terse answer Thursday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s terse answer Thursday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. What does “competitive” salary mean?

I’m curious as to your take on the term “competitive” hourly wage or salary compensation. It’s a phrase I’ll see on occasion in job ads and I never quite know how to take it. The few times I have run into that phrase, it’s usually been less money than I made at previous positions doing the same thing. For example, one position I interviewed for that advertised itself having competitive salary was about 3k less than what I had been making at my previous position. How should a job seeker view that term?

Sometimes you see it used by organizations that are trying to combat assumptions that their pay would be low (like certain nonprofit groups, for instance). But I’d basically ignore it; since there’s such wide variation in how it’s used, it gives you no useful information. But I wouldn’t read it as a signal that the pay is less than market rate; there are plenty of employers who use that phrase simply to signal “we pay reasonably” and really do.

2. Manager wants to meet in a coffee shop

A not well-liked supervisor I know of has several workers reporting to that supervisor. They do not trust this supervisor and feel they are being bullied. A request has gone out from this supervisor to each one of the workers to meet one-on-one in a local coffee shop. Is this appropriate? And do they have the right of refusal?

Sure, it’s appropriate. Lots of managers take people to lunch or coffee and for all kinds of reasons: to get to know people better, to talk in a lower-key atmosphere, or just to get some variety into their meetings. They should no more refuse than they’d refuse a meeting in the office.

3. I’m worried about my southern accent

I am from Alabama originally and now live in Mississippi. My husband and I wish to move to another part of the country. I applied for a job in Kansas City, MO, and will have a phone interview with the company tomorrow. I am worried about how I might be perceived by the phone interviewer because I have a very distinct Southern accent. I use proper grammar but there is no getting around the fact that I cannot change the way my accent sounds. Do you think this is something I should be worried about at all? I just don’t want to be perceived negatively for something that isn’t even really in my control. The main reason I’m kind of paranoid about this is because when I have visited other parts of the country, I have received comments on my accent. Some of them were what I perceived to be as negative and hurtful, although maybe the person saying them didn’t mean for them to be perceived as such. Am I worrying for nothing?

You are! Your southern accent will be a non-issue for most people, potentially a plus for a few (who will find it charming), and I suppose possibly a negative for a few random and odd people, but that would be so unusual that you shouldn’t waste any time worrying about them.

4. Will my youth disqualify me in an office where most people are older?

I feel as if there is a bias against young people in the workplace. I am currently an AmeriCorps volunteer at an organization where I applied for a full-time, salaried position. The position is in line with my experience and interests, and I was interviewed two weeks ago by the hiring manager; however, I overheard that an executive suggested that I might be too young for the position–I’m 23. Will my age disqualify me for a job where most of the staff are older than me?

The bias isn’t really about youth; it’s about inexperience. Which, unfortunately, tends to go along with youth. There are legitimate reasons to worry that someone is too inexperienced (or immature) for a position. The best thing for you to do is to demonstrate that neither of those will be an issue with your performance on the job.

5. Interviewing in a suit in really hot weather

I have a fairly informal job interview tomorrow. The weather is forecasting 100+ degree weather. I assume it’s ok not to wear a suit, but not sure what to wear instead. Are short sleeves ok? Should I wear a light sweater as a substitute for a suit coat?

Wear the suit (not wool!) with a short-sleeved blouse (not totally sleeveless — no visible armpits). When you’re outside, just carry the jacket; don’t wear it. When you get inside to the office, the AC might mean you can put it on again — but if not, just keep carrying it. You’ll be in a full suit, just carrying the jacket.

6. Negotiating with two candidates at once

Is it unusual for a company to negotiate with two candidates for the same job at the same time?

Negotiate with or interview? If they’ve made an offer and are negotiating salary with two candidates and only have one slot, it’s both unusual and unethical.

