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BBX: Brandeis Business Explains...(Part 3)

Interviewing Around the World: Part 3

With tips in hand from Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, you’re just about ready to tackle international interviews like a pro. Round out your skills and perspective with this final set of common cultural pitfalls to be aware of, from Brandeis International Business School (IBS) Professor Andy Molinsky:

Dress the Part
You’ve probably heard the expression, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Well, the same holds true for dress and appearance. It’s critical to dress and look “like the Romans” if you want to be successful. And these elements of an interview can differ widely across cultures. Certain cultures are more formal than others in terms of dress and overall look. For example, the use of heavy perfume or a lack of dental hygiene can vary in importance across cultures. In the United States, they can weigh heavily on the way you are perceived. And company culture matters, too. At an IT company with a very casual dress code, for example, you could appear overambitious – or even inappropriate – if you wear a full suit to an interview. So on top of everything else, make sure you look the part to be successful at a particular company.

Place Appropriate Value on Interview Importance
Another essential difference in interviews across cultures is the extent to which they matter in the first place. In some cultures, an interview is a required formality as part of the hiring process but really not essential to secure the job, and what happens in the interview carries relatively little weight (unless you act wildly inappropriately). In the United States, however, interviews are a critical – perhaps the most critical – part of the job search. Being able to look and sound the part and make a personal connection with an interviewer is absolutely essential in the U.S., and without the cultural skills and savvy to do so, you can be left out in the cold – perfectly qualified for a particular position, but with little chance of a follow-up meeting.  

It’s never easy to interview in a culture different from your own. But it’s also not rocket science. If you’re mindful of these key trip wires, you’ll master this critical skill in no time and be well on your way to making yourself truly World Ready. Ready to take the next step? Check out the academic programs at Brandeis International Business School (IBS), including the new Accelerated MA for undergraduate students studying economics.

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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