Cultural Barriers to the Job Search

Updated: Apr 23


Person holding out their hand for a handshake.

Here are some pointers in navigating the US job market and some cultural barriers you may want to be aware of...


Woman in a suit

Self Promotion

U.S. EMPLOYER EXPECTATIONS

  • Assertive

  • Able to openly discuss goals and accomplishments with confidence

  • Follow-up with employers

  • Appropriate dress

CONFLICTING VALUES WITH SOME CULTURES

  • Unless a group activity, mentioning specific skills and accomplishments is seen as boastful

  • Following up with employers about application status is seen as rude


Group of people facing the camera, all seated at a table

DIRECTNESS IN COMMUNICATION U.S. EMPLOYER EXPECTATIONS

  • Openly responds to questions in a direct manner

  • Maintains eye contact with interviewer and displays appropriate nonverbal feedback

CONFLICTING VALUES WITH SOME CULTURES

  • Maintaining eye contact with someone of higher power is seen as disrespectful

Woman in a diving suit

SELF-DISCLOSURE


U.S. EMPLOYER EXPECTATIONS

  • Openly discusses experiences, hobbies, strengths and weaknesses

  • Answers personality questions regarding leadership and problem-solving

CONFLICTING VALUES WITH SOME CULTURES

  • Personal questions are considered an invasion of privacy and are only discussed with close friends and family



Person sitting at a desk with their fingers interlaced in front of them

CAREER SELF-AWARENESS U.S. EMPLOYER EXPECTATIONS

  • Openly demonstrates knowledge of personal self in relation to short-term and long-term career goals

  • Discusses career concentration and expresses interest in doing specific job tasks


CONFLICTING VALUES WITH SOME CULTURES

  • Jobs are often assigned by government or family

  • Questioning someone about career role is seen as disloyal

  • Companies assign work responsibilities

  • Individuals must be flexible and willing to accept available job


Man giving the camera a thumbs up

INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY


U.S. EMPLOYER EXPECTATIONS

  • Uses multiple resources to identify job opportunities

  • Actively seeks career information independently

  • Networking with friends, family and professionals is crucial


CONFLICTING VALUES WITH SOME CULTURES

  • Jobs opportunities are found through family and/or the government

  • Depends on specific person/people to coordinate job search (e.g. adviser or employer agent)


Two people talking

INFORMALITY


U.S. EMPLOYER EXPECTATIONS

  • Interviewer and interviewee may engage in friendly, open conversation that may incorporate some joking

CONFLICTING VALUES WITH SOME CULTURES

  • Job applicant is very polite to interviewer and is very careful about saving face and not coming off impolite

  • Handshaking, touching, using first names, crossing legs, etc. may be seen as inappropriate


Person checking their smart watch

PUNCTUALITY


U.S. EMPLOYER EXPECTATIONS

  • Arrive approximately 5-15 minutes early for interview/appointment

CONFLICTING VALUES WITH SOME CULTURES

  • Time is not of high value, and 15 minutes – 2 hours of lateness is not seen as insulting



People filling out forms

EFFECTIVE RESUMES AND COVER LETTERS U.S. EMPLOYER EXPECTATIONS

  • Resumes need to be 1-page, error-free and concise

  • Strong focus on accomplishments and skills that relate specifically to the job

  • Personalized according to the job and employer

  • Does not contain a picture or personal information such as a age, sex, religion

CONFLICTING VALUES WITH SOME CULTURES

  • Resumes are detailed chronology of academic and work experience and not a tool of self-promotion

  • May contain personal information and a picture


People meeting at a table over coffee

INDIVIDUAL EQUALITY


U.S. EMPLOYER EXPECTATIONS

  • Race, sex, and age should not affect the outcome of a hiring decision


CONFLICTING VALUES WITH SOME CULTURES

  • Males are expected to assume dominance in interactions with females

Person using their laptop

PREPARATION

U.S. EMPLOYER EXPECTATIONS

  • Obtain as much information as possible about the job and the employer and demonstrate this in the cover letter and during the interview

CONFLICTING VALUES WITH SOME CULTURES

  • Researching the organization may indicate excessive initiative or independence

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