7. What is a pre-screen meeting?

I am moving to a new city and have been trying to find a new job (preferably in my chosen field, but I’m not too picky). For personal reasons, I applied to a job in a field in which I have worked before, but have no real desire to work in again. This field is incredibly stressful, but because it would help pay off student loans, would be a five minute walk to work (as opposed to a 30 minute commute), and would save my sanity by getting me out of the house, I applied.

The head of the search committee called today and asked to set up a pre-screen meeting. He said this wasn’t an interview as these would take place at the end of July but rather a time to meet and make sure we are on the same page re: salary and other items–his words. What is a pre-screen meeting? I have worked in several cities and in many different fields but have never heard of this before.

Think of it as an interview, just maybe shorter and possibly less formal. Or think of it like a phone interview, but in-person. In other words, it’s probably not going to be very in-depth and instead is an initial screening to determine if it makes sense to move forward to more substantive conversations. Prepare for it like you would a normal interview though, because you never know what you might be asked.

{ 86 comments… read them below }

  1. fposte*

    On #2: I meet with staff at a local coffee shop quite frequently. I spring for coffee, it’s neutral ground, it’s a chance to change the scenery.

    On #6: Just make sure you’re not confusing “negotiating” with “haven’t rejected yet.” I’ll stay in conversation with my second choice until my first choice has accepted/rejected, but there’s only one actual offer out at a time.

      1. fposte*

        I think it was clear–I just could imagine some candidates misconstruing where they and/or other candidates were in the process. But if you and your buddy have both received offers for the same position, then yeah, you’re both in negotiation and I’d consider that unethical.

        1. Number 6*

          What I meant was, where you open negotiations with your first choice, offer them an amount, and when they come back with a higher counteroffer, take your original offer to the second choice, and if they take it, tell them they offered someone else.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            That’s a crappy thing to do. When you have an open offer with someone, you need to close that process out before you offer that position to someone else. It’s not a bidding war — or if it is, that needs to be clearly stated up-front.

  2. Anonymous*

    On #5: I own several very nice “summer suits”. Short or 3/4 length sleeves. Light fabrics like linen (but that can be a pain). Light colors. There are lots of options available. You don’t need to wear black or grey.

    1. NicoleW*

      Me too! I really like my summer suit – tan color, a short sleeve jacket with a belt to make it fitted and a matching skirt. I received several compliments on it last summer when interviewing.

      1. Kathleen*

        Where did you get your suit, with the short sleeves, if you don’t mind me asking!!

  3. noah sturdevant*

    About No 3: I live in the KC MO metro area and I agree that a southern accent is charming. We tend to have a lot of people that use words like aint, yep, and gonna in high level positions, so I would worry about that more than an accent.

    1. Andrea*

      I’m in KC MO, too. The accent should be fine, as is the use of “y’all” (which I maintain is a perfect gender nonspecific way to address a group; in fact, I use it myself, and I’m a born Missourian). But be careful about “ain’t” and dropping your ‘g’ at the end of -ing words. I think most people here would think your accent is charming, too. Earlier today, I called and spoke with a woman in Alabama and found myself smiling at her thick Southern accent because it was so pleasant to hear. I bet you’ll get a lot of that. Good luck on your interview!

    2. Andrew*

      Years ago, when I lived in New York City, one of my coworkers was from Mississippi, and a very pronounced southern accent. Absolutely everybody thought it was charming.

      There’s no reason to worry about an accent.

      1. AMG*

        We have someone in the office who has a Southern accent, and she is highly respected for her intelligence, ability to catch potentials issues with lightening speed, and handle everything in a firm, direct manner. Then she charms us with her drawl–all at the same time. Don’t give it a thought.

      2. Jamie*

        Another vote in the charming camp. I’m in Chicago and it wouldn’t work against you here, either. Don’t give it a second thought.

