Cultural Barriers

Throughout the job search process, it is imperative to understand cultural differences between the U.S. and your home country. If these differences are not understood, an employer could misinterpret your actions or words, which could potential cost you a job offer. Here are some cultural barriers to consider.



Self Promotion
  • Assertiveness
  • Confidence in openly discussing goals and accomplishments
  • Follow-up with employers (telephone inquiries about status of application, thank-you notes)
  • Appropriate dress
  • Unless presented as part of group activity, citing accomplishments and skills is viewed as boastful, self-serving, and too individualistic
  • Asking employer directly about status of application is rude
Directness in Communication
  • Open and direct responses to questions
  • Eye contact with interviewer, relaxed posture, and other appropriate non-verbal behaviors
  • Eye contact, especially with persons of higher status (e.g. employers, interviewer) is disrespectful
  • Appearance of criticism must be avoided to save face
  • Personal descriptions of experiences, hobbies, strengths, weaknesses
  • Answers to questions related to personality (e.g. leadership style, problem-solving abilities)
  • Personal questions about likes, dislikes, etc., are considered an invasion of privacy and are discussed only with close friends and family
Career Self-Awareness
  • Demonstrating knowledge of self, career goals, and how they relate to the job
  • Discussion of long-range career plans
  • Jobs are assigned by government or family
  • Questions about role in a company indicates potential disloyalty
  • Company assigns work responsibilities
  • Individual must be flexible to accept whatever job becomes available
Individual Responsibility in Finding
  • Use of wide variety of resources for identifying jobs (friends, family, contacts, associations, career services, academic mentors, etc.)
  • Jobs are found through government or family
  • Dependency relationships in job search are fostered. One resource (e.g., academic adviser, employment agent) will find appropriate work for the job seeker
Informality in the Interview Process
  • Congenial interviewing environment that encourages openness, some joking, exchange of information
  • Sitting with person of higher status requires deference. The job applicant is very polite and does not ask any questions or provide information that may indicate lack of respect for interviewer’s position
  • Handshaking, touching, using first name, crossing legs, etc., are inappropriate
  • Arrive 5-15 minutes before appointment
  • Personal relationships are more important than time. Anywhere from 15 min. - 2 hrs. lateness from agreed meeting time is not insulting
Letters of Application and Resumes
  • One page, error-free, concise and attractive outline of relevant job experiences, skills, accomplishments, and academic credentials
  • Personalized to reflect each individual's qualifications and professional interests
  • Resumes are a detailed chronology of academic and formal work experiences and not a tool for self-promotion
Individual Equality
  • Race, sex, age should not affect interview relationship
  • Males are expected to assume dominance in interactions with females
  • Younger persons defer to older ones
Preparation About Organization
  • Obtain as much information as possible about job and organization before interview
  • Demonstrate awareness of organization in letter of application and during interview
  • Research about organization may indicate excessive and undesirable initiative or independence