Job Interviews for Dummies — Part 2

By Scot Herrick | Book Reviews

Feb 19

If you read the news, you’d think every company on the planet was laying people off. Certainly, we’ve seen a lot more people heading out for job interviews — and getting shocked at the Interview Gauntlet.

So I asked Joyce Lain Kennedy, author of Job Interviews For Dummies, 3rd Edition, published in January of this year, for a little interview advice. Today’s question:

Cube Rules: One of the critical new skills needed for Cubicle Warriors is dealing with team members that live in many different countries – including a hiring manager in a different country. What sort of tips does the book provide on the “global job interview?”

Joyce Lain Kennedy:

The quick answer is that the Western style, accomplishment-oriented interview bas become the basic format across the globe. But cultural interviewing differences between nations still matter.

Newcomers to the United States may be surprised to learn, for example, that they aren’t expected to dress up in pinstriped suits to interview for a technology job, nor are they encouraged to speak extensively of family and other personal issues.

Americans who hope to work overseas for the first time may be surprised at such local customs as those in China, where interviewees are expected to nod, showing that they’re listening and understanding the Chinese speaker who is communicating in English. Or those in certain European countries where a female candidate would be taken aback to be asked directly, “Are you pregnant?”

Even old-school job interviewing for foreign nationals is getting an update from only 15 or 20 years ago. Back then, job interviewing customs between cultures could be strikingly dissimilar — for instance, a slight bow upon shaking hands was attractive in German interviews but not in British interviews. Times change. Germans no longer automatically bow upon introduction.

What’s driving the homogenizing of interview practices across much of the planet? In a word, modernization. Western-style employment practices, sparked especially by American-based multinationals, are narrowing variances in how candidates are interviewed and evaluated in many countries.

Career expert Ron Krannich who closely monitors the global workforce observes that while the “sales” model that Americans use in job interviewing is very popular virtually everywhere, exceptions abound.

Dr. Krannich warns that you need to dial down your sales pitch in some situations: “Be careful not to come across as overly aggressive in nations that are traditionally more accustomed to low-key interviewing styles.” As psychology studies affirm, we tend to like and hire people who are like ourselves.

Interviewing Across Cultures

The following verbal snapshots are a starting point for your further research aimed at understanding specific mores in individual nations, specific regions of a country, and given companies.

Plowing New Lands

In Job Interviews For Dummies, 3rd Edition, I devote a chapter to “Interviewing on the World Stage” including a suggestion that you develop a job search plan for each country of interest. Because hiring customs in the world’s nations are still evolving, you should seek the latest data by researching online and by networking your way to people in-country. Here are a few examples of online intelligence leads:

Going Global (; note there is only one “g” in the middle of the address): This site offers country-specific annually updated interviewing advice for 30 countries. Visit the site’s home page where you can use the Quick Search feature (upper right hand side of the page) to find information on interviewing in individual countries. A sample content page for each country is free; the country’s entire guide of about 85 pages can be downloaded for a modest fee. ( This site contains a list of international job resources that are most useful for job postings, but you can mine the resources for country-specific interviewing intelligence.

Conduct a keyword search on a social network site such as LinkedIn ( or Xing ( Use a term relevant to your objective — say, “Denmark corporate marketing” or “Denmark human resources” or “Denmark manager” — to see whether you can connect with LinkedIn or Xing users who could prove helpful by providing the latest interviewing information. ©For Dummies. Excerpted with permission from Job Interviews For Dummies, 3rd Edition.

Important protocol variations: The tone of the interview may be more or less formal than you would expect at home. Joking in an interview is risky in your own country but in another land you may seriously offend if the interviewer interprets your humor as a sign that you won’t take the work seriously or that you’re a superficial clown.

Personal questions and privacy: In the United States, laws discourage privacy-penetrating questioning that may lead to discrimination. Conversely, employers in a number of nations have no qualms or legal restrictions about asking personal questions of candidates. Understand going in that you may be expected to answer questions about your age, health, or marital status.

Critical language skills: English is the lingua franca of international commerce and you may be able to stick with it to be hired in some countries, but, in most cases, you’ll get greater approval by speaking the local language, bad grammar and mispronounced words notwithstanding.

In fact, language fluency is a main component of cross-cultural adaptability for professional employees. Inability to speak the language or understand accents is going to prove an almost insurmountable obstacle to being hired. (Consider taking a menial or unpaid job for a year, as well as taking lessons, to improve your language skills before applying for professional jobs.)

Appropriate dress and grooming: Although local conventions in dress and appearance continue to impact how candidates dress for interviews in a number of countries, most professionals now show up in suits or other business wear. The default mode outside the USA is conservative. Employers in fashion-conscious European nations, such as France, Spain, and Italy, especially appreciate interview attire that shows worldliness as well as business savvy.


As I have noted before, the team you work with now lives across the planet. As Joyce has noted, the people interviewing you can now come from anywhere. Knowing how to adjust your interviewing style based upon where you interview will become a critical job-landing skill.


Joyce Lain Kennedy is the nation’s first syndicated careers columnist. Her work, Careers Now, is distributed by Tribune Media Services and appears in more than 100 newspapers and Web sites.

Job Interviews For Dummies, 3rd Edition is an authoritative theatrically-themed guide that takes readers’ problems seriously but not itself. Richly complete with both fresh and timeless interviewing solutions for job seekers at all levels and size of employer. Special attention is focused on new graduates, career changers, and prime-timers over 50.

The 3rd edition is loaded with scripts and tips to use in a reinvented world of eye-popping technology, workplaces without borders, and a changing generational mix.

Chapters 1,2,3,4, 15,16 & 17 (68 pages) are totally new with game-changing topics. Additionally, the 3rd edition is chock-full of updates and revisions throughout, reflecting important changes in job interviewing practices and tools over the last 8 years. (this is a serious update — Scot)