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Tips for Job Interviewing Across Cultures

When interviewing for a job across the globe, you should be aware of cultural differences that exist today. To jump-start your understanding of cross-cultural interviewing norms, here are generalized observations about conditions you may encounter in far-off interviews.

The following tips offer a starting point for your further research aimed at understanding specific mores in individual nations, regions of the country, and individual companies:

  • Important protocol variations: Find out in advance how much interviewing formality to generally expect in a particular nation before moving on to pinpoint research about the region and the company. The tone of the interview may be more or less formal than you would expect at home. Joking in an interview is risky in your own country but in another land you may seriously offend if the interviewer interprets your humor as a sign that you won’t take the work seriously or that you’re a superficial clown.

  • Personal questions and privacy: In the United States, laws discourage privacy-penetrating questioning that may lead to discrimination. However, employers in a number of nations have no qualms or legal restrictions about asking personal questions of candidates. Understand in advance that you may be expected to answer questions about your age, health, or marital status.

  • Critical language skills: Language fluency is a main component of cross-cultural adaptability for professional employees. Inability to speak the language or understand accents is going to prove an almost insurmountable obstacle to being hired. Consider taking lessons to improve you language skills before applying for professional jobs.

    English is the language of international commerce and you may be able to stick with it to be hired in some countries, but, in most cases, you’ll get greater approval by speaking the local language, bad grammar and mispronounced words notwithstanding.

  • Self-promotion American style: Americans are taught to “sell” not tell when interviewing for employment, to emphasize accomplishments and minimize shortcomings. But in some cultures, being too assertive in tooting your own horn is perceived as being nervy, brash, and brazen. In those cultures that prefer an understated performance, employers may want you to volunteer only the skeleton facts of your education and work history, such as previous schools, previous employers, years of employment, job titles and responsibilities.

  • Appropriate dress and grooming: Although local conventions in dress and appearance continue to impact how candidates dress for interviews in a number of countries, most professionals now dress in suits or other business wear. The default mode is conservative. Employers in fashion-conscious European nations, such as France, Spain, and Italy, especially appreciate interview attire that shows business savvy and worldliness.

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