Understanding Global Job Interviews and Cultural Norms

Seeking a job and interviewing for a global company is easier because of technology like the Internet and online video conferencing. Western-style employment practices, sparked especially by American-based multinationals, are narrowing variances in how candidates are interviewed and evaluated in many countries. Studies show that employers everywhere want all job seekers to have technical knowledge in their fields, and they look for cross-cultural adaptability for those who are foreign-born.

Employers in workplaces ranging from the United States to India, and the United Arab Emirates to South Africa, want you to show them that you can competently do the jobs, and preferably have done the jobs, that they’re trying to fill.

Looking at remaining cultural norms

Although contrasting interviewing styles are in decline, that trend doesn’t mean they’ve disappeared entirely. They haven’t. Following are some examples of cultural differences in the business climate that still exist today:

  • Business attire. Although business wear is the uniform for professional candidates interviewing in India, a few women continue to apply for work wearing a native form of dress, the sari. So going with the flow of cultural expectations in a country other than your own can still be a tense, waiting-to-exhale experience.

  • Handshakes. In the United States, a healthy grip as you pump hands is considered a friendly and straightforward gesture for women as well as men. But in Saudi Arabia, unmarried men and women do not touch, a cultural issue that presents a dilemma for a Saudi woman candidate being interviewed by a male in America. Handshaking isn’t a big problem for women in Muslim and many other non-Western countries because in those places it’s not a basic part of a job interview.

  • Making eye contact. When interviewing in the United States, you’re expected to make a lot of eye contact showing honesty and sincerity; failure to look your interviewer in the eye can be perceived as a sign that you are evasive or lying. In Latin America, too much eye contact may suggest a lack of respect or a challenge to authority.

If you’re a professional worker who hopes to add far-off places to your resume, it’s never too early to begin planning your moves. There’s plenty to plan. Aside from the myriad considerations stretching from education and experience qualifications to legal documents allowing you to join another nation’s workforce, think through what you must do to convince a foreign interviewer that you “get” the host country’s culture and that you fit right in.

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