Tips for Successfully Interviewing Across Cultures

Your wanderlust has inspired you to apply for jobs around the world and you’ve got a few interviews scheduled in some really exciting locations. You know that to ace an interview you need to prepare; however, this becomes difficult when you aren’t familiar with the culture.

Cultural differences can play a role in interview expectations. From appropriate hand gestures to attire expectations, it can be difficult to know just how to put your best foot forward. To ensure you make a positive first impression, it’s smart to dig in and do some research.

Start by conducting an online search about the culture where the company is located. You may discover some articles and job board conversations that can give you a head start in better understanding what’s expected. If you know someone with that cultural background, reach out and inquire about what you should know. You should also consider working with an expert career coach who can provide extensive insight into what you should and shouldn’t do.

Some things to consider as you prepare include:

Appearance: Knowing how to dress for cross-cultural interviews can be tricky. Some cultures assume sophisticated attire reflects a sophisticated skill set. In other cultures, there may be a thin line between dressing well and too well, meaning your outfit might reflect an elitist attitude.

Body language: Knowing how to change your body language to blend better with different cultural expectations can be difficult, but it can make or break an interview. For example, in many Asian countries, extended direct eye contact is inappropriate and considered disrespectful. This is in stark contrast to interviewing in the United States, where eye contact is a must to show confidence and professionalism during a job interview.

Interaction: How you speak and present your experience for a typical American interview may be much different from what is expected across the globe. Some cultures expect you to sell yourself. Others may expect a more passive or inquisitive style from candidates. Do your research and when in doubt, follow the lead of the interviewer.

Formality: An interview is like a test and you should take it seriously. Keep in mind some cultures expect very formal interactions during the interview, while others are fine with a more easygoing conversation that reveals glimmers of your personality. Know what the culture, company or industry calls for before the interview begins.

Questions: Different cultures may introduce new questions into the interview mix that you may not have heard before. For example, some interviewers may focus solely on experience, asking extensively about your achievements. Others may care less about experience and really just want to focus on soft skills or how you fit into the corporate culture. Remember, different countries don’t have the same laws regulating illegal interview questions, so don’t let questions about marital status or religion catch you off guard.

It can be thrilling to dream about starting a new job in a different country. If you do your research and are well prepared, you’re sure to master any interview that comes your way. In due time, you’ll find a job that’s the perfect fit for your next big adventure.

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