As globalization begins to characterize the modern business world, the requirements for professionals operating in this new internationalized business world begin to change.
It’s no surprise then that research from the British Council in partnership with Booz Allen Hamilton and Ipsos Public Affairs shows that employers are beginning to value inter-cultural skills as highly as experience and qualifications in employees.
International (and domestic recruiters even) must take heed as they will need to develop a culturally adaptable interview style so they can reliably assess candidates from different cultures, while taking into account culture-based communication and personality characteristics.
Below I have set out five tips on how to do this based on the research white paper, Working on Common Cross-Cultural Challenges.
1. Be aware of differing attitudes toward completing tasks
When asking behavioral questions related to completing tasks, if you are coming from a European-American perspective, a more task-orientated approach may be a sign of effectiveness. This means focusing on getting tasks done first, during a shared project, and letting relationships develop later.
However, if you are interviewing in Asian or Hispanic cultures you’ll find that the cultural norm is about developing relationships at the start of a shared project, placing an emphasis on task completion at the end. Both approaches are equally valid and both result in the work being done; so, as a culturally sensitive interviewer, you would need to be able to appreciate both culturally distinct but effective styles of working.
2. Be sensitive to cultural differences to conflict resolution
It is common in interviews to assess a candidate’s ability to resolve conflict, yet different cultures have different preferred styles of doing this, which may be equally as valid. For example, in the U.S., conflict is dealt with face to face but in many Eastern countries open conflict can be viewed as embarrassing or demeaning and conflict is often resolved quietly, even with a written exchange. As a culturally adaptable interviewer you may need to allow for these culturally distinct but equally valid styles of resolving conflict.
3. Be aware of different attitudes to disclosure
In some cultures it is not the norm to be frank and honest about the emotions and reasons that underpin a conflict or difference of opinion. Probing questions that may seem quite normal in the U.S., like, “What was the reason for the conflict? What part did you play in the conflict? How did the conflict play out?” could seem very intrusive to some cultures. So, try and be aware of different attitudes toward disclosure when designing and asking such interview questions.
4. Be mindful of different approaches to decision making
Decision making processes vary by culture. For example, in the U.S. decision making responsibility is more often delegated down the line. Yet, in many Southern European and Latin American countries, there is a tendency to keep a hold of decision making responsibilities. Also, in the U.S., group decisions are made by majority rule, yet in Japanese cultures consensus is the preferred way to come to a group decision. When asking candidates about their role in decision making you need to be aware that the expectations of their own role in making decisions may be determined by their culture – and they may be well able to adapt to a different decision-making culture.
5. Be respectful of different approaches to acquiring knowledge
European cultures tend to place value on knowledge acquired through cognitive or empirical means, whereas African cultures have a preference for affective ways of learning including, rhythm and symbolic imagery. Asian cultures consider knowledge derived from striving toward transcendence to be valid. Clearly, when interviewing in different cultures and inquiring about their personal development experiences be aware that they could differ to approaches that you may be familiar with.