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I recently started looking for a new IT position and have been getting calls from recruiters left and right. Many of these recruiters are Indian and have accents. Normally, this isn't an issue as I have spent many years working with Indians and I'm quite comfortable with their accents. However, I just received a voicemail from am Indian recruiter and I could barely make out some of the conversation due to his thick accent. This isn't the first time it has happened either.

So, what is the most polite way of telling someone that you can't understand someone due to their accent? Should you ask to speak with someone else, or by email? Obviously, I don't want to insult anyone, but I don't want to waste time on the phone when I clearly have trouble understanding them.

marked as duplicate by gnat, Jim G., Chris E, IDrinkandIKnowThings, Dan Pichelman Jun 23 '16 at 21:43

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    Agreeing with what @Amy Blankenship said earlier in a deleted comment, I would be highly cautious in working with these people. Though my past experience, I found a large number to be unprofessional and dishonest. – Anthony Sep 22 '15 at 18:36
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    @Anthony I'll add that I'd expect most reliable and experienced international recruiters to have an excellent grasp of English and a very light or neutral accent due to years of speaking it professionally. – Lilienthal Sep 22 '15 at 21:49
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There's nothing wrong with simply stating:

"I'm sorry. I definitely don't mean to be rude, but I'm just having a very hard time understanding you over the phone. Would it be possible if we could switch to e-mail?"

There is always going to be a chance that you are going to offend the Recruiter. They will absolutely get over it if they're a professional(which you should assume they are), but often times people are fairly sensitive about their most noticeable short-comings. Even so it's either you point it out or just grit your teeth and try to make what sense out of it you can. Also, keep in mind that not being able to comprehend what someone is saying can reflect poorly on you when you have to ask them to repeat questions. It can sound like you're stalling for time and that you're not as quick as you should be.

I would rather be direct and have the possibility of a job opportunity than waste time on a conversation where I sound like a fool because I can't understand what's being discussed. Simply put, the benefits of pointing out the accent barrier outweigh the negatives, and the best way to do so is just to be polite and upfront about it.

  • Mostly, non native English speakers will write emails with improper construction of sentences. The OP should be aware of it and not expect the email to say what the interviewer actually wanted to say. – happybuddha Sep 23 '15 at 0:01
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Politely ask to switch the conversation to e-mail format because of the language barriers.

He should obviously be aware that his accent could be hard to understand for some.

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