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Cultural attitudes and behaviors related to job hunting may affect your job search in the United States, however, knowing some of the most common cultural barriers can help you overcome them.

Self-Promotion

  • Be confident in discussing your goals and accomplishments, as well as assertive in making your case, initiating calls, and following up with contacts. 
  • Employers like to hear about how you work in a team environment, however 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. Practice with American friends if these are uncomfortable for you.

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 questions of this nature are often asked in American interviews.
  • You will probably be asked to disclose about your hobbies, as well as things such as your leadership style and problem-solving abilities in an interview. Preparation should enable you to do this more comfortably.

Career Self-Awareness

  • You will be expected to demonstrate knowledge of yourself, your career goals, and how they relate to the job in American interviews.
  • Informational interviewing with professionals in fields that interest you and self-assessment activities will help you prepare for this.

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.
  • You must put a 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.

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.
  • 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. Examine your own sterotypes of Americans, as well as of the particular work culture you are interviewing for, and imagine what the stereotypes of the potential employer might have towards you.
  • Try to indirectly counter questions or actions, or in some cases, confront them directly in your cover letter or the interview to combat these sterotypes. 
  • If you are not a U.S. citizen, you will need to have a convincing argument for wanting to remain in the country for career reasons.
  • If you are seeking practical training only, you will have to counter the employer’s bias against hiring and training you for a short amount of time. 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.
  • Stress your unique strengths and qualities, as well as the special contribution you will make because of your international background.

Informality

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

Punctuality

  • Make sure to arrive 15 minutes before your interview.
  • Arriving late is 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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