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Linguistic Penalties and the Job Interview

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Shortlisted for the 2022 BAAL Book Prize
Shortlisted for the American Association of Applied Linguistics 2024 Book Prize

Linguistic Penalties and the Job Interview looks at a relatively untapped area of language and social life: the role of language and interaction in constructing the job interview and how this role produces disadvantage in the linguistically diverse communities of the western world. It relates the specific activity of the job interview to the wider field of institutional discourse and discusses relevant social theories in the light of the data.

The volume considers job interviews as key ‘gatekeeping’ encounters within the workplace from two main perspectives: interviews as extreme examples of social evaluation, showing how inferential processes of moment to moment talk in interaction can lead to the ‘small tragedies’ of everyday life; and interviews as a window into social inequality more generally. It illustrates interactional sociolinguistic and linguistic ethnography methodology through the job interview and workplace data and argues for the importance of practical relevance – applying sociolinguistic analysis to educational interventions.

Published: Jun 1, 2021

Book Contributors


Section Chapter Authors
Front Matter
List of Figures Celia Roberts
Acknowledgements Celia Roberts
Transcription Conventions Celia Roberts
Chapter 1
Introduction Celia Roberts
Chapter 2
Performing the Institutional Self Celia Roberts
Chapter 3
Researching Ethnic and Linguistic Penalties Celia Roberts
Chapter 4
Competence Models and Covert Linguistic Penalties Celia Roberts
Chapter 5
Institutional, Professional and Personal Discourses Celia Roberts
Chapter 6
Narrating the Self Through Professional Discourse Celia Roberts
Chapter 7
The Interview as a Joint Production Celia Roberts
Chapter 8
Decision Making: Institutional Evaluation, Local Practices and Writing the Interview Celia Roberts
Chapter 9
Migrant Candidates and the Linguistic Penalty Celia Roberts
Chapter 10
Knowledge and Experience Brought into the Interview Celia Roberts
Chapter 11
Linguistic Footprints Celia Roberts
End Matter
Endnotes Celia Roberts
Bibliography Celia Roberts
Topic Index Celia Roberts
Author Index Celia Roberts

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This book will be invaluable to scholars and students interested in areas such as cross-cultural communication, institutional discourse, language and identity, and applying (socio)linguistics to social inequalities. Roberts’ book demonstrates a qualitative, contextual linguistics that effectively brings to the surface problematic (though often well-intentioned) practices in the job interview, as well as the discourses that motivate them. The book offers an eye-opening and fresh look at the role of language in perpetuating a gatekeeping injustice from the perspective of a scholar who is uniquely positioned to honor foundational work in sociolinguistics while providing new layers of understanding.
TESOL Quarterly