A study found that interviewers are less likely to hire people if they can’t identify their accent.

Research has shown that interviewers are less likely to hire candidates with an accent they cannot identify.

Researchers from the University of queensland in Brisbane assessed the frequency with which applicants with a “non-standard” accent get a job.

Non-standard accent was defined as an accent that is different from the well-known and accepted for the manner of speech.

The team looked at 27 separate accent studies and found that women from minority groups experienced the most discrimination. On the other hand, men are rated the same regardless of their accent.

The University of Queensland team looked at 27 separate studies of biased accent and found that women from minority groups were the most discriminated against.


Most of the studies reviewed were conducted in English, so the “standard” accent was considered to be the accent used by native English speakers.

“Standard” accents

  • British
  • North American
  • South America
  • New Zealand
  • South Africa

“Non-standard” accents

  • European (e.g. Dutch, French, German, Russian, Spanish)
  • Asian (e.g. Chinese, Indian, Japanese)
  • Mexican American
  • Arab

Lead author, Dr. Jessica Spence, said: “We found that accent tendencies were strongest for people from marginalized or minority groups.

“This is worrisome because over 272 million people live in a country other than where they were born, and one of the main motivations for migrating is better job opportunities.

“A non-standard accent works against candidates when they are already fighting for minority status.”

A study published in Bulletin of Personality and Social Psychologystudied the success rate of 4,576 respondents overall.

They all speak English with a wide variety of accents including American, Mexican-American, British, Arabic and Chinese.

They found that a “strong bias” was shown if the candidate had a foreign accent compared to their native language, such as English with a Chinese accent.

But there was none for regional accents, which were defined as local variations such as North American and South American, or ethnic variations such as American and African American.

The bias was stronger for roles that required communication, so the researchers concluded that this was related to the candidate’s potential performance at work.

However, they also believe that prejudices may have played a role if the non-standard accent signaled “otherness” to the interlocutor, and as a result they were devalued.

Indeed, the intelligibility of the applicant’s accent, or how easy it was to understand, does not appear to have affected the observed recruitment bias.

The authors suggest that some employers might use the role’s communicative demands to rationalize their own biases.

The bias was stronger for roles that required communication, so the researchers concluded that this was related to the candidate's potential performance at work (archived image).

The bias was stronger for roles that required communication, so the researchers concluded that this was related to the candidate’s potential performance at work (archived image).

The most attractive accents

in experimentEharmony asked respondents to listen to a sentence read by speakers with 20 different accents and rate the attractiveness of each one. As a result, it turned out that the most attractive accents were:

  1. Received pronunciation
  2. New Zealand
  3. Edinburgh
  4. in Australia
  5. Deutsch
  6. Yorkshire
  7. Irish
  8. Glasgow
  9. Geordie
  10. American
  11. Essex
  12. in Liverpool
  13. London
  14. Manchester
  15. in Italy
  16. Welsh
  17. Birmingham
  18. Spanish
  19. French
  20. Cornwall

The researchers observed that the degree of bias correlated with the interviewer’s perception of the candidates’ social status.

This was measured using traits such as competence, intelligence, social class, confidence, ambition, competitiveness, independence, and wealth.

Candidates with a standard accent tended to be ranked higher in status than candidates with a non-standard accent, so hiring bias may reflect “prejudices based on pre-existing stereotypes”.

Dr. Spence said: “We found that women with standard accents were favored as job candidates over women with non-standard accents, but men were rated equally regardless of their accent.

“From these results, we can conclude that female candidates with non-standard accents and candidates with an accent that may indicate that they belong to a racial-ethnic minority group may experience more discrimination in job interviews.”

She explained that prejudice against women could be due to “different social meanings given to women to make them appear warm”, or because language skills are “stereotypically associated with women”.

The team hopes their research can be used to reduce accent discrimination by raising employers’ awareness of the issue.

Co-author Dr Kana Imuta said: “Accent recognition can often go unnoticed, and we hope this research helps raise awareness that this is a reality.

“Further research is needed into the processes that underlie accent bias.

“We also need to identify strategies to mitigate the negative impact these biases have on people.”

Particularly in the UK, previous studies have shown that northerners with a strong accent are discriminated against.

From research Northumbria University found that people in the south considered people with a strong northern accent to be “less intelligent” and “less educated”.

A panel of experts interviewed more than 300 people over four years and found that most of them were unaware of their “deep-seated implicit biases.”

Dr. Robert McKenzie, who led the study, said Time: “We showed study participants northern and southern speech patterns and asked them to associate positive traits, such as being educated, with these voices.

“People were much more prejudiced when it came to the North of England accent, for example believing that they sound less smart, less ambitious, less educated just because of the way they speak.”

Other studies have shown that people with English and French accents get preferential customer service than with an Eastern European or African accent.

Northern accent is dying out and could be gone by 2066

From the accessible Geordie dialect to the instantly recognizable Liverpool accent, many of England’s most distinctive accents come from the north.

But a new study has warned that the northern accent could disappear in as little as 45 years.

Using physical modeling, researchers at the Universities of Portsmouth and Cambridge have predicted how English accents could change by 2066.

Their results suggest that a northern accent can be replaced by a “posh” southeastern pronunciation.

However, some north-south differences are predicted to persist — researchers say we will continue to disagree on the pronunciation of the word “bathhouse.”

Read more here