When I started working in the recruitment field, I often thought about how people perceive those they are unable to see, especially after receiving a few comments and questions about my accent and where I may be from! I’ve worked in recruitment for two full months and have had the opportunity to ‘meet’ many interesting people, yet my candidates and clients know me only by a LinkedIn profile picture and my voice. There’s no question the pandemic has had a major effect on how the recruitment industry works.
Whilst studying psychology I learnt that humans tend to create stereotypical views of one another based on their accent, with psychologists calling it the ‘accent bias’. Our accents are often subconsciously used as a window into our socioeconomic status, sexuality, political ideology, and even how truthful we are! Unfortunately, these judgments, no matter how accurate or inaccurate they may be, can lead to discriminatory behaviour within hiring process and workplace environments and the opportunity for this bias has been magnified by the repercussions of COVID.
As I researched further into the topic of accent bias within the workplace, I came across the ‘Accent Bias Britain’ project, who have delved into the legal profession and the subconscious discrimination that occurs when judging peers’ competency levels due to their accent. Based on the known lack of diversity and subjective hiring procedures within the legal profession (read Ashley et al., 2015 for more), I’m sure it is fairly unsurprising that research indicates the accent bias remains a significant issue within the legal workspace.
Increasing diversity and inclusion in the workplace is a necessary and constant process. Admitting our biases is often viewed as a negative process that leaves us in a vulnerable position, but it is the crucial first step that allows us to move towards a less biased future. Accent Bias Britain provides 5 useful strategies that recruiters and hiring managers can follow including:
- Raise awareness by alerting recruiters to the existence of the bias (The most successful and consistent strategy – and the simplest to implement!)
- Consciously identifying irrelevant information that you picked up on during a candidate conversation that needs to be ignored (such as their accent or ethnicity) to help prevent subconscious bias
- Write down a commitment to an agreed set of objective criteria for candidates that leave bias at the door
- Inform recruiters and managers they will have to justify their hiring and rejection decisions
- Draw recruiters’ attention to the positive benefits of diversity on teams and the workplace.
Please head over to Accent Bias Britain to delve further into the issues caused by the accent bias, and what we can do to help prevent it from influencing our workplace environments!