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Intercultural Communication and Inclusive Leadership Coaching | Numinos Coaching


23 May 2024
Tips to excel in cross-cultural interview

Mastering Cross-Cultural Interviews: 5 Tips for International Job Seekers

Preparing for a cross-cultural interview can be an intimidating process, but with the right mindset and preparation, you can excel in the interview and showcase your ability to work effectively in a diverse environment.


While the nerves are understandable, it's crucial to remember that recruiters from different countries often prioritize different traits and behaviors. Understanding these cultural nuances can significantly impact your success in the interview room.


For example, in Finland, demonstrating active listening and collaborative skills can significantly boost your chances. Referring to what another candidate has just said, such as "I agree somewhat with what Tanja just said, but I think we should also consider..." showcases your ability to engage with others' ideas. This not only demonstrates active listening but also allows space for diverse perspectives to be heard. However, it's essential to avoid interrupting or speaking loudly, as this may be perceived as rude.


In contrast, in Mexico, assertiveness and expressiveness are often valued. Interrupting or speaking loudly to ensure your voice is heard may be interpreted as signs of confidence rather than rudeness. In Mexican culture, interruptions are more accepted, and displaying strong emotions is commonplace during conversations.


So let's talk about in more detail how to prepare for an interview as an international job seeker to tackle those cultural challenges. 


Be Mindful of Your Body Language


When preparing for a cross-cultural interview, one crucial aspect to consider is your body language. Body language plays a significant role in how we communicate, and different cultures may interpret gestures differently, as mentioned earlier. For example, in some cultures, maintaining direct eye contact is seen as a sign of respect and attentiveness, while in others, it may be considered disrespectful or confrontational. Thus, it is important to gauge the interviewer's comfort level and adjust your eye contact accordingly.


For example, In Japan, waiting for your turn to speak until you're addressed is viewed as respectful and courteous. However, in the USA, this behavior could be misinterpreted as shyness, especially if you avoid eye contact. American interviewers often expect candidates to engage in the conversation proactively, so don't hesitate to speak up and make eye contact to demonstrate confidence and assertiveness.


Similarly, being aware of gestures and physical proximity is crucial. Some cultures value a more reserved and formal approach, while others may appreciate a warmer and more expressive demeanor. Adapting your posture, hand gestures, and facial expressions can also help to convey engagement and understanding.


Ultimately, studying and respecting the cultural norms of the interviewer can significantly enhance your chances of making a positive impression in a cross-cultural interview.


Read more about how to flex your body language in this blog post. 


Adapting Your Body Language in a Remote Setting


Some of the cross-cultural interviews take place in an online setting, and you have likely never even visited the country where you are applying to work. But, there are several ways to adapt your body language and communication style effectively and showcase your cultural awareness.

Firstly, research and learn about the cultural norms and customs of the interviewer's culture beforehand. This will help you understand their expectations and tailor your approach accordingly to the cultural differences.


Secondly, ensure that your technology is set up properly. Since the interview takes place virtually, it's important to ensure that your webcam captures you in a well-lit and distraction-free environment. Test your audio and video beforehand to avoid any interruptions or technical issues during the interview.


Often international job seeker will do a cross-cultural interview remotely


Thirdly, be mindful of speaking clearly and enunciating your words to overcome potential language barriers. Speak at a moderate pace to allow the interviewer to follow along and provide time for translation if necessary. This is especially important if you are a native speaker of the language. Also, pay attention to the tone of voice, since in a remote cross-cultural setting, your voice conveys most of the emotions. 


Additionally, using hand gestures sparingly and purposefully can help emphasize key points, but be cautious not to overdo it in a way that may appear distracting on screen. Be attentive to the interviewer's cues and adapt your body language accordingly. For example, if the interviewer is more reserved, follow their lead and maintain a more formal and reserved posture.


Lastly, be patient and adaptable, understanding that there may be cultural differences in communication styles and expectations that require flexibility and understanding.


