Successful International Interviews for Small Businesses

Small businesses are increasingly looking abroad to recruit talent. This article looks at how culture impacts international interviews.

True Story: A Japanese firm located in England decided to select their latest hotshot recruits by telling all candidates that they would only be interviewed if they reached the top of a designated mountain within x number of days.

This sounds like a funny, quirky and outlandish tale of how to get clever, resourceful new recruits into your business, but in reality it is a cautionary tale of how you can also discriminate against candidates and lose out on potential new talent. What did the Japanese firm get wrong? They discriminated against disabled candidates which is illegal in the UK.

International Interviews for Small Businesses

When conducting interviews with international candidates it’s important to ensure you are not discriminating against people, in any way.

Cultural differences are one area that interviewers must always take into account – differences between cultures in how interviews are run, the etiquette and expectations.

Here are pointers for those interviewing talented candidates from around the world, without committing any crimes!

Eye contact

Interviewers should prepare for differing interpretations of eye contact across cultures. Within some cultures eye contact is a powerful way to show respect and disrespect. Within Asian culture, for example direct eye contact with a more senior person may be avoided as a way of showing respect, whereas in the UK failure to make eye contact is sometimes seen as rude or insubordinate.

Discussion of accomplishments

Discussion of accomplishments is sometimes culturally charged in that some cultures consider it disrespectful to talk too much of one’s accomplishments. Interviewers should be sensitive to this fact and assess interviewees accordingly.


People from different cultures may have utterly divergent views on punctuality. It is always a good idea to provide written instructions to interviewees in relation to what is expected from candidates. It also helps to make allowances for people of a different culture, ask questions if in doubt and remember that some candidates may be travelling long distances to arrive at the interview!

Know your facts and know the law

You might be bursting with pride that your firm is pushing the boundaries and recruiting far and wide, but don’t let this blind you to etiquette issues surrounding recruitment. Small business owners particularly should beware cultural clashes when conducting interviews involving an ethnically diverse pool of talent. For example, if you want to do something really outlandish in your interview to test someone’s personality (like asking them to act out a role play or do a dance), be sure the task set doesn’t discriminate against someone from a particular culture. People from certain cultures can be much more conservative than you are in a business setting so expecting them to do the Conga or ‘drop their pants’ at a moment’s notice is not ok.

Expectation of questions or inquiries about the status of the job

People from different cultures may have differing expectations in terms of the asking of questions, or making enquiries about the status of a position. Interviewers should be careful not to interpret follow-up questions uniformly, for example some cultures would see making enquiries about a position as too forthright and improper, whereas some cultures think it demonstrates evidence of enthusiasm or commitment to the company. Interviewers should set objective criteria for the assessment of each and every candidate.

Whoever you are interviewing, from wherever, always take some time out to think about your expectations, differences between your culture and the interviewees and how best to allow the interviewee to have the best chance possible.



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Thursday, 18 July 2019
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