US/World

If You Stutter At Your Interview, You’re More Likely To Be Rejected: Why We Shouldn’t Discriminate Against Stutterers

stuttering at interviews
Though stuttering is often involuntary, it can lead to an increased likelihood of rejection at job interviews, according to a new study. Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Though stuttering is often involuntary, it can portray a sense of hesitation, uncertainty, or faltering. It’s easy to see stutterers as being nervous people or inadequate speakers — even if they have the most brilliant thing to say in the room. We naturally focus more on charisma than the actual content of the words, a new study suggests.

The study, recently published in Work, Employment and Society, found that if you have a stutter, you may be more likely to be discriminated against when interviewed or applying for jobs. People were more likely to be rejected immediately at interviews due to their stutter. “Many participants were told not only of their mismatch for the specifics of the job or the likelihood of a detrimental impact on customers, but also of the possible negative impact on team dynamics if they were appointed,” Clare Butler, a researcher at Newcastle University and an author of the study, told HealthDay. Stuttering is a form of speech impairment that may involve the repetition of a consonant.

Butler reviewed 36 men who were between the ages of 21 and 65, who all stuttered in some way. They all reported routine discrimination during their job application and interview processes. While some simply were rejected immediately after their interview, others were placed in unsatisfying jobs for which they were overqualified, Butler said. The men who were overqualified for their jobs described their work as “mindless” or “frustrating.”

Despite the fact that stutterers were apparently discriminated against, Butler said most of them didn’t challenge employers to reconsider them, or to prove that they were capable despite their stutters. “This is in contrast to the movement for those with other impairments, such as dyslexia, where employees now expect, and employers are expected to make, adjustments to facilitate full access at work,” Butler said.

According to the Stuttering Foundation, people who have stutters are actually the opposite of what many might initially believe: they can be hard workers who compensate for their lack of speaking skills through dedication and perfectionism. “People who stutter often have a temperament that’s perfectionist because many have to work tirelessly to gain fluency,” Barry Guitar, professor of speech-language pathology at the University of Vermont, said in a Stuttering Foundation report.

The Stuttering Foundation notes that there are four different reasons contributing to stuttering. The first is genetic; about 60 percent of stutterers also have relatives who do the same. Children who have developmental issues with language or speech are also likely to stutter. Research has shown that neurophysiology plays a role in stuttering as well: people who stutter often process speech and language differently than people who don’t. The environment, meanwhile, is also influential; people with certain intense or high-stress family dynamics may be more likely to stutter than others.

If you have a stutter and you’re finding it hard to find a job, remember to be open about your disability to your employer or interviewer, as hiding it can put you under more pressure. Meanwhile, employers ought to look beyond the initial stutter of someone who can offer excellent skills to their company. “It’s important for employers to look beyond the disfluencies to see the underlying qualities of the applicant,” Pat Garahan, who has interviewed stutterers, and been a job candidate as a stutterer, told the Stuttering Foundation. “Listen to what applicants say, rather than how they say it.”

 

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