inclusivity and lower employee satisfaction. It can also defer employees from sharing their ideas in fear of being mocked, which can impact the generation of innovative ideas.⁴
Did you know that there is an 87% more chance of better business decisions being made if your team is more diverse?⁴
Loss of Talent: If interviewers and those involved in hiring have a predisposition to an accent, it can cause them to judge the fit of a candidate within the company wrongly. These pre-judgements can lead to the company missing out on valuable assets to the company and losing great talent.
Communication Challenges: Unclear communication can stem from any biases that the interviewer has. Accents can make for a different communication style, which the interviewer might not be familiar with. This misinterpretation can affect how suitable the candidate is considered for the role, ultimately impacting hiring decisions.
How to overcome Accent Bias
Raise Awareness: Educating yourself and your staff on accent bias will help to prevent anyone from overstepping boundaries by commenting on or impersonating the accents of peers. If more people understand the implications and effects, it can make it a more productive working space for all.¹
Diversity Training: Managers should introduce training programs to help the business adapt its approaches to employees, candidates, and customers. This will help employees recognise the value of appreciating different linguistic backgrounds and understand each other’s different communication styles and accents.²
Structured Interviews: Using standardised questions and evaluation criteria will help to make sure the focus remains on job-related skills and qualifications rather than accents. This approach promotes equal opportunity and reduces the impact of accent bias during the hiring process.
Acknowledging and actively combatting accent bias in hiring processes will help to create inclusive workplaces where candidates are treated equally. Unbiased hiring practices will prevent the loss of valuable talent due to preconceived notions, and establish fair assessments that prioritise candidates’ job-related competencies over arbitrary linguistic judgments.⁵
 Inclusive Employers. (n.d.). A beginner’s guide to unconscious bias. Inclusive Employers. https://www.inclusiveemployers.co.uk/blog/a-beginners-guide-to-unconscious-bias/
 Scotwork. (2023, March 2). How Do Cultural Differences Impact Negotiation Strategies? Retrieved December 14, 2023, fromhttps://www.scotwork.com/negotiation-insights/how-do-cultural-differences-impact-negotiation-strategies/
 Spence, J. L., Hornsey, M. J., Stephenson, E. M., & Imuta, K. (2022). Is Your Accent Right for the Job? A Meta-Analysis on Accent Bias in Hiring Decisions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 0(0). https://doi.org/10.1177/01461672221130595
 Equalture. (2023, June 2). 13 Statistical Benefits of Diversity Within the Workplace. Equalture. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from https://www.equalture.com/blog/statistical-benefits-of-diversity-within-the-workplace/
 Equalture. (2022, November 18). Unconscious Biases & Recruitment KPIs: A Disaster Waiting to Happen. Equalture. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from https://www.equalture.com/blog/unconscious-biases-recruitment-kpis-a-disaster-waiting-to-happen/
Lily Meyers is a creative copywriter with a flare and focus on business DE&I and equality in the workplace. When she’s not out and about chasing her dog, you can find her typing away her next angle at her desk.