An interviewer who makes decisions based only on his own cultural ideas may miss out on talented applicants who may not fit into his framework. Areas for miscommunication in the interview process include:
Group v individual orientation
American culture focuses on the individual. An interviewee is expected to “sell” herself by stressing individual, quantifiable achievements, as well as show enthusiasm and energy. For group-oriented cultures, these behaviors are seen as undesirable. Credit for success goes to the team, not the individual— personal ambition and self-promotion are not celebrated. Interviewees from group oriented cultures may use “we” instead of “I” when discussing successes. To get past “we” answers, the interviewer should ask what his specific role was in the team’s accomplishments.
Assertive v. passive behavior
Americans take an active and assertive role in the interview process, which is seen as a sign of confidence. Hispanic, African, and Asian cultures tend to be more passive in interviews, taking the lead from the person in power—the interviewer. The interviewee may only provide answers to questions asked, not initiate topics or questions. In situations like this, the interviewer should probe with open- ended questions that facilitate conversation for additional information.
This includes tone of voice and body language. Americans expect the interviewee to make eye contact, give a firm handshake, and show confidence, energy and enthusiasm. Some cultures believe it is inappropriate to maintain eye contact and overtly express emotions. A monotone voice, which for some cultures is a sign of stability and seriousness, may be seen by the interviewer as dull or unenthusiastic. Be careful not to judge someone by their accent, which is no measure of their ability, dedication or intellect.