Navigating cultural differences in an American job interview

Job interviews can be a daunting experience for anyone, but for non-American job candidates, cultural differences can add an extra layer of complexity. These differences can impact how nonverbal cues are interpreted, how individual accomplishments are discussed, and how the advantages of hiring a non-American job candidate are highlighted.

However, being aware of cultural differences can be advantageous as a job candidate. Your unique skills and experiences set you apart from other candidates, especially for American companies operating globally or aiming to do so in the future. Non-American employees can seamlessly navigate cultural differences and work effectively with people from diverse backgrounds, bringing insights and perspectives into various target demographics to ultimately benefit the company. 

Tips for interpreting nonverbal cues in American job interviews

Nonverbal communication is a crucial aspect of any job interview, and cultural differences can impact how nonverbal cues are interpreted. For instance, in some cultures, direct eye contact is seen as a sign of respect and attentiveness, while in others, it can be seen as confrontational or disrespectful. Similarly, hand gestures and body language can have different meanings in different cultures. It is essential to be aware of these differences and to adjust your nonverbal communication accordingly.

In American culture, direct eye contact is preferred during conversations. It is important to maintain natural and steady eye contact during the interview to show confidence and interest in what the interviewer is saying. Positive body language is also essential during a job interview. If greeting the interviewer during an in-person interview, offer a firm handshake and a smile. While seated, sit up straight and avoid crossing your arms, as these actions can make you look uninterested and defiant. 

How you dress for the interview also can make a good first impression, even in video interviews. Choose professional attire, and when in doubt of the color, choose neutral tones. Speak clearly and confidently during the interview to show you are a strong candidate for the job. In American culture, punctuality is highly valued. Arrive on time for the interview to make a good impression. 

Research has shown that interviewers’ perceptions of and hiring decisions about interviewees can be affected by the similarity/dissimilarity of interviewers’ and interviewees’ nonverbal behaviors exhibited during an intercultural hiring interview. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the interviewer’s nonverbal cues and to adjust your nonverbal behavior accordingly.

Overcoming cultural assumptions in American job interviews

During American job interviews, interviewers may unwittingly make assumptions based on their own cultural values and expectations, which can affect how they interpret the interviewee’s skills and experience. This can lead to misconceptions and poor judgments. To overcome this challenge, it is important to be aware of cultural assumptions and to address them directly. For example, if an interviewer assumes that an immigrant job candidate may not be fluent in English, the candidate can address this directly by highlighting their language skills and experience communicating in English.

Other ways to combat cultural assumptions during American job interviews include:

  1. Using examples to illustrate experience and skills: This can help to overcome cultural assumptions and show the interviewer that you are a strong candidate for the job.
  2. Developing cultural agility: Cultural agility will help non-American job candidates recognize when they are misperceiving someone else or are being misperceived, and course correct if necessary. For instance, research the culture of the country they are interviewing in to learn the best ways to communicate with the hiring manager to build a positive rapport, gain trust, and appear credible.
  3. Being aware of nonverbal cues: Watch the interviewer’s posture, facial expressions and gestures. This can help you to avoid misunderstandings based on your assumptions and give you more confidence in your interactions.
  4. Asking questions: Non-American job candidates can ask questions during the job interview to clarify any cultural assumptions that the interviewer may have. 

Highlighting the advantages of hiring a non-American job candidate

Immigrant job candidates bring unique skills and experiences to the workplace, and it is essential to highlight these advantages during a job interview. For example, a non-American job candidate may have experience working in diverse and multicultural environments, which can be an asset in today’s global economy. Similarly, you may have language skills valuable in communicating with clients or customers from different backgrounds. 

By highlighting these advantages, you can show the interviewer what makes you a valuable asset to the company. Examples of benefits include:

  • Improving company diversity and promoting cultural exchange within the workforce, leading to increased creativity, improved problem-solving, and enhanced collaboration. 
  • Non-American candidates can fill skill gaps in the company, as they may have unique skills and experiences that are not available in the American job market. 
  • Non-Americans may have a global perspective that can benefit the company in today’s global economy and bring insights to targeting a global audience.

Preparing for an American job interview

American hiring managers generally look for candidates with the skills and experience necessary to perform the job effectively. They also look for candidates who are a good fit for the company culture and have a positive attitude. During the interview, they may ask questions about your experience, skills, and accomplishments to assess their qualifications for the job. Research the company and its culture to prepare for an American job interview. This research can help you understand what the company values and what they are looking for in a job candidate. 

Practice interviewing with your friends and family to get comfortable with the interview process. Practicing can also help you identify areas where you may need to improve. Be prepared to talk about your experience and how it relates to the job you are applying for. You can show how your expertise can benefit the company by highlighting your skills and accomplishments. 

In some cultures, speaking about your individual contributions to business accomplishments may be taboo, but in the United States, individualism is an important part of the culture. If you’re uncomfortable talking about your achievements during an interview, these steps might help:

  1. Practice talking about accomplishments: Talk about your achievements with friends or family to get comfortable with the process. 
  2. Use examples to illustrate accomplishments: Talk about a successful project and your role in its completion. This can help to overcome cultural discomfort and show the interviewer that you are a strong candidate for the job.
  3. Be proud of your accomplishments: In the United States, job candidates are encouraged to be proud of their work and share their achievements with the interviewer. This can show the interviewer what differentiates you from other job candidates vying for the same position.

10 American job interview resources

Several resources are available to non-American job candidates to help prepare for American job interviews. These include:

  • provides resources for job seekers, including interview tips and sample interview questions. They also offer a company culture fit assessment to help job candidates understand what companies are looking for in a job candidate.
  • Forbes: Forbes offers articles and resources for job seekers, including tips for preparing for job interviews and advice for new immigrants entering the workforce.
  • SHRM: The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offers a variety of resources for job seekers, including job postings, career advice, and information on workplace culture. 
  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a professional networking site that can provide valuable insights into American workplace culture. Job seekers can use LinkedIn to research companies, connect with professionals in the industry, and learn about job opportunities.
  • NCDA: The National Career Development Association (NCDA) offers a variety of resources for job seekers, including career planning tools, job search advice, and information on workplace culture. The NCDA website also links to career development resources like job boards and career counseling services.
  • is a source for employment, job search, and career education information worldwide. It includes detailed information about over 1000 occupations, including wages, skills, and links to corresponding college programs and career, job, and educational resources for states, cities, and counties in the United States, as well as Canadian Provinces and other countries.
  • is a career exploration website that provides information on various careers, including job descriptions, salary information, and educational requirements. The site also includes videos of professionals discussing their careers and offering advice to job seekers.

While job interviews can be challenging for anyone, bringing confidence, a positive attitude, and the ability to demonstrate your career accomplishments can help make you a strong candidate and stand out from the crowd. Good luck in your career search! If you have questions about employment-based visas, we’re happy to help

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