Intercultural skills 

What’s the difference between stereotyping and cultural dimensions, aren’t they the same? 

Sometimes I am asked this question in training. It’s a valid question worth exploring. Stereotypes are generalizations and often are accompanied by a negative judgment.   They are mostly based on a narrow sample, meaning we tend to generalize a trait from the few to the many.  While stereotyping is a way for us humans to try to understand and explain complex and diverse world, we need to remember that they are simplifications and often untrue.

A cultural dimension, such as individualism or uncertainty avoidance are constructs developed to describe how culture influences our values and behaviors, how we learn what is right and wrong in a certain context.  There is no value judgment.  They are based on research in the social sciences, communication and psychology.

How do I adjust to a different culture without changing who I am? 

When you leave your comfort zone and explore and experience different cultures and countries you do change.  We are not static beings. We are adaptable and malleable.  We change as we experience life.

The same applies to cross-cultural experiences.  They will change you but at the core you are still the same person.  To interact and work well cross-culturally you will not change who you are but you need to know yourself, your values and beliefs, be self aware and honestly face your biases.

Only then can you be open to understanding “the other” the one that is different from you and explore the tools you need to be flexible in your interactions and modify your behavior as the situation asks you to.

I’m from a more group oriented background moving to a more individualist culture, what should I expect?

Cultures that are more individualistic on the individualism – collectivism dimension (like the American, the Dutch and Australian) tend to place a stronger emphasis on the individual as opposed to the group, when deciding what is right and wrong in a specific  situation.

You should expect that people tend to have somewhat looser ties to groups, the immediate family is more important than the extended and children are encouraged to become independent, move away from home and make their career and life decisions independently. And they use “I” more than “we” in communication.


Resume and CV

How often should I update my resume or CV? 

You should modify your resume or CV for each job you apply for to make your applications as strategic and focused as possible.  A good method is using a t-table. Enter the job description (JD) in the left side column and enter your experience and skills on the right side corresponding to the requirement in the JD. This will help you identify gaps and relevant experience, skills and accomplishments to include in your resume and cover letter.

What’s the difference between resume and CV?

While the two words are used interchangeable, there are some slight differences between the two.

A resume is like a store window display.  It doesn’t show everything they sell, but gives you an understanding what kind of store it is and the brands they carry.  Similarly your resume gives a brief relevant overview of your professional profile, but it doesn’t include every detail of your education and work history.

A CV or Curriculum Vitae is what you see as you walk into the store. It gives a more complete picture of who you are and what your skills are.  You include more detail, conferences attended and presented at, list of all your publications, your degrees and work experience.

The resume is more common in the US (academic positions usually ask for a CV) while the longer CV is more common in many other countries.

In all cases, research before you apply.


I tend to get nervous during job interviews, what can I do? 

Nerves can both help you and destroy your interview.  Most of us are a bit nervous and the adrenaline actually helps us stay focused and perform better.  But those nerves become a liability when they prevent you from being your best and from showing the interview panel all that you know and can do for them.

Prepare and practice job interviewing in advance. A role play can help.  Do it with a friend, your spouse or a coach.  If this does not suffice, then consider positive visualization techniques and other relaxation methods to calm you down.  Visualize yourself as calm and successful answering each question confidently.  It might take more than one session to calm your nerves, but explore what works for you.

Finally, remember, it’s only a job interview. A meeting between two or more people sharing information.  And sometime the interviewers are nervous too.

How should I answer  “Tell me about Yourself”? 

This is your opportunity to shine.  To tell them about your accomplishments, why you are the stronger candidate for this job and why you want to work with them.  Approach it as your “elevator pitch”. Keep it short and sweet, no longer than 2 minutes and do not review your resume for them.

What is a behavioral job interview question? 

Behavioral job interviews are very popular. Why? Because they are evidence based.  The theory is that past behaviors and experience is a reliable predictor for how someone will behave and perform in the future.  Therefore you will be asked to provide specific examples of when you have performed a certain responsibility, worked in difficult team, dealt with a demanding client etc.   How do you prepare?  By having stories to tell of times when you performed similar duties as the job requires and used the skills needed.


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