5 Tips for Success in Cross-Cultural Interview Preparation


1. Research the Company and Culture


Before the interview, take the time to research the company and understand its culture. This will not only help you prepare for questions about the company but also give you insight into the values and beliefs that are important to the organization.


This information can help you anticipate whether the focus will be on task-oriented questions, which assess your skills and qualifications for the role, or relationship-oriented questions which focus more on how you work in a team, handle conflict, or demonstrate adaptability.


Read more about how coming from an individual or collectivist culture influences your worldview. 


Furthermore, researching the interviewer specifically can offer valuable insights. Check their LinkedIn profile, professional background, and any articles or interviews they may have published. Pay attention to their management style, areas of expertise, or any past projects they have been involved in. This can provide you with a sense of their preferred interview approach and the types of questions they tend to ask.


By gathering this knowledge, you can better prepare and tailor your responses during the interview. If you anticipate task-oriented questions, ensure you showcase your relevant skills, accomplishments, and qualifications. Conversely, if relationship-oriented questions are likely, be prepared to highlight instances where you successfully collaborated, supported colleagues, or built strong working relationships.


2. Adapting to Cultural Expectations


During the interview, it's important to be respectful of the interviewer's cultural background and to demonstrate cultural sensitivity. This may involve adapting your communication style, being mindful of personal space boundaries and dress code, and showing an interest in the interviewer's culture and experiences.


The key to acing an international job interview lies in adapting to the cultural expectations of the interviewer. Pay attention to their non-verbal cues, such as eye contact, gestures, smiles, and posture. Mirroring these behaviors can help you establish rapport and convey your understanding of their cultural norms.


3. Emphasize Your Cross-Cultural Skills


Highlight your cross-cultural skills and experiences during the interview. This could include previous work or travel experiences in different countries, language skills, or the ability to work effectively with diverse teams.


Share specific examples of how you’ve navigated cultural differences in professional settings. Discuss any challenges you faced and how you overcame them, focusing on your adaptability and problem-solving skills. Mention any international projects you’ve been part of and how you successfully collaborated with colleagues from various cultural backgrounds.


If you’ve acquired language skills, highlight your proficiency and how it has helped you in past roles. Being able to communicate in multiple languages is a valuable asset that shows your dedication to engaging with different cultures.


Additionally, if you’ve participated in cultural training programs or workshops, mention these experiences. Explain how these programs have equipped you with the knowledge and tools to interact effectively in a global workplace.


4. Be Open-Minded and Flexible


In a cross-cultural interview, it's important to approach the conversation with an open mind and a willingness to learn. Be prepared to adapt to cultural norms and be open to new experiences and perspectives. Showing a flexible attitude will demonstrate your ability to work effectively in a diverse environment.


Additionally, be mindful of the level of small talk your interviewer engages in. In some cultures, such as the USA, starting the interview with a casual conversation about topics like the weather indicates a preference for a bit of chitchat. Use these cues as an opportunity to connect with your interviewer on a personal level and showcase your interpersonal skills.


5. Ask Questions


Don't be afraid to ask questions during the interview. This shows your interest in the company and culture and allows you to learn more about what it's like to work in a cross-cultural environment. Asking thoughtful questions can also help you build rapport with the interviewer.



By following these tips and preparing effectively for a cross-cultural interview, you can demonstrate your ability to work effectively in diverse environments and increase your chances of success in the interview process.


So, before your next interview, take the time to research and prepare, and remember: it's not just what you say but how you say it that matters. Good luck!


Want to build up your self-awareness to ace those interview questions? Check out the Working Style and Communication Style Analysis

Tanja is a Certified Intercultural Communication Coach and an expert on Work Style Analysis (WSA). With a Master's Degree in Business Administration, specializing in Leadership and People Management, she helps companies and assists leaders in comprehending cultural dimensions and leveraging existing cultural differences to create powerful organizational strengths.

About the Author

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