    3. Anonymous*

      Another comment for #3; I moved from North Carolina to Kansas City many years ago and my accent was no big deal at work. (I have moved away since.) Most people did not comment on the accent at all and those who did were overwhelmingly positive. My opinion, it’s only charming as long as you are grammatically correct. If you slip into any kind of ungrammatical language in a business setting you risk the perception of being less intelligent. That could be the case with poor grammar in any accent, but for Southern accents I think it’s worse. And another thing, once people get to know you, an accent will be a non-issue. I enjoyed living in Kansas City. I found it to be a friendly and welcoming place and I still visit there. Good luck!

  4. Anonymous*

    Heh, the description of the manager in #2 prompted me check my work email to see if there was a coffee shop meeting request.

  5. Anonymous*

    #3 – I have a Texan friend who moved out to California and the only thing she’s heard about her accent/speech was being asked to try to drop “ma’am” from her business conversations. From what I remember, it just makes her supervisor uncomfortable. So don’t be surprised if you get that sort of request (although I hope you don’t, because I love that sort of politeness!)

  6. Josh S*

    For #5 Suits in Hot Weather:

    It’s worse for us guys. Instead of a light blouse under that jacket, we ‘get’ to wear a T-shirt with a long-sleeve shirt on top. Any circulation that might have existed is choked off (pun intended) by a noose tie around our necks.

    For a guy like me who sweats like it’s my job, 100* days in a suit are pure hell.

    1. Anna*

      I take it you’ve never worn a pair of heels. Not only do they hinder the wearer’s balance (even the lower ones do to some degree), but they tend to come with really pointy toes.

      1. JT*

        I think Josh A was talking about heat and clothes, not whether men’s or women’s clothes are easier to wear in general.

        That said, is there any downside to a woman interviewing or working in nice-looking flat shoes? Will it hurt getting a typical office job or being taken seriously on the work?

        1. Elise*

          It’s like the make-up vs no make-up debate. No make-up or flats are acceptable, but not as polished and professional as proper make-up and heels.

          And same risk for going overboard on either. Too much make-up or too high heels make a woman look like a whole different type of professional.

          1. Laura L*

            I wish people would get over this heels are more professional thing. Make up doesn’t bother me, but heels are annoying, even when I’m sitting at a desk all day.

          2. your mileage may vary*

            I’d say heels are only appropriate if the lady knows how to walk in them. Clomping around in your shoes makes anyone look unprofessional — like a kid playing dress up. So, only wear heels that you can manage. If that means flats, then it’s flats for you.

            1. TheSnarkyB*

              I think part of the issue is that there aren’t many flat shoes that are *made* to be professional (I love polished loafers for this, but at a law firm file instance, they wouldn’t fly), and if you want to switch wily between heels and flats, you need to come up with a clever scheme for slip-stitching your pant hems or have a very large wardrobe (optionz y’all)
              Josh, I feel your pain- it seems that men have fewer professional options regardless of the weather, and warmth doesn’t help you out any. Short sleeves dress shirts with suits are…. Horrible. I’m sorry :(

              1. TheSnarkyB*

                Don’t know how to edit from mobile, but that was supposed to say “if you want to switch easily” not “wily”
                And law firm FOR instance.

      2. Josh S*

        Oh, I think women have it both better AND worse when it comes to fashion. Guys are generally limited to suits for formal wear, with the possibility of a super-formal suit called a tux. Women have a billion different formal styles, from pantsuits to skirts to dresses to cocktail dresses. Makes it simpler for us guys, I suppose, but women have options that guys never will.

        On the other hand, women have it worse because they’re expected to contort, distort, and discomfort their bodies for the sake of fashion. Tall heels that make you walk crazy and disjoint your toes, bras, corsets, pantyhose, etc etc etc. You’d never catch me wanting to touch that stuff with a 10 foot pole.

        But JT was correct (apart from my last initial)–I was referring to guys’ difficulty when it comes to wearing suits in extremely hot weather. Because of our lack of options, we’re stuck in fabric that makes us steam, and we don’t have any choice in the matter.

