Cultural Differences

As students consider employment or experiences in the U.S. or abroad, it is helpful to understand some of the unique values or cultural implications of the workplace. Keep in mind that much of the information below is based on stereotypes and may not be indicative of all cultures.

1Self-Promotion Expected

Common U.S. Employer Expectations

  • Assertiveness
  • Talk openly and confidently about skills, strengths, and past accomplishments
  • Openly discuss future goals and interest in advancement

Values Common in Other Countries

  • Sharing specific skills, strengths and accomplishments seen as boastful
  • Focusing on individual experiences and goals seen as too individualistic

2Direct Communication

Common U.S. Employer Expectations

  • Open and direct responses to questions are expected
  • Eye contact with interviewer, relaxed posture and other appropriate non-verbal behavior

Values Common in Other Cultures

  • Questions are often answered vaguely and constructive criticism is avoided even if feedback is requested
  • Eye contact, especially with person of higher status (e.g. employer, interviewer) is disrespectful
  • Appearance of criticism must be avoided to “save face” 

3Body Language

Common U.S. Employer Expectations

  • Firm hand shake shows confidence
  • Direct eye contact is expected and is seen to show honesty and confidence
  • Crossing legs is common

Values Common in Other Countries

  • Light/limp handshake may be more common
  • Handshakes/touching may be inappropriate between men and women
  • Direct eye contact may be seen as disrespectful, rude or a sign of physical attraction
  • Crossing legs and/or showing the soles of your shoes may be perceived as rude

4Informality and Self Disclosure

Common U.S. Employer Expectations

  • Questions regarding likes, dislikes and hobbies are not unusual
  • Interviews may be conversational and include humor or joking
  • First names are sometimes used

Values Common in Other Countries

  • Questions about likes, dislikes or hobbies would be seen as an invasion of privacy/inappropriate
  • Interviews are more formal and candidates would show much respect to interviewer
  • Using first names would be too informal

5Career Plans and Direction

Common U.S. Employer Expectations

  • Candidates are expected to be passionate about the field and why they chose it
  • Short term and long term career goals should be clearly articulated by the candidate
  • Candidates may be able to request specific job responsibilities they most enjoy

Values Common in Other Countries

  • Job seekers may have chosen profession due to family or government expectations
  • Career goals are defined by company and community needs, not individual preferences
  • Company or manager assign work tasks and individual must accept what is available/assigned

6Individual Responsibility in Job Search

Common U.S. Employer Expectations

  • Job seekers are responsible for finding positions on their own and may use many resources to aide this including the online tools, family, friends, faculty, networking contacts, career services, etc.

Values Common in Other Countries

  • Family and/or government may assign you to jobs
  • Someone may act as an agent to “place” candidates into a job

7Time Orientation

Common U.S. Employer Expectations

  • Candidates are expected to arrive for interviews 5-15 minutes before the start time
  • Being late would been seen negatively by the employer

Values Common in Other Countries

  • Significant lateness from scheduled meeting time is not uncommon
  • Relationships are seen as more important than timeliness

8Resumes

Common U.S. Employer Expectations

  • Resumes are typically 1-2 pages and tailored to the specific job and or field
  • Date of birth, social security number, marital status, gender and photos would never be included

Values Common in Other Countries

  • Resumes are often called Curriculum Vitae (CV) and often include a more comprehensive overview of all experience and education
  • Personal data is more commonly included in the resume

9Company Research and Questions

Common U.S. Employer Expectations

  • Candidates are expected to research the company thoroughly prior to the interview
  • Questions of the employer during the interview are expected and show genuine interest

Values Common in Other Countries

  • Researching the company before the interview may indicate excessive interest
  • Asking questions during the interview may be seen as disrespectful

10Follow Up

Common U.S. Employer Expectations

  • Following up after interviews via thank you notes and calls or emails to determine the status of an application is considered appropriately assertive

Values Common in Other Countries

  • Asking an employer about the status of a job application would be seen as rude

11Equality

Common U.S. Employer Expectations

  • Age, race, gender should not impact the interviewing relationship
  • Laws protect candidates from discrimination based on age, race, gender, national origin, marital status, religion, and disability

Values Common in Other Countries

  • Males are expected to dominate interactions with females
  • Younger candidates defer to older professionals
  • Laws may not protect candidates from discrimination

Note: These values do not represent one particular culture, but those that may be true across a variety of cultures around the globe. Adapted From “International Students and the Job Search.” Goodman, A.P., J.A. Hartt, M.K. Pennington, and K.P. Terrell. Journal of Career Planning & Employment, Summer 1988.