multicultural competence

Multicultural Competence — A Must Have Job Skill

There’s a recruiters’ rule of thumb to beware of any candidate who has spent more than seven years with one company. The concern is that the candidate won’t be able to adapt to the culture of a new employer — that they don’t have multicultural competence.

Can You Adapt to New & Different Cultures?

This problem shows up on resumes and on the job.

It’s common to see a resume where someone has had a successful, multi-year career with one company.

That stability is then followed by short-term stints with other companies. When recruiters see this, they wonder if the person has multicultural competence and can adapt to new organizations.

Beyond organizational culture, many of us work with people from different cultures than our own. Those who can work with people from any culture are more valued by employers than those who can’t.

So, how can you stop limited adaptability from being an obstacle to your job search and career?

Don’t Put Short Employment Stints on Your CV

It’s OK to omit a job from your resume, although you have to be prepared to tell an interviewer what you were doing during that period.

You can also group assignments from a given period together, along with a reasonable description of what you were doing.

Show You’ve Worked with Diverse Colleagues

Sample resume language: Managed a multicultural, twelve-person staff.

Prepare to Answer Questions About Adaptability

Here are a few examples:

1. Going from Company A to Company B must have been interesting. What were the biggest cultural differences between the two companies? Which of those differences presented challenges for you? What did you do? How did it turn out?

2. What specific actions did you take to learn the culture at Company B? Tell me about your biggest cultural misstep? What did you do to recover? How did it turn out?

3. Tell me about a time when you needed to be able to read a room to perform well. What was the situation? How did you go about reading the room? What did you then do or not do? What was the result?

Assess & Develop Your Adaptability

You can use a self-assessment tool, the Cross-Cultural Adaptability Inventory, online for about USD$10 (not an affiliate).

The CCAI lets you self-assess on four scales associated with adaptability (Flexibility-Openness, Perceptual Acuity, Emotional Resilience, and Personal Autonomy) and chart yourself against norms. You can also order forms and ask others to assess you.

If you find you want to develop yourself in any of the scale areas, you can order an Action Guide that provides some simple, easy-to-do exercises for about USD$4. You can go also hire a coach to help you.

The CCAI was an eye-opener for me. I wasn’t as adaptable as I thought I was. Give it a try!

Image: Fotolia/momius
Updated July 2019

© 2010 – 2019, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.

Comments 4

  1. Interesting: I always knew recruiters generally had concerns about candidates with longer tenures at a specific employers but didn’t until now know the cut-off point was 7 years. Good blog entry!

  2. Yep Ed, it seems there’s a sweet spot between being unemployed and being too employed.

    Remember though, we’re talking optimal positioning. We all have our strong points and “issues” when it comes to conducting a job search. The more “issues” a resume shows, the more the job seeker should focus on networking, and not just submitting resumes, to find their next job.

  3. The examples of interview questions regarding adaptability are like gold to job seekers! These are definitely not part of the typical questions that candidates would think about.

    You mention that seven or more years can cause concern about adaptability. What’s the lower end of the threshold for changing jobs that seems reasonable and wouldn’t be a concern for job jumping?

  4. Hi Melissa,

    Thank you for your kind words.

    On job changing vs. job hopping, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I ask my search clients how long they want their new hire to stay in the job. Then, when I’m reviewing resumes, I look at each applicant’