        1. Alisha*

          On the other hand, women who want to be VP of a formal, Fortune 500 company don’t make a good case for joining the executive management track unless they wear suits too – and in most cases here in flyover land, high heels and pantyhose are non-negotiable parts of that uniform. Women may, and do, get away with capris and sandal-style dress shoes, just like the men on the IT team may, and do, get away with rumpled, short-sleeved polos and khakis, but at companies that lean toward the formal side of business casual, they’re not going to be at the head of the line for promotions, though they may get away with their casual dress for quite some time.

          If given the choice between too-hot clothing and traditional women’s business wear, I’ll always take the too-hot option (and have), every single time. It doesn’t cause permanent bone, muscle, and joint damage (heels), yeast and urinary tract infections (pantyhose), and pain, permanent marks, and potentially lymphatic damage (underwire bras). In my part of the country as well, the pay gap between men and women, even for the same position/time put in/experience, is particularly severe, and until people reach their 50s, women pay about 50% more in health insurance premiums, so I feel I have no choice but to completely steer clear of companies with dress codes that would compromise my health, and then require money to fix.

          1. Anonymous*

            Being a female who is now living in and has lived in a few hot and humid locations where wear “business” attire, (pantyhose, pumps, make-up, etc.) was an expectation, if not an explicit requrement, I think I understand your points… but I’m curious; when did underwire bras become a dress code requirement? :)

      3. Alisha*

        After sustaining repeated stress fractures from ballet in high school (trained at the junior professional level 5-6x a week ’till age 17, when I suddenly blossomed in the bosom) I absolutely cannot walk in heels without being in pretty awesome amounts of pain. My husband was an assistant to his burlesque performer ex-fiancee, so he’s taught me some tips for walking in them (how awesome is that?) that he picked up from her. Without his help, I doubt I’d be able to leave the house properly, but I still have to take a Tylenol with codeine after the interview.

        Now, I don’t mind boiling myself in the suit and hobbling myself with the heels, or doing any of the other interview “stuff” I just have to do, like straightening my hair, covering my greys, plucking my eyebrows and applying my makeup to perfection, etc. as long as the job offers a salary and benefits we can live on. After all, that’s just kind of what you have to do, right? But if, in the interview, I learn that this kind of dress code is mandatory every day, I’ll politely withdraw my candidacy in the thank-you note. (I beat myself up over it once just because being unemployed sucks worse than my worst job ever, but Alison is right when she says you have to interview them as much as they interview you.)

        1. Alisha*

          Sorry guys, I screwed up the commenting again. My first reply was to Josh S. My second, about heels sucking, was to Anna. At least I got the James Bond comment under the right poster, eh?

    2. Jamie*

      The upside is all men look great in a suit. Without exception. I don’t care what you all look like in jeans and t-shirts but put any one of you in a suit and you’re James Bond.

  7. ChristineH*

    #5 – Whoops – guess I’m going to have to find a different top to wear with the suit I got a couple month ago; the one I’ve been using is sleeveless. Dumb question, but “blouse” can just be any nice shirt, right? Does it have to be button-down with a collar and sleeves?

    1. Lexy*

      If you keep the jacket on it doesn’t matter! I wear sleeveless shells with my suits all the time. But yeah, if you’re interviewing especially be sure to leave the jacket on.

    2. Long Time Admin*

      I haven’t worn a suit in years, but the next time I do, I’ll be wearing a Hawaiian print shirt with it.

      1. fposte*

        Actually, I think that could look seriously sharp under a good suit. I might even entertain myself further with a pocket square and a string of pearls.

  8. Anonymous*

    #3: I also have a Southern accent and no longer live in the South. I have had one person bring it up on an interview. When they said they detected a accent I just said yes, I can’t get away from that. They didn’t say it in a bad way, but it did make me feel funny. I am soft-spoken so maybe it is more obvious. I agree with Alison though, I think you should not worry about this. Some people may think we sound like Gone With the Wind but what can we do about it. We do seem to be very polite to some people though. I believe it is because our background is grounded in please and thank you and ma’am and sir. It is just a part of who we are though.

