Center for Career Development – University of Tennessee

University of Tennessee – Center for Career Development

Cultural Differences in the Job Search

These differences represent differences between cultures of the United States and foreign culture, not a specific culture.


Abroad:  Detailed chronology of experience, not a method of self promotion.
In U.S.:  Concise, one page, resume to reflect the individual’s accomplishments, credentials, strengths and abilities.


Abroad:  It may be okay to be late.
In U.S.:  Be on time. Arrive at least ten minutes early.

Eye Contact

Abroad:  Eye contact may be disrespectful.
In U.S.:  Eye contact shows confidence and is necessary.

Small Talk

Abroad:  Often very extensive to showcase personality and character.
In U.S.:  Brief at beginning of interview, followed by direct, formal interview questions.

Self Promotion

Abroad:  Citing accomplishments may be seen as arrogant or individualistic.
In U.S.:  Assertive, open discussion of accomplishments is expected and important.

Asking questions to the interviewer

Abroad:  May be rude, intrusive, or aggressive.
In U.S.  Expected, shows enthusiasm and interest.

Displaying knowledge of the company

Abroad:  May show too much initiative; questioning may show disloyalty.
In U.S.:  Demonstrating knowledge of the organization is expected and shows initiative.

Personality related discussion

Abroad: Discussion of hobbies, likes and dislikes may be seen as distractions from work and job performance. Questions about personality (leadership or problem solving style) may be considered irrelevant.
In U.S.: Discussion of personal hobbies and interests are admissible but not crucial. Discussion of leadership and problem solving traits are necessary.

Career Awareness

Abroad: Questions about one’s role in the organization may be considered disloyal. Discussion of long‐term career goals may be negative.
In U.S.: Questions about role are welcomed. Discussion of long‐term plans shows goal‐oriented personality.

Responsibility in finding employment

Abroad: Possibility for job search taking place with little or no proactive action on part of individual.
In U.S.: Job search solely individual responsibility. Use whatever means available.

Informality in Interviewing

Abroad: Politeness and formality are necessary. Handshaking and casual speech may not be permissible.
In U.S.: Politeness is necessary, but some joking and informality is acceptable. Firm handshake necessary. Casual, friendly speech is permitted.


Abroad: Questioning one’s application status may be rude.
In U.S.: Telephone inquiry on application’s status is acceptable. A written thank‐you note is highly recommended and often expected.


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The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System