Interviewing People From Different Cultures

Feb 21 2017

United Nations FlagsInterviewing candidates from different cultures can be a challenge and it’s difficult when someone doesn’t behave in a way that’s customary for most interviews. Differences in communication style and overall expectations can present a barrier when you’re screening for someone who has a specific skill set, but will also need to interact with team members and clients in a way that makes everyone feel comfortable. Here is our advice on how to overcome a few common problems you might encounter when interviewing people from different cultures:

First, define the role and outline the job’s requirements from a technical and communication standpoint. Determine whether your employee will be required to sit at a desk programming all day, or whether they’ll need to be out talking to employees, troubleshooting problems, and communicating with customers. The level of communication required will dictate how lenient you can be with someone who either has an extremely thick accent, or who may struggle to build rapport with people. If you’re looking for someone to work in an overseas market, hiring a candidate specifically from that culture can be a real asset and typically aids in your ability to build relationships and grow business in those areas.

Evaluate how your candidate likes to receive feedback and how he or she is likely to take feedback. Newly hired employees always have to work extra hard to learn the lay of the land in a new organization. As a foreigner, it can be difficult to grasp certain aspects of office culture and please people who have preconceived expectations. Discuss this with your candidate and explain the manner in which people are accustomed to receiving information.

Make sure your candidate understands the importance of being able to speak about specific experience and previous successes. Often foreign candidates operate under the assumption that because it’s on their resume, it’s enough. We don’t really function that way in America. Most employers want to hear about what their candidates did in previous roles and how they will be able to apply those skills to be successful in a new role. Sometimes foreigners can be reluctant to elaborate and won’t brag about their accomplishments. This can often be confused for a lack of confidence or an inability to sell you on their candidacy.

To overcome some of these common roadblocks, consider asking more situational and behavioral questions when interviewing people from different cultural backgrounds. Here are a few good examples of questions to ask:

“Tell me about a time when someone came to you with a problem near the end of the day. How did your respond?”

“How would you help a customer who was having a difficult time logging into his account? What would you say?”

“Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with one of your colleagues. What happened and how was it resolved?”

Situational questions give your candidate the opportunity to show you how they’d handle a real-life scenario on the job and they help you understand if their approach is one that would be helpful or problematic.


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