Cross-Cultural Recruiting: Notes from a Londoner in New York

I couldn’t quite work it out. Something about my US-based meetings just seemed different. The offices looked similar to those back home in London. Dialogue thankfully flowed just as well.  Dress codes were more or less similar, too.

So what was it that always left me feeling a little…odd?

It hit me.

In the UK, I was used to engaging in extended friendly chit chat prior to getting on with “business.” And this casual yet crucial step was generally being skipped! Or delayed, I should rather say. In the States, you see, the general procedure is to only get more acquainted with one another only after the negotiations.

It’s not better. It’s not worse. It’s simply different.

I was telling over my observation to a NY-based school friend, who verified my observation. In fact, he freely admitted that he also would have struggled to put a finger on the subtle difference if not for his recruiter’s thorough etiquette briefing.

Avoid this.

Fortunately, before my friend had stepped foot in the country, he possessed a solid awareness of New York corporate lingo, negotiating etiquette, and workplace demeanour. Needless to say, he made a very positive impression with his interviewers and superiors. Six years later, you still have one happy client, one happy candidate, and a very happy recruiter.

Flexibility is an essential component to expat life or international business. Do your research, and be prepared to deal with anything. Just as a Brit shouldn’t be bothered by that rare American ‘thankyou and goodbye’ client bear-hug (I’ll save that story for another time), an American needs to be on guard for subtle sarcasm one finds uttered in British board rooms every now and again.

Interestingly, our cultural differences extend well beyond superficial etiquette. While studies indicate that both UK and US workers are primarily attracting to a job based on competitive salaries, Americans are generally far more concerned with benefits and the notion of workplace flexibility. Looking further across the map for more examples, professionals in India far value career advancement and development opportunities over salary offers. A challenging job will generally get Germans excited, but vacation times count for little. Such insights, if used sensibly, could make all the difference in international recruiting efforts.

What do global recruiting, international diplomacy and social psychology have in common? More than we’d ever think.

As candidates or recruiters, what interesting cultural insights can you share given your experiences?

Image: Pasukaru76

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Categories: Articles for Employers, Articles for Job Seekers, Articles for Recruiters

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2 Comments on “Cross-Cultural Recruiting: Notes from a Londoner in New York”

  1. Gary Frshwtr
    August 21, 2011 at 12:37 pm #

    So come on Adam, tell us about the bear hug incident…

  2. September 5, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

    Gary, the only thing I’m saying is that I’m still recovering!

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