August 18, 2011

Overcoming Cross-Cultural Barriers During Interviews

Cross-cultural differences can lead inadvertently to false assessments of skilled immigrants in interview situations.

For example, open-ended or self-reflective questions (such as, “Tell me about a personal career success” or “Describe a time when you disagreed with a supervisor or manager”) are difficult for many immigrants who come from cultures that value teamwork over personal achievements, or that do not question authority figures.

Therefore, responses from skilled immigrants may lead employers to assess them as non-assertive or lacking in initiative, which may not be true.

The Centre for Intercultural Learning’s Country Insights allows users to search by country and region to find information on different countries’ culture, history and politics.

The Immigration and Refugee Board also has national documentation packages, issue papers and country fact sheets that will provide you with some background information on different countries, which can help you improve your cross-cultural understanding  you don’t inadvertently screen-out skilled immigrants during interviews.

Wikipedia’s list of countries links to more detailed information about each country and its history and culture.

Also, this cultural differences worksheet will help you identify how certain verbal and non-verbal behaviours affect you. Gaining this awareness help you manage your reactions and help you look beyond the behavior to the candidate’s skills and abilities.

Over-emphasizing Communication Skills

Some highly skilled positions do not require equally proficient communication skills. In these cases, you may consider conducting the interview in another language (by tapping the services of a staff member who speaks the candidate’s language or by using a translator familiar with the profession).

You may also offer post-hire language support to bridge the language differences of your new employees until their communication skills are further developed.

Additional Resources

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