International Business Etiquette Basics for Your Next Interview Abroad

What is the etiquette for an international job interview? Looking for a job or internship in your home country can be a grueling endeavor in itself. But looking for a job or internship in another country, when you have to navigate cultural differences and a different way of doing business can easily overwhelm, and if you let it, it can hinder your dreams of international success.

I know how confusing it can be to look for a job or adapt to life in a new country. From my 10 years of international experience, I’ve had my fair share of cultural obstacles to overcome.

In today’s article, I want to give you some things to consider for your first interview abroad or international business trip.

Know the Style of Handshake to Use

Handshake styles differ across cultures. If you’re from the US, Canada or Australia, you’re probably more accustomed to a firm handshake that sends the message of confidence and power. But if you were to use such a firm handshake in Asia or even Europe, it could easily be interpreted as overpowering or too dominant. You need to adapt the style of handshake you use depending on the culture.

Know What Attire is Appropriate

The focus here is on the formality of your interview attire. The level of formality that will be expected of you for your interview differs across cultures. Interview attire for most European countries will be more formal. Men should wear a suit with a tie. Ladies should wear a pant-suit, or skirt-suit with stockings. If the country you’re going to is more informal, a suit and tie might look out of place. In that situation, remove your tie or wear a pair of dress pants instead.

Image courtesy of: Ambro/

Image courtesy of: Ambro/

Know How Your Interviewer Wants to Be Addressed

In formal cultures people are used to being addressed by “Mr” or “Ms” and their surname. Using that person’s first name (instead of their surname) during an interview could make them feel uncomfortable. That’s not the atmosphere you want to create with your interviewer. On the other hand, if you were to interview in a more casual culture, such as Australia, first names are commonly used. And by using that person’s first name, if can help create a rapport with that person.

Interview Etiquette with Executive Impressions

Learn What “Punctual” Actually Means

Coming from an Anglo-Saxon culture, (Australia) I’m used to being extremely punctual. But living in France, I’ve learned to be a little more flexible and lenient when it comes to punctuality. Even though differences do exist in regards to punctuality between cultures, I will always advise you to arrive 5-10 minutes early for any interview. If the interviewer arrives later, at least you will be ready when they call you into the room.

Be Flexible

Flexibility is crucial for doing business internationally or even living abroad. You will often come across situations that don’t make sense to you. The first time I lived in Japan, I was surprised to find that I needed to pay my utility bills in a convenience store. No matter how prepared you think you are, there will always be twists and turns along the way. So keep an open mind and remain flexible. It’s the only way to take on these new challenges and keep moving forward with a positive mindset.

I hope these tips will help you better plan for your next interview in an international destination.

If you would like to boost your skills in business etiquette to better prepare for job interviews in a western business culture, then check out my video course, “Business Etiquette 101: Social Skills for Success. Click the image below.


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About Kara

Kara Ronin is the founder of Executive Impressions. She is an executive coach who specialises in leadership presence, social skills and business etiquette. She is also the creator of Bestselling Udemy course, Business Etiquette 101. Kara’s advice and unique perspectives have been featured in Time Inc., Business Insider, Ignites Europe (a Financial Times Service), The Muse, The Local France, The West Australian, and more. Kara works regularly with lawyers, investment bankers, and finance professionals to help them build presence, authority and influence in business. Get Kara's insights delivered straight to your inbox

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