Succeed in America

Overcome Cultural and Linguistic Barriers. Improve Effectiveness 

letters-786090__340-2In the business world, lack of information about etiquette and unspoken rules on gender interaction and norms can create misunderstandings crucial for an individual’s success. Consider the following job interview situation, adapted from the book How to Get a Job in the USA:

 Olga Petrovskaya did not understand why it took so long for her to get a job in America. She had graduated with honors from the top technical school in Saint Petersburg Polytechnical University, Russia.

She had been the most valuable IT manager in a very successful jewelry manufacturing plant for the last two years. When her family moved to the US, she was not worried at all about the transition. Her English, she thought, was fairly good and her profession was in great demand in America. [pullquote]In the business world, lack of information about etiquette and unspoken rules on gender interaction and norms can create misunderstandings crucial for an individual’s success.[/pullquote]

But things did not proceed as smooth as she had anticipated. Potential employers were impressed with her credentials, as well as her résumé, which she had created with the help of an American friend. However, even though she went to many interviews, she did not receive any job offers.

She could not understand why. She replayed her most recent interview in her mind again and again. Yes, she wore her best dress, the one with a little lace collar and buttons down the back; it went perfectly well with her new red patent leather shoes with silver buckles. She recalled that the recruiter, a man, seemed somewhat strange to her: he extended his hand for a handshake first. ‘How rude,’ thought Olga. Should he not wait until she, a woman, extended hers first? Then he had smiled at her throughout the interview. Did that mean he fancied her? She tried to avoid his eyes and maintain a very sombre expression so that he did not get any ideas….

Clearly, those who are being relocated internationally need to understand gender issues. The following are some suggestions for a human resources manager:

Consider the possibility that you actually have a problem. Do not assume that because expats travel a lot, they know the protocol in each and every country. Instead, ask your relocating employers to give their views on the role of women and men and how they are perceived in their cultures of origin. Never assume that your expats know the intricacies of gender interaction in the US or you will have a problem or even potentially face legal complications.

Think about getting a professional to conduct a training program to set expectations about American workplace culture. I found this helps companies address gender issues.

Many countries throughout the world have laws guarding against sexual harassment in the workplace. However, different nations have different interpretations of them. That is why I define sexual harassment in my book, Ameri$peak , as “inappropriate—from an American standpoint—behavior when interacting with the opposite sex.”

(This is an excerpt from Dr. Nara’s article published in Worldwide ERC Mobility Magazine.)

You Might Also Like These Articles:

Sexual Harassment or a Compliment?
Business English: Useful Phrases for Cell Phone Calls 
3 Vital Tips for Building Confidence in Business Meetings 

tn[2] (2)**Dr. Nara Venditti is the owner of Succeed In America specializing in business communication skills for foreign-born professionals and cross-cultural communication in the workplace. She is passionate about cross-cultural understanding and helping non-native speakers of English succeed in the American workplace. She
 speaks  and writes on Business English and communication across languages and cultural divides. She is  the author of numerous articles and books on the topics available on SucceedinAmerica  and  on  Amazon amazon-underground-app-us-black.    




There are four stages to a job interview in the US: small talk (which means “polite informal conversation”,

next, the interviewer will tell you about the company and briefly describe the position, after that the interviewer will ask you questions about you and pertaining to the position, and, finally, you will be given the opportunity to ask your own questions.

Int this post I will provide some examples of small talk.
Remember that small talk is simply a transition to the stages of dialogue that will follow. The interviewer may lead with a few informal questions such as: 

Q: What is the weather like out there? 

A: The weather is great. I like this time of year.


Q: It is beautiful outside, isn’t it?     A: Yes it is.

Q: How was your ride in?    A: Great. Thank you.

Q: Did you have any problem finding us? 

 A: No, not at all. I studied the directions.

During the small talk stage, keep your answers cheerful, short and crisp (no more than one or two short sentences), as shown in the examples above.

(excerpt from How to Get Job in the USA)

Following small talk, the interview moves to Stage 2, description of the company and position. This will be a topic for another post and video episode. Any questions? Email me at 

Recruiters need to keep in mind that behavioral interviews may be misleading when dealing with multicultural candidates, especially those who interview for certain categories of jobs in entry level or technical positions. In the US, much emphasis is placed on performance during behavioral interview phase of hiring process. When determining who is the best candidate for the position, sometimes in the US we are getting too carried away with the significance of the results of the behavioral interview. However, behavioral interviews are pretty much prepared answers, and they very often indicate candidates’ ability to self-promote rather than do the  job. Describing past experiences and accomplishments may be very challenging for the candidates from high context cultures (e.g. Asia, Latin America).  Self-promotion is not appreciated in many parts of the world.  When we look for the best candidates regardless of his or hers background we need to keep that in mind. In my opinion, skill tests are much more objective particularly when we are dealing with foreign-born candidates. Note: link to YouTube