Publication Details

Barrett, M. (2015). Talking yourself into work: insights from sociolinguistics about gender and the employment interview. In A. Broadbridge & S. Fielden (Eds.), Handbook of Gendered Careers in Management: Getting In, Getting On, Getting Out (pp. 105-122). Cheltenham (UK): Edward Elgar Publishing.


This chapter gives a brief critical history of three phases of linguistic research into gender and language: an essentialist phase, a constructionist phase and a post-structuralist phase. It pays particular attention to the post-structuralist phase, which focuses on how meaning is actively constructed by both parties to a speech event such as a conversation, and the consequences of particular judgements by the more powerful participants, especially in 'gate-keeping' conversations such as job interviews. We pay particular attention to research into naturally occurring conversations, which employs conversation analysis (CA), an interactional sociolinguistics technique. Campbell and Roberts's (2007) CAbased study of intercultural employment interviews yielded complex, detailed understandings about how candidates' speech led to favourable or unfavourable assessments of them during the employment interview. In this chapter we re-analyse Campbell and Roberts's data from a gender perspective and find that some aspects of what is often stereotypically considered 'women's language' - aspects that conflict with the 'rules' of interview performance - are likely to lead to unfavourable assessments of women as potential employees. This strongly suggests that some types of interview interaction that are normative for women, for example, high levels of frankness, high levels of personal disclosure and narrativized speech, are likely to act to women's disadvantage when they attempt to 'get in' to organizations. The chapter concludes with a summary of the implications of the re-analysis for women's entry into the world of paid work, including suggestions about how interviewees and interviewers can overcome these unfavourable and unfounded judgements.