In a 2015 interview, Stephen Colbert was quoted as saying: “At a very young age, I decided I was not gonna have a Southern accent”, adding that as he thought it would hold him back professionally. He noted that it is difficult to determine a newscaster’s regional origin based on their accent.
Research from the University of Chicago and the University of Munich confirms that people with strong regional accents face a wage penalty of 20 percent compared to those who speak with a “standard accent.” This wage penalty is equivalent to that of the gender wage gap.
And a recent survey of 3,000 job applicants by the Writing Tips Institute found that more than one-third (38 percent) say that they “soften” their regional twangs in their job interviews, in an effort to make their accents more generalized, for fear of negative stereotypes.
#1 The Western New England accent
The Writing Tips Institute discovered that job applicants who speak with Western New England accents are the most likely to alter the way they talk in interviews. The accent in this region is non-rhotic, which means the “r” sound is often dropped at the end of words or before consonants, giving words like “car” and “park” a distinct sound. The accent also features unique vocabulary and phrases, such as using “wicked” to mean “very” or “extremely.”
#2 The South Midland accent
Job applicants with a South Midland accent are the second most likely (50 percent) to adjust their pronunciation during job interviews. This accent is widely spoken in the southeastern and southwestern regions of the U.S., including states such as Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas and parts of Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky. The accent is characterized by distinctive vowel sounds, including the “ah” sound in words such as “barn” or “car” and the “oo” sound in words like “moon” or “food.” Additionally, the accent features unique phrases and idioms that are specific to the region, such as “I might could submit some references for y’all“, which could be replaced with “I might be able to submit some references for you all” by those seeking employment.
#3 The New Jersey accent
Rounding up the top 3 are job applicants from New Jersey, whereby 45 percent admit to hiding their accent. One of the most notable features of the New Jersey accent is the strong and distinct pronunciation of the “r” sound, which is often pronounced even at the end of words where it is usually silent, such as “car.”
#4 The Southern accent
Forty-five percent of job applicants with a southern accent say they change the way they talk when applying for jobs. The Southern accent is unique due to its distinctive pronunciation of vowels and consonants, which is characterized by elongated vowels, a slower and more relaxed pace of speech, and a tendency to drop the final “g” sound in words that end in “-ing.”
#5 The Baltimore accent
Forty-two percent of people who speak with a Baltimore accent alter how they talk when seeking new employment. The Baltimore accent is characterized by a unique sound for the “o” vowel, known as the “Baltimore o”, and other features such as the fronting of the “ai” diphthong and the use of “yo” and “hon” as terms of endearment.
A significant 37 percent of job applicants who speak with a Michigan accent, commonly known as “Inland Northern American English” or the “Great Lakes dialect”, say they tone it down in job interviews. Michiganders often exhibit vowel shifts, distinguishing the pronunciation of “o” sounds in words like “cot” and “caught.” Nasalization is also common, with nasal qualities in vowels like “a” and “e.” Michiganders may pronounce the “a” sound in certain words with a shorter and sharper tone. Additionally, due to its proximity to Canada, parts of Michigan, especially the Upper Peninsula, may show Canadian influences, such as pronouncing “about” as “aboot.”
The Writing Tips Institute also found out in which industries workers are more likely to alter accents. The top industry was Real Estate, whereby 46 percent of respondents admit to softening their regional accents. The other industries were as follows:
#1. Real estate
#3. Public service
– Writing Tips Institute Edited for style.