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U.S. cultural attitudes and behaviors related to job hunting may affect your job search. Knowing some of the most common cultural barriers to the job search can help you to overcome them.

Self-Promotion

  • You must be confident in discussing your goals and accomplishments, and assertive in making your case, initiating calls, and following up with all contacts. 
  • Employers like to hear about how you work in a team environment, but they really want to know how you contributed as an individual to the success of the group.

Directness in Communication

  • In business, people expect open and direct questions and answers, as well as a firm handshake, eye contact, and a confident but relaxed posture.
  • If these are uncomfortable for you, practice with American friends.

Self-Disclosure

  • Many cultures consider personal questions about likes and dislikes or strengths and weaknesses as an invasion of privacy by all except family and close friends. 
  • However, you will probably be asked to disclose about your hobbies, and such things as your leadership style and problem-solving abilities in an interview.
  • Preparation should enable you to do this more comfortably.

Career Self-Awareness

Individual Responsibility in Finding Employment

  • Although personal and professional networks are very important in finding jobs in the U.S., in general, you must create them instead of family members doing this for you, as may be the case in your culture.
  • So as you already know, you have to put great effort into generating a wide variety of resources in order to identify multiple job possibilities. We offer a variety of tips on how to expand your network. If it’s any consolation, this comes as a surprise to most Americans, too.

Language Barriers

  • It is important to practice interviewing with people.
  • If you do not speak English well, you need to practice seriously and regularly with English-speaking friends, with language learning software, in classes, or with a tutor.
  • Also make sure that your resume is a one page, concise, error-free, attractive outline of relevant job experiences, skills, accomplishments, and academic credentials.

Two-Way Stereotypes

  • Stereotypes that limit the objectivity of both interviewers and interviewees are almost inevitable.
  • You can best deal with this issue by examining your own stereotypes of Americans, as well as of the particular work culture you are interviewing for, and by imagining what the stereotypes of the potential employer toward you might be.
  • Then, when you communicate, try to indirectly counter questions or actions, or in some cases, confront them directly in your cover letter or the interview. 
  • You will need to have a convincing argument for wanting to remain in the U.S. for career reasons.
  • Furthermore, if you are seeking practical training only, you will have to counter the employer’s bias against hiring and training you for just a year. There is no obvious response beyond assuring them that you will learn quickly and would like to stay longer, and that the INS process is manageable.
  • Finally, it is always a good strategy to stress both your unique strengths, qualities, and the special contribution you can make because of your international background.

Informality

  • While the actual interview process is formal, most of the time employers will encourage openness, some joking, and exchange of information to put you at ease.

Punctuality

  • Make sure to arrive 5-15 minutes before your appointment.
  • Arriving later will be considered rude and will send an indirect message to your interviewer that you are not taking your interview seriously.

Additional Resources

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