Organizations operating on a global scale may find recruiting techniques used in the U.S. will not necessarily translate the same in another country due to unique cultural norms. Therefore, it’s essential to build cross-culture awareness to successfully manage people in the global environment.

Job seekers from different cultural backgrounds may view the skills they consider important and valuable to recruiters differently. This leads to various approaches on how they polish their resumes and present themselves during interviews. Recently, Alex Amerling, Digital Strategist from DirectEmployers, presented on global recruiting at the DirectEmployres 2015 Annual Meeting & Conference (DEAM15), and highlighted some of the cultural differences that could be important in the recruiting industry.

One of these differences is the resume. For example, a typical resume in China begins with a profile picture on the top right and personal information on the left, including birth year/place, gender, and contact details. Then it lists education history – considered the most important point in China. Most job listings on Chinese job banks actually include certain degree requirements or university rankings as a minimum standard. If an applicant exceeds the standard, then he/she will be considered favorably over other candidates.

Next, the resume outlines work experience, listing the companies on top and job titles underneath. Similar to college ranking, a candidate is regarded as more competitive if he/she has worked for a Fortune 500 company or a reputable organization, whereas the actual role he/she has played is considered afterwards. Overall, it’s a two-page detailed resume, with technical skills and personal interests concluded in the end. Many newcomers from China, like me, would most likely present their resumes with this format, which makes sense in China, but might not register with North American HR managers.

Other cultural factors to be considered include soft skills and behaviors during the interview. Many Chinese candidates may not speak much about their accomplishments. This is because of the Confucius philosophy in China of being modest and humble. Talking about one’s success and achievements is considered inappropriate in most Asian culture, whereas in North America, recruiters regard accomplishments as an indicator of potential and drive.

Body language and how people address themselves varies as well. A lot of Asian candidates may not have enough eye contact during an interview, when most North American recruiters are expecting people to look right in the eye with a firm, quick and confident response. In addition, in Asian culture, the younger or inferior generation is taught to show respect to the elder or superior by bowing or keeping their bodies low and addressing the superior as “sir” or “madam” or formal titles rather than by first names.

Without an understanding of cultural differences, an HR professional in the United States may incorrectly assume such a candidate is not a good fit within the first few minutes of an interview. So how can recruiters navigate cultural differences and recruit more effectively? Below are three tips for successful cross-cultural recruitment.

  1. Create clear and specific job descriptions.
    List and clearly differentiate “must-have” and “nice-to-have” skills. Most of the time, North American job listings contain a list of 20 different characteristics that are equally weighted and required. But the reality is that in most cases, only a few of those characteristics are “must-have” while the others are “nice-to-have”. For example, how important is it to speak English fluently for a given position? This could vary from a sales person (where it is the key requirement) to a computer programmer (where it does not necessarily carry as much weight). Providing a clear job description with emphasis on the “must-have” skills will help candidates understand better what qualities recruiters are looking for in order to find the best fit.
  2. Include people from diverse backgrounds on the recruiting team.
    Having international recruiters will help identify cultural differences that could lead to rejections or unconsciously biased judgement to candidates unrelated to their ability to perform on the job. Recruiters with a diverse cultural background could better identify culturally-driven behaviors and make more accurate assessments. As a result, they may be able to locate potential “diamond-in the-rough” candidates that go on to become valuable employees.
  3. Post your organization’s recruiting process on the website.
    Post the recruitment process and outline the preferred format of a sample resume, Q&A and other criteria used to evaluate candidates. It helps candidates understand what you are asking for and gives them a chance to prepare their answer in their own language. It also helps separate culture from skills and steer the questions and interviews to the areas that are more important to you. By providing a detailed recruiting description, you are more likely to attract candidates with skills and motivations more aligned with your organization’s needs.

In conclusion, a multi-cultural workforce can provide tangible benefits to a company besides just fulfilling legal compliance. As today’s markets continue expanding globally, organizations that invest in cultural awareness and competence will be able to reach out to a larger talent base and obtain a key talent advantage in international markets.


Posted by Iris Huixian Wang, former Marketing Intern for DirectEmployers Association.

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