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Interviewing Around the World: Part 1

You’ve done your company research, picked out your attire and scheduled a meeting time. Now, the only thing standing between you and a new job is the interview. But if you’re unfamiliar with the cultural code for interviewing in that particular country, there’s a lot more to think about in preparing for the conversation. Brandeis International Business School (IBS) Professor Andy Molinsky shares common cultural pitfalls to be mindful of:

Understand the Script for Small Talk
Small talk varies significantly across cultures. In the United States, casual, lighthearted small talk sets the stage for your conversation and delivers an initial impression to the interviewer. But that’s not true in every country. In Germany, for example, small talk isn’t typically part of the interview protocol, and you will likely be seen as odd and inappropriate if you engage a senior colleague in a discussion about the art on his wall or the commute to the office.   

Identify Proper Nonverbal Communication Cues
If you’re from the U.S., you might think that a big, friendly smile and consistent eye contact is the way to go in an interview situation, especially with someone senior to you. But if you’re in Korea, that’s the exact opposite of what you need to do. In South Korea, eye contact with a senior colleague would be a signal of great disrespect, which is also true in many other cultures with a high power distance between lower- and higher-level employees.

Eager to learn additional best practices for interviewing across cultures? Stay tuned for additional blog posts or check out Professor Molinsky’s website. Ready to launch your global career now? Check out the offerings of our Accelerated MA program in international economics and finance and learn how you can apply these learnings in the classroom and in the field. Priority deadline March 15th.

Andy Molinsky is a professor of International Management and Organizational Behavior at Brandeis International Business School. He is the author of Global Dexterity (HBR Press, 2013) and his new book Reach: A New Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, Rise to the Challenge, and Build Confidence (Penguin, 2017).

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