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Your Accent on a Job Interview

When you are competing with other job applicants, all other things being equal, the person with good communication skills will get the job.

Many of my students are taking accent reduction courses because they want to be better prepared for job interviews. They are worried that they might not get hired if their accent is too strong. This is particularly true for sales positions or any kind of job that requires giving presentations or interacting with the public.

In today’s economy and competitive job seeking environment, working on your communication skills is a must.

During a job interview, it’s possible that your accent will be even stronger than usual. This is normal. When nervous, we all tend to speak faster or hesitate and stutter. But the more you prepare the better you will sound.

Here are some of my tips for preparing for a job interview if you are concerned about your accent:

1. You MUST learn to pronounce the name of the company correctly.

2. You MUST pronounce the name of the interviewer correctly. If you get his or her name in advance, learn to say it. So many of my students don’t know how to correctly pronounce common American names. For example, the female names “Joan” and “Joanne” are not the same. Also, “Susan” and “Suzanne” are pronounced differently. I once had a student whose boss’ name was Doug. My student pronounced it as “dog.” Not a good idea!!!

3. You need to become an expert at pronouncing the common words related to your field. You will have to use them during an interview. Make a list of these words and practice saying them. If you practice them in advance with a native speaker, you will feel more confident. Have a native speaker record them for you and then listen and repeat. Some of the errors that I have heard from my students include:

  • A student who had a job interview with the advertising firm Ogilvy and Mather who could not pronounce the name of this company.
  • A Russian doctor whose patients never understood her when she asked them if they would like a “refill.”
  • A Chinese structural engineer who could not say the word “structural” because of the dropped “r” and “l”.
  • A university professor of statistics who could not say the word “statistics.”
  • A Chinese pain doctor who pronounced the word “pain” as “pan” or “pen.”

In most situations, the fact that you have an accent won’t be a problem. It’s generally only a problem if the employer worries that your coworkers or clients won’t understand you.

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