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Job interviews in different cultures

Do interview techniques differ around the world?

Cultural differences are well-recognised: every country does things slightly differently, although they may have similarities with others around the world. These differences don’t just stop at eating habits, beliefs, dress codes or family dynamics – they extend out of the home into the world of work too.


In this blog post, we explore the fascinating subject of how interview techniques differ around the globe.

Skills and competencies vs motivations and values

In Western culture, there is a large emphasis on skills and competencies when it comes to interviews. From a practical perspective, this makes sense – your potential employer needs to be confident that you can do the job. Relying on a CV won’t be enough; the interviewer will want to know details about when you’ve put the skills you’ve listed into action.


However, having the right experience and qualifications doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re the best fit for the company. In the Eastern hemisphere, there’s a greater focus on letting the qualifications speak for themselves, and taking the interview time to get to know the candidate. The conversation is more likely to focus on motivations and values, to make sure that the applicant will be a good holistic fit for the team.

Verbal and non-verbal cues

In many societies, smiling is seen as a positive thing: an indicator of a friendly, happy, competent candidate. But have you ever considered that smiling without apparent reason might be seen as a sign of low intelligence or even insanity? In some countries, this holds true, with research even showing that smiling can be a signal of insincerity, especially in areas with high levels of corruption.

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Verbal cues are also important and can be interpreted in a myriad of different ways. In some destinations, a long pause is a sign that the candidate is properly considering the question, whilst in others, silence means lack of preparation or engagement.

how to do a job interview


If you have an interview at 11am, do you a) arrive at 10:50, or b) arrive directly at 11? Appropriate arrival timing can vary across the globe, with some countries believing that arriving ‘on time’ (in this example, at 11), means that you’re already late. In contrast, arriving slightly ‘early’ shows respect for the interviewer and means you are ready to start your conversation at 11.


Whilst this might not seem like an interview ‘technique’ as such, your suitability for the job is determined by far more than just your answers, whether the interviewer realises it or not. So, make sure you leave plenty of time to get to your destination, and you’ll already be off to a good start.

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