You know you have skills and qualifications to work with the client. The client reaches out to you to schedule a phone call or Skype meeting. Afterwards, you never hear back from them or you are told they chose someone else. Now you wonder: Is your accent keeping you from getting hired?
Chances are, you are correct.
Everyone agrees that people should be hired based on their skills, education and qualifications. And, as long as your ability to speak is suitable for the work, this shouldn’t be a problem. That would be fair for everyone. Sadly, for many clients, an accent gives them the perception that someone cannot perform the work. And, worse, sometimes the person with the accent has great English but they are judged because of an accent.
How do you know? Is your accent keeping you from getting hired?
First, you can do a simple test of your own.
- Do people on the phone or in person often say things like “I’m sorry, I missed that. Can you say that again?” or “Could you repeat that, please?”
- When you are talking to someone from another country, on video or in person, do they just nod their head a lot while repeating agreement sounds like “mmm-hmmm” ?
- Has your accent ever caused you to be skipped over for a promotion or a job?
- Do you often feel like people are rude and didn’t listen to you the first time or totally didn’t understand what you were telling them?
If you answered yes to the above questions, but you are confident in your education and qualifications, your accent may be affecting your ability to get more clients and/or causing you to get lower paying clients.
What are some ways to reduce your accent or talk “more American?”
There are accent reduction coaches out there but you may not want to erase your accent. Your heritage is a blessing and you should be proud of it. But, there may be instances where you want to sound more similar to a client.
Below are some tips for helping you sound more American.
Watch YouTube videos in English. Rachel’s English YouTube channel is excellent. She mixes in American culture and helps you learn easy, fun methods for speaking good English. Here’s an example:
Listen to American or English podcasts. Listen every morning when you are getting ready for the day. Find a few topics you are interested in and practice saying some of the phrases you hear.
Watch American movies or television shows. Practice speaking like the actors.
Record yourself on your smartphone. Do a “Before and After” recording. Read a paragraph of English and then record yourself again a month and two months later. You’ll be able to hear your improvement.
Practice ahead of time before meeting with potential clients over the phone or in person.
It’s important to know that even if you have the skills needed for a job or to work with a client, you should do your best to speak and write their language as clearly as possible. This doesn’t mean erasing your personality or your heritage. Think of it as one of your business tools that you use now and then to promote your business. The majority of business owners in the United States do not want it immediately obvious when website content or promotional materials are created by someone whose first language isn’t English.
Tips for Getting an Interview or Consulting Call with English Speaking Clients
- Make sure your website gives a great impression. If you have a website offering services like virtual assistance, web development, tech set-up, hire an English writer/editor, whose first language is English, to proof it for you.
I recently helped a new virtual assistant proofread her website. Her first language is Italian. She is a highly educated, very intelligent woman. But, she still had a few words written in the wrong tense. Whether we like it or not, we all know clients make decisions based on their impressions. We went through her website page by page and also her marketing proposal of her services.
- Hire someone to proof your marketing materials. If you want to work with American or other clients whose first language is English, it’s a good idea to have an experienced native English writer/editor proofread your marketing materials for your own business. For example, when you send a proposal, list of services or your resume, it should flow naturally. Give a good written impression with your approach and your own self-promotion.
- Put your education and credentials in your email signature. I noticed when training a new virtual assistant (her first language isn’t English) that certain clients tended to talk down to her after hearing her speak. We know it’s wrong to assume someone is less skilled or intelligent because of an accent. Yet, many clients are guilty of doing just that. In this case, the virtual assistant likely had twice the education of the moron she was speaking to. I advised her to add her credentials and her advanced degree abbreviations to her email signature. Why? Because any potential client reading her email will know right away they are talking to someone who knows her stuff. This might deter some of the more obnoxious clients.
In this case, the virtual assistant likely had twice the education of the moron she was speaking to.
You might argue that she doesn’t need clients who treat her badly in the first place and you would be correct. However, my point is that you should use all the tools you can to get an edge over the competition.
There is nothing wrong with displaying your education, certifications or client reviews where a client can’t help but notice them.
Would you like an American writer/editor with excellent English skills and writing to proofread your website content?
Would you appreciate having your website content (About, FAQ’s, Services, Home) written for you in excellent English so you can concentrate on doing the work you enjoy?
I can help you with all these things and your marketing package.
I offer a budget friendly content writing and editing package just for people whose first language isn’t English. It’s not listed on my website so you’ll need to reach out via my contact form.