  9. Anonymous*

    3 – This is one of those it-might-matter-but-probably-won’t ever-be-an-issue thingsl. The only time any accent is a “problem” is if other people cannot understand what you are saying. If you can communicate with people who aren’t from your area without them saying “What?!?!” after every other word you speak, you’re probably good. Speaking well is more about grammar and enunciation than accent, anyway. For what it’s worth, Southern accents are really soothing to my ears.

  10. Katrina Prock*

    From the great state of Missouri – you have nothing to worry about. You’ll be surprised how many professionals you’ll meet who are very similar in speech! Especially if your work connects you with the better part of our state… Springfield ;)

    1. Andrea*

      Thanks for the giggle–your last sentence is the funniest thing I’ve read all day.

  11. Anonymous*

    Atleast people from the South enunciate all syllables in a word! Try dealing with a Boston accent? HA! I am from Boston, and when I travel to the South, I always understand what YOU are saying, but no one can understand what I am saying. I find myself repeating myself alot. yeah yeah, I pahk my cah in the hahvid yahd. :-)

  12. Rachel - Former HR Blogger*

    #2 – I disagree. I don’t think they can refuse the meeting but I think they can address the meeting venue. They should be able to say, “I’m not comfortable meeting offsite. Is it possible to have this meeting your office instead?”

      1. EngineerGirl*

        My warning bells went off with #2. I can see a few scenarios:
        The good: The boss really wants to fix things by having one-on-one discussions with the reports in a “neutral” place.
        The bad: The boss thinks that by having a meeting off site that s/he isn’t accountable for things s/he says. After all, it’t not at work!
        The ugly: The boss wants to get people by themselves off-site so s/he can threaten them.
        If it really is the first, then perhaps suggesting another neutral site (on campus) might work. If the boss insists on the coffee shop, I’d invite HR along.

        1. Anonymous*

          I agree there shouldn’t be an outright refusal to go, for the same reasons Alison gave. When I worked for a bully, invitations like these also set off “warning bells,” which were warranted, but there doesn’t seem to be context (e.g., lay offs, disciplinary actions) given to indicate HR needs to get involved. However, there’s no reason the concerned employees can’t take notes either during and/or immediately after the meetings. If something serious happens, they can go directly to HR.

          If HR hasn’t helped yet, though, they probably won’t unless all of these employees go together. A bullying situation is tricky. In my case, about a third of the staff went to HR. Nothing was ever done.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes. Don’t bring HR to a meeting. You will ruin whatever remains of the relationship (and harm your own credibility with HR if the meeting turns out to be a routine one).

          2. EngineerGirl*

            Yes, this is the best option. All the workers should write a journal entry of what is being said. In addition, if there are any discussions of a work related issue then it needs to be echoed via an email follow-up. “Hi boss, this email is to document our conversation at Joe’s Coffee. We discussed bla bla bla. You said this and I said that. If this email is different than what you remember could you please correct?”
            By placing it in email it becomes documented. A lot of bullies like things being verbal because it becomes he said she said. Doing email follow ups creates accountability on BOTH sides.

  13. Another Anonymous Person*

    For #5, I’m surprised no one has mentioned this yet… A very nice, office appropriate short sleeved dress. Unless you are in a super conservative industry or meeting with a very conservative company, a very nice, office appropriate short sleeved dress should do the trick.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      With a jacket, though, even if it’s just carried. But you really should have a jacket for an interview (in most but not all industries).

      1. class factotum*

        Sadly, yes. I had an interview this week where I watched employees walk in wearing jeans, t-shirts, and topsiders – no socks. But the HR manager was very firm when she told me that she expected a suit for an interview.

      2. Kathleen*

        Allison, I just scheduled a job interview for next week,
        I live in Phoenix (110 degrees today) and have a broken toe,
        so I have to wear sandals to the interview. Do I immediately
        explain, or assume that when they see the bandages they will know?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          They’ll probably figure it out from the bandages, but I’d still probably say, “Please excuse my footwear; I have a broken toe.”

  14. A nony cat*

    Regarding the Southern Accent: I am really sorry to be Debbie Downer here, but I know of some people who would definitely be put off by a *strong* southern accent. I grew up in the Northeast, but my “ancestral homeland” is in the South, so I have pretty fond feelings about the region myself. Thus, I often find myself defending Southerners from some stereotypes that Northeasterners have. I would suggest that you definitely do NOT call younger women (<40) ma'am, and make sure you don't say "ain't" or "y'all."

    p.s. I love "y'all." Formal English lacks, and really could use, a plural form of "you" (e.g. "vous" in French). Unfortunately, the rest of the world won't take my advice.

    1. Andrew*

      I still remember my first tip to the South. I was 28 and was stunned when the teenage grocery store bagger called me “sir!”

    2. Andrea*

      She isn’t interviewing in the Northeast, she’s interviewing in KC MO, a city in the Midwest. I agree with you on the “ma’am” thing, but as a lifelong Missourian and a KC resident, I don’t believe your experience with Southern accents in the Northeast is relevant here.

      1. Anonymous*

        As a Southerner living in the midwest and having also lived in KC, I would agree that KC and the midwest are pretty relaxed about Southern accents, and friendly, too.

    3. TheSnarkyB*

      This. I feel like I started commenting a lot today and am now Debbie Downering on everyone’s (parade?)
      Mixed metaphor, oh well.
      I agree. If only for the sake of being aware- OP should know that yes, in some situations or with some interviewers, the Southern accent will put people off. I think it helps if OP is female (I’ve seen people respond more favorably). Regardless, it is something to be aware of. As someone who has studied perception psychology at length, I can tell you that some may associate that accent negatively regarding intelligence, socioeconomic status, or other traits. It is unfair and baseless, but a real prejudicial perception. Probably not prevalent on KCMO, though.
      More importantly: if there’s nothing you can do about the accent, why worry about it? Use standard formal English grammar (I take issue with the term “proper”) and be your wonderful self!

  15. NonProfiter*

    Re #1: I’ve seen competitive end up meaning “we will match (“compete”) your last salary.” Ha!

  16. Charles*

    I’m NOT from the Southern US and I still use y’all – it does sound better than “yous guys” (sorry New Yawkers!)

    All kidding aside; If the OP is truly that concerned that her accent is too strong it is possible to take a class that teaches one how to “tone-down” a very strong accent. Such a class is a bit of work, but it is possible.

      1. Anonymous*

        I’d say that’s more a Tri-State area thing, “youse guys.”

        Or like my mom’s friend whose children I played with “yous get in the house.” :)

  17. Crystal*

    #3 – I agree that interviewing with a company in Missouri should be fine. Unfortunately, I have experienced prejudice from Northeastern colleagues in the past who seem to feel that a Southern accent marks one as stupid.

    Alabama accents are distinct from other regional accents. One is unlikely to mistake someone from Alabama while it might be hard to pick out whether someone is from Georgia or the Carolinas. I think you should embrace your distinctiveness.

  18. NicoleW*

    #1 – it makes my blood boil that my current company says “competitive salary” in all their job postings. It is completely untrue. We are almost up to the market rate for entry level positions, but under market rate for everything else. We have been in a wage freeze for three years. And even before that, salary increases were very small. I am not sure why they bother putting it on there, hoping to get great candidates, who then turn us down once they learn salary?
    So now when I’m looking at outside job postings, I completely ignore subjective claims about compensation.

    1. Andrea*

      This has been my experience as well. I know it’s just anecdotal, but I also have worked at two different places that pulled that crap and then used to insist–when candidates were dismayed to hear that they’d been offered a salary well below normal for the field and the area–they they were in fact right on the mark. Um, no. Maybe they were, years ago. I’m sure that’s not the case with every company that does this, but every time I see it, I assume that it’s probably untrue.

    2. Jamie*

      I really think ‘competitive salary’ is one of those meaningless phrases. I don’t even think it’s code for anything besides “I know we should make a comment about salary, but nothing specific, so here’s an empty placeholder.”

      1. Anonymous*

        Totally agree, Jamie. “Salary commensurate with experience” is the same thing.

        1. Alisha*

          I’ll third that motion. In my field, tech, at least in my area anyway, companies that pay market or slightly above are proud of that fact, and you can find the salary range either in the job ad or with just a bit of asking around. I’m applying for a job today that states right in the ad, “Compensation: 90-110K plus benefits, DOE,” and I love this because it doesn’t waste anyone’s time.

          Companies that pay shamefully below market will demand a salary history and a salary range, adding “If you do not supply these numbers, your application will be rejected,” and lie about having competitive salaries.

  19. Leann*

    Hi. #3 here. I have enjoyed reading your comments and I want to thank all of you for responding. I was pleasantly surprised that my question was featured. :)

    The phone interview this morning went well (thank you, Alison–I used your tips on this site and they helped me feel more confident about everything!). I really wasn’t that self-conscious about my accent after the phone interview started. I was more concerned with answering all questions in a smooth fashion (and I think I did a good job)!

    As I said in my original post, my grammar is fine. I have no problems with speaking and writing properly. The main thing is that unless I take some kind of class on how to tone down my accent (and I just can’t see myself doing that, unless I have to for some unforeseen reason), the accent will always be there and I will always say certain things in a distinct way. Do you guys know how some people in the South pronounce words such as “I”, “night”, “flight”, and so on? I can’t quite phonetically spell it out here to demonstrate it. But that’s one thing that I probably will not be able to change about the way I speak. And I’m not sure I want to change it. It’s a part of me. I know people from Alabama and Mississippi who have relocated to different parts of the country. They have totally changed the way they talk. To me they don’t even sound as if they are from the South. I’m not sure I want to totally give up my accent. As many have said here, it is something that’s regarded as charming by many. And after reading the comments, and really thinking about it, I’ve decided that if someone doesn’t want me to work for them solely because of my accent, it’s their problem, not mine.

    As far as dropping the “ing” I do that a lot in my informal conversations, but I’ve always made sure to use “ing” words properly in business settings. The word “ain’t” was always discouraged by my mother, so I don’t use it at all. I do say “y’all” sometimes but I also say “you guys” or “you all”. I also use “soda” instead of “Coke” (some Southerners call all carbonated soft drinks “Coke”, and I used to do that, but not anymore). Another thing I’m attempting to work on is the pronunciation of the word “on”. Some Southerners tend to say “own” instead of “on”, and I am very conscious of that, and try to pronounce “on” properly. I still slip up and say “own” quite a bit, however. I also tend to call everyone “ma’am” or “sir” out of respect, especially my elders.

    It’s interesting to me how there are so many different types of accents all over the U.S. I can’t help but tease a good friend of mine who is originally from Indiana. She says “crick” instead of “creek”. I’m used to hearing it now but the first time she said it I said, “What? Like a crick in your neck?” We got a good laugh out of that one. :)

    Thanks again for all the replies! I really appreciate all of your thoughts. The lady who interviewed me today said I should hear something in about a week. I hope it will be an invitation for a face-to-face interview!

    1. Victoria*

      I’m from Minnesota, but grew up in a family of British immigrants, so I don’t have any recognizable accent (people constantly say “You don’t SOUND like you’re from Minne-soooooow-tuh!”).

      However. There are a few words that I just plain say funny. Perhaps due to my Minnesota roots. Maybe my weird MN-English hybrid accent. Maybe just mispronunciation from early childhood that I’ve never corrected:

      Milk = “melk”
      Bag = “bayg”
      Vague = “vagh”

      Ugh. It’s like I just can’t my my mouth to say these words correctly. I obviously know HOW to pronounce them… I just can’t.

      1. Not Westah Wuhstah*

        I can slip in and out of my native Boston accent pretty easily, except for one word that eludes me – drawer. My mouth is incapable of saying it any way other than draw.

        Place names I pretty much always say in their proper accent whether I want to or not. So I can be speaking otherwise non-Bostonian, then totally drop a heavily accented bomb in the middle of it. Having to introduce myself by including the name of where I live inevitably elicits muffled (or not so muffled) chuckles everytime. *sigh*

        1. Jamie*

          I would never slip out of it if I had one…I lived westah wustah myself (although with my Chicago speech patterns it was West of War-kest-err until I was schooled – quick).

          I was there for about a year, so even though Spencer wasn’t Boston I still wished it had been long enough for my kids to pick up the accent.

          There is no better accent than one from Mass. Although, you know how when you travel to the midwest people want to hear you say “pahk the cah?” Apparently when people from the Midwest live in Mass you guys are fascinated by making us say things like “napkin” and “sausage” because the way we talk is hysterical…apparently. :)

      2. khilde*

        I’m from the Dakotas and I (we) pronounce those words you listed the same way! I don’t think that’s a deficiency on your part: I really think that’s how our accent sounds up here.

    2. Charles*

      OP – “But that’s one thing that I probably will not be able to change about the way I speak. And I’m not sure I want to change it. It’s a part of me.”

      Well, you could always become “bilingual.” That doesn’t require you to give up part of yourself – it allows you to expand yourself.

    3. Anonymous*

      Leann, I am also a Southern and had to smile at some of your comments. I hope you get your interview. Just remember, it is OK to be yourself. When you do move out of the South, it will be a culture shock. I know back home one of the first questions you are asked when you meet someone is where do you go to church. Remember, you are not in the Bible Belt anymore. Also, I had to stop saying Coke for everything. Remember shopping carts are not called buggys. My daddy was from Alabama, so I know how wonderful that state is. My grandparents from Texas. There are wonderful people everywhere, you just have to make your mind up to adjust. Good luck on your job.

      1. your mileage may vary*

        I never stopped saying Coke. The rest of the country has it wrong :)

        But my Southern (Georgia) accent changed as I lived elsewhere in the country. Now people back home say I talk “Yankee” but the people everywhere else in the country still say I’m “Southern”. For what it’s worth, I felt strongly about retaining my accent when I first moved away but the changes took place so slowly that I never really noticed them. While I wish for a radio announcer’s voice, I’m still pretty happy with mine.

        Hope you get the job!

        1. Laura L*

          Yeah, I wanted to add that, unfortunately, your accent will change w/out you even trying.

          For a while after I left the Chicago area for college and other stuff, people commented on my accent. Then the comments stopped. Then I lived in Pittsburgh and picked up that accent (a little) and people told me that I talk weird now or that I sound like I’m from Maryland (I’m in DC now).

          However, about a week ago, someone told me I have “such a cute Chicago accent.” So, yeah, these things change. :-)

  20. Ellen M.*

    Re: coffee shop meetings, it may be an ordinary thing in general and the employees have to go, but if this is an abusive supervisor *and* meeting individually at a coffee shop is unusual for that him/her, I’d be a bit apprehensive. When a boss who is not to be trusted does something new, it may be bad news for the employees: false accusations, trying to get one employee to badmouth another or some other manipulation. I’d be on guard.

  21. Michael*

    4) Definitely not. I’m hold a senior position at age 25 in a department of people where the next eldest person is in their mid-thirties and the ages just go up from there.

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