Despite the global nature of our economy, job interviews in the United States and Latin America aren’t quite the same. As a service to Hispanic jobseekers who may not be completely up to speed on the U.S. ways of doing things, LatPro founder Eric Shannon asked a couple of experts to help him pen the article “Mastering the U.S. job interview – 10 tips for Hispanic professionals.” While Shannon’s list went live in 2007, the information is pretty timeless, and much of it applies to workers of all ethnic backgrounds.
1. Toot Your Horn — While Hispanics can be community-oriented, Shannon writes, interviewers want to hear about a recruit’s personal achievements. That means tooting the proverbial horn and taking credit for what you’ve done.
2. Look ‘Em in the Eye — Although cultural differences might link eye contact to sexual attraction or even defiance, it’s key to make good eye contact with a hiring manager.
3. Get to the Point — Rather than answer questions with long-winded stories, be direct. Graciela Kenig, founder and president of LatinoWorkforce.com, advocates the SAR approach: choose a situation, relate your action, highlight the results. “Plunging right in and talking about the matter at hand may seem rude or abrupt to a Latino, but it won’t to the person doing the interview,” Shannon writes.
4. Keep It Professional — If the interviewer asks, “Tell me something about yourself,” it’s not icebreaker meant to elicit conversation about your family. Stick to things you’ve done at past jobs — that’s what they’re looking to hear about.
5. Lose the “Yes Syndrome” — According to bilingual recruiting consultant and America At Work founder Nelson A. De Leon, many Hispanic interviewees will nod and say yes through a conversation, signaling they’ve heard but not necessarily understood everything that’s been said. It’s fine to ask questions, De Leon says, and in fact, it’ll make you seem engaged.
6. Be Active — As Shannon says, smart people ask great questions, so be sure you’re engaged during the interview and not sitting there passively. Don’t be too humble or reserved.
7. Don’t Use “Tu” — If the interview is in Spanish, use “usted,” not “tu.” While there should never be an air of subservience during the conversation, Shannon says, it’s important to show respect.
8. Dress Properly — The crucial thing here is being conservative. The company may be fairly casual, Shannon writes, but you still want to wear business casual attire and avoid flashy jewelry or overpowering aftershave. And remember: going-out dressy isn’t the same as professional dressy. “Whatever you wear makes an impression and says something about who you are,” Kenig says.
9. Don’t Expect Personal Questions — In the U.S., there are many things employers can’t ask about, and a lack of questions regarding, say, family won’t signal impoliteness or disinterest. Bottom line: Don’t be discouraged or figure you’ve blown it if the hiring manager doesn’t ask about your at-home life.
10. Network and Research — In addition to researching a company via the usual channels, use connections to the Hispanic community to get the inside scoop on what life is like at the firm. As Shannon says, Hispanic professional organizations are great for this.