The USA has always been a country that attracts immigrants. Yet the last 20 or so years has seen a greater influx of economic migrants resulting in businesses increasingly employing staff from different cultures. Human resources (HR) staff face intercultural challenges in the way they manage staff from interviews to appraisals to development. One area of note where HR staff are experiencing difficulties is in intercultural interviews with Mexicans.
Many people reading this article may be wanting specific tips, or even a list of dos and don'ts, for intercultural interviews with Mexicans. However, this article will not seek to do that. Rather it will offer some general guidelines on interviewing across cultures with an emphasis therefore on the reader to go and discover more themselves.
What is an intercultural interview
A normal job interview can in some ways be likened to a play; it has a few actors who know why they are there, the questions they will ask and the normal set of answers they will receive. In such interviews the interviewer(s) ask questions in a certain way and expects answers in a certain way. This is also the same for the interviewee, who has probably gone through the answers again and again in their mind.
In the above scenario every actor knows their lines and the underlying rules. So what happens when the lines and rules change? Questions are not the ones expected, answers are not understood and behaviour is puzzling. This is the intercultural interview and occurs when the interviewee and interviewer(s) are from different cultures. The worst case scenario is that due to intercultural differences misunderstandings take place upon which decisions are made. Such decisions can unfortunately lead to interviewers wrongly rejecting candidates.
Anyone recruiting people will all have one identical aim - to hire the best. Yet when intercultural misunderstandings take place in interviews, this can obstruct the process of recruiting the best staff for a business. It is therefore crucial the recruiters gain some intercultural insight into interviews.
As mentioned above this article does not want to simply give the reader all the answers. Below we have provided some basic guidance on intercultural interviews whether with Mexicans or any other culture.
Assumptions - The key to any successful intercultural interview is to overcome assumptions about people. Assumptions can relate to many things but in the context of the interview they are really about: 1) Assuming how someone should respond to a question, behave or act. Interviewers must be aware of culturally ingrained assumptions made about areas such as eye contact, tone of voice, gestures, posture, showing emotions, the giving out of information and the use of language to name but a few . 2) Assuming that because a person is Mexican they have certain traits, i.e. "all Mexican men are sexist." In short, assumptions are no good. They taint judgements and lead to bad decisions. Moving beyond this is key to a better intercultural interview.
Eye contact is a strange thing and varies across cultures. On the whole in the USA, Americans usually state that "you can't trust people who won't look you in the eye." Yet when it comes to facts the average duration of eye contact among Americans is only about three seconds. Less than that usually equals shyness or embarrassment and more than that is an invasion of personal space.
Yet in other cultures the rules are different. In Japan, children learn to direct their gaze at the region of an adult's Adam's apple rather than eyes. Chinese, Indonesians, and rural Mexicans judge too much eye contact as a sign of bad manners. In many Asian and Arab cultures it is bad form to look into womens' eyes so many will not do so out of respect (usually misinterpreted by many western women).
Communication styles differ too from culture to culture. In an intercultural interview one needs to bear in mind that people give information in different ways. Some cultures, such as the US, communicate explicitly. This means they can be very direct - "cutting to the chase" as the phrase goes. Explicit communicators put all the meaning into their words. On the other hand implicit communicators use other subtle ways of getting their message across such as body language, tone, eye contact and inference. As a result they divulge little information on the premise that the listener will pick up on the more subtle signals they are giving off. If you get an explicit and implicit pair in an intercultural interview it can be confusing. P>
The body language we use t when communicating can also be very different. Some cultures are very restrained and sober whilst others are very expressive and emotional. It is very easy in an intercultural interview to misinterpret someone's sobriety for a lack of passion or someone's passion as a sign of instability or lack of professionalism. Both however would be untrue and are only cultural assumptions.
There is not space to look at all topics one needs to get a grip of for an intercultural interview with a Mexican. By way of giving the reader some homework we suggest thinking about and researching how these may differ across cultures:
* Touch/Physical closeness
* Facial expressions
* Showing respect
The one key learing point is that interviewers must overcome their assumptions. Assumptions are culturally biased and when operating in an intercultural environment it is critical to be able to see beyond the apparent and appreciate differences. Only then can the best be recruited for the job.
For more information on intercultural interviews and training why not contact visit our Cross Cultural Training page or visit some of the following links:
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