How to resolve cross-cultural differences in the recruitment process

February 6, 2023

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10 min

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Two asian women interviewing a candidate remotely

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When hiring the best talent in a highly competitive global market, it’s essential for recruiters to navigate cross-cultural differences among candidates effectively. Your recruitment process should accommodate candidates who come from diverse backgrounds and behave and think differently.

To ensure effective recruitment and a positive onboarding experience, teams need to be familiar with cultural customs and the variations in perspectives toward workplace culture within their hiring pool.

Our languages, gestures, body language, prime focuses, and responses can differ. These differences can lead to a disconnect when not fully understood, and if not approached properly they can cause your organisation to miss out on top talent.

Let’s go over a few ways businesses can resolve cross-cultural differences in the recruitment process.

Give a clear and detailed job description

Make sure to give a clear and honest description of the type of candidate your company needs. This is always good practice, no matter where you’re hiring. However, when it comes to searching globally, you need to be even more transparent about the details of the position.

Don’t get overly creative with job titles. Avoid superlative language or words like “marketing guru” and “accomplished computer scientist.” While wording like this can be a good indication of company culture, it can translate differently across cultures. 

Exaggerated language can discourage qualified candidates from applying, especially people in groups or from countries socialised not to be prideful.

Write an engaging overview of the job in about 4 or 5 sentences, describing the purpose of the job, how it contributes to the company, and why it’s important to the company. Focus on describing responsibilities and career development.

Keep bullet points short, avoiding long paragraphs. And describe the key functions of the job in no more than 7 bullet points. Divide the bullets into categories to make it simpler to read, such as communication skills, technical skills, and management skills. This can improve readability and draw more applicants to the position.

Be sure to highlight the benefits of working for the organisation and communicate the company’s core values.

List job openings on appropriate sites

Popular job posting sites vary in different countries. While LinkedIn and Indeed are some of the largest professional social networks globally, some countries and regions prefer other platforms like CareerBuilder, SimplyHired, JobScore, and Zhaopin.com. Do research on job posting sites in the area you need to hire to figure out the best options for your future postings.

Hire flexible leadership

When recruiting globally, it’s important to be acquainted with Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions, which are associated with a varying view of hierarchy from a cultural vantage point. 

While some cultures have a High Power Distance that gives high respect to a person of authority, a Low Power Distance culture values equal treatment of everyone.

Candidates may be accustomed to these different practices when applying and therefore act accordingly throughout the interview process. It’s important to understand each candidate’s point of view so the organisation has a positive onboarding experience no matter where a candidate is from.

Candidates from China and many other Asian countries, along with Eastern and Southern European countries, may be accustomed to a Higher Power Distance work atmosphere, while candidates from the United States, Australia, and Canada might be used to a Low Power Distance culture.

Candidates from High Power Distance cultures will be accustomed to a more formal environment and dress code, be acclimated to waiting on managerial input, and address people by their proper titles and not their first names.

Recruiting across multiple cultures can have challenges. For example, when the Swedish company IKEA began recruiting in France and the United States, in France they found it challenging to find an acceptable translation of the word “humble,” which is one of the core values of their business.

National cultural differences need to be understood and considered before implementing initiatives and changes throughout the company.

A person’s national culture generally has more of an impact on them than their workplace culture. Considering and including positive elements of all the nationalities in which your company operates and blending them with the corporate culture can be advantageous to your organisation.

Expect different resumés and CVs

High Power Distance and Low Power Distance cultures may also have an impact on how an applicant presents themselves on a resumé or CV. 

Many High Power Distance cultures may consider education as the most important aspect of a resumé, while some Low Power Distance cultures might prefer to focus on experiences and skills over other aspects.

Candidates from different parts of the world may also include different things in their resumes. While gender and marital status are commonly excluded from resumes in the United Kingdom, North America, and many South American counties, candidates who apply from Middle Eastern, African, or Asian countries may decide to include a picture, their marital status, their gender, and the date and place of their birth.

Be aware of how differences may affect the interview process

When an interviewer asks a candidate to tell them a little bit about themselves, the answer may vary vastly by region or country. However, the social standards of certain regions may lead some candidates to focus on different aspects of themselves. 

Attitudes during the interviewing process can differ depending on where a person is from and how they were taught to present themselves.

For example, Americans are taught to list off their accomplishments and good qualities. This can come across as boastful or even misleading to an interviewer from China or Finland, two countries that generally practice a more humble approach when interviewing for a job.

Body language and gestures can also differ throughout the world. Some cultures may focus on the importance of eye contact, while in other cultures direct eye contact is viewed as impolite and disrespectful. It’s important for interviewers to understand cross-cultural body language and gestures so as not to misinterpret them based solely on their own cultural experiences.

For remote employees, take interview times into account. It may not always be possible to schedule an interview at a great time for everyone when the interviewer and interviewee live in different time zones. Be aware of the candidate’s time zone and make sure the interview isn’t scheduled for the middle of the night for them.

Adapt the hiring process

The global hiring process will, of course, depend on several factors—whether you’re hiring remotely, in-person, through a third party, or by using a direct employment method

When hiring remotely without a local entity, you can use third-party employment organisations, a direct employment method, or simply hire contractors instead of full-time employees. 

To make the best choice for your company and find the top talent worldwide, recruiters need to make an effort and engage with team members from diverse backgrounds so the best candidates for the job don’t slip through the cracks of cultural misinterpretation.

There are a lot of strategies and tips for hiring abroad that can help guide you through the process. Take time to learn about different recruiting perspectives around the world and work to help your company find successful candidates globally.

How to develop a successful onboarding experience

A good onboarding process can increase productivity and help employees thrive. Unhappy or disengaged employees can have costly consequences like increased turnover and decreased productivity. For example, in the U.S., unhappy employees cost businesses around $550k annually.

Improving the onboarding experience for your new employees can help them do their work more efficiently and improve the overall profit of the company.

Here are some ways to improve onboarding.

1. Make it easy to follow

First-day nerves are common for new hires, but when there are cross-cultural differences also in play the stakes can be even higher.

It can be easy for employees to forget information when bombarded with new details. Try to keep onboarding as simple to understand as possible, and reiterate anything you say verbally with written, pictorial, or video instructions. This helps employees absorb information better.

Tools like infographics can communicate training in an effective and fun way, and utilising software that has wide usage on a global scale, like the apps in Microsoft 365, can help make the onboarding experience easier for everyone.

Also, international laws may need to be taken into account. For example, depending on the nature of the company, it may be necessary to ensure your email service is HIPAA compliant. While common email services for businesses, like Outlook and Gmail, can be made HIPAA compliant by following complicated steps, it’s ideal to adopt a secure email service that complies with laws and legislation regarding privacy for all of your hires.

2. Make it engaging

Try to keep the onboarding experience as personable as possible, even though it can be more challenging when the new hire is remote.

Introduce new recruits to their team members and walk them through online software and forums. Make sure you are available to them if they have questions or concerns. If the new hire will work in-person, personally show them around the facilities. 

The sooner they feel comfortable, the faster they will become a productive employee within the company.

3. Check in

Onboarding is about more than showing a new employee around and then leaving them on their own.

Whether you use in-person meetings, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or Gmail, it’s important to check in with new hires to address any concerns or questions they may have.

Regularly keeping in touch with new hires will grant them the opportunity to share their thoughts on their new role, giving you important information on job performance goals.

Starting off with a quality onboarding experience is vital to retaining good employees and boosting productivity from the beginning.

Curious to know more?

We’re here to help you on your global hiring journey.

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