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Krannert Professional Development Center
Analytical Insight, Global Leaders

Common Cultural Barriers Chart

 U.S. Employer ExpectationsPotentially Conflicting Values in Other Cultures
1. Self-Promotion
  • Assertiveness
  • Confidence in openly discussing goals and accomplishments
  • Follow-up with Employers (telephone inquiries about status of application, thank you notes)
  • Appropriate dress
  • High standards of personal hygiene
  • Unless presented as part of group activity, citing accomplishments maybe viewed as boastful, self-serving, and too individualistic
  • Asking employer directly about status of application may be rude
2. Directness in Communication
  • Open and direct responses to questions
  • Eye contact with Interviewer, relaxed posture, and other appropriate nonverbal behavior
  • Eye contact, especially with persons of higher status (e.g. employer, interviewer) may be disrespectful
  • Appearance of criticism must be avoided in order to save face
3. Self-Disclosure
  • Personal descriptions of experiences, hobbies, strengths, weaknesses
  • Answers to questions related to personality (e.g., leadership style, problem-solving abilities)
  • Personal questions about likes, dislikes, etc. may be considered an invasion of privacy and discussed only with close friends and family
4. Career Self-Awareness
  • Demonstrating knowledge of self, career goals, and how they relate to the job
  • Jobs may be assigned by government or family
  • Questions about role in a company may indicate potential disloyalty
  • Company assigns work responsibilities
  • Individual must be flexible to accept whatever job becomes available
5. Individual Responsibility in Finding Employment
  • Use of wide variety of resources for identifying jobs (friends, family contacts, associations, career services, mentors, etc.)
  • Networking
  • Jobs may be found through government or family
  • Dependency relationships in job search may be fostered. One resource (e.g., academic advisor, employment agent) may find appropriate work for the job seeker
6. Informality in the Interview Process
  • Congenial interviewing environment that encourages openness, some joking, exchange of information
  • Sitting with person of higher status may require deference. The job applicant is very polite and does not ask any questions or provide information that may indicate lack of respect for interviewer's position
  • Handshaking, touching, using first name, crossing legs, etc. may be inappropriate
7. Punctuality
  • Arrive 5-10 minutes before appointment
  • Personal relationships may be more important than time
  • Anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours late from agreed meeting time may not be inappropriate
8. Effective Letters of Application and Resumes
  • One page, error-free, concise and attractive outline of relevant job experiences, skills, accomplishments, and academic credentials
  • Personalized to reflect each individual's qualifications and professional interests
  • Resumes are detailed chronology of academic and formal work experiences and not a tool for self-promotion
9. Individual Equality
  • Race, sex, age should not affect interview relationship
  • Men may be expected to assume dominance in interactions with women
  • Younger persons defer to older ones
10. Preparation about Organization
  • Obtain as much information as possible about job and organization before interview
  • Demonstrate awareness of organization in letter of application and during interview
  • Research about organization may indicate excessive and undesirable initiative or independence
Goodman, A.P., J.A. Hartt, M.K. Pennington, K.P. Terrell "International Students and the Job Search", Journal of Career Planning & Employment, Summer, 1988.
The above factors are not indigenous to one particular society but represent a cross-section of countries and continents.