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BBX: Brandeis Business Explains...(Part 2)

Interviewing Around the World: Part 2

A good interview brings you one step closer to the job you’ve always wanted, and solid preparation is key. Not only do you need to research the organization you’re meeting with, but you also need to consider the cultural factors at play – which is where every industry, company and country differs.

We covered the conditions of small talk and nonverbal cues in our first post in this series. With those in mind, we move on to additional factors to keep in mind from Brandeis International Business School (IBS) Professor Andy Molinsky:  

Determine the Appropriateness of Self-Promotion
In the United States, it’s OK – and even expected – that you toot your own horn, within reason. In fact, it communicates that you’re confident in your abilities and that you also know the proper “script” for an interviewing situation. But that is definitely not the case in cultures like China or Korea or India, where highlighting what you have personally achieved would be considered conceited and inappropriate, especially during an interview.  

Master the Cultural Script
Interview questions aren’t always what they seem. And if you don’t know the ultimate impression you need to create, it can cause misunderstandings. Take, for example, the seemingly innocuous question, “What’s your biggest weakness as a worker?” People familiar with the U.S. interviewing script know they must answer this question in a very particular way and mention a “weakness” that’s really more of a disguised strength, such as, “I am sometimes too much of a perfectionist.” For years I worked with Russian immigrant professionals in the United States who often answered this “weakness” question quite literally, as in, “I’m often late for work” or “I don’t like working for a boss.” While honest, these answers clearly don’t follow the American cultural script. Mastering the interview script – whether in the U.S. or elsewhere – is another critical aspect of the process.

Check out Professor Molinsky’s website for additional tips on mastering your ability to adapt career practices across cultures. Looking to put this information into action? Consider our Accelerated MA program, which enables qualified undergraduates to earn a master’s degree in international economics and finance and launch their global career in just one year after completing their bachelor’s. Priority application deadline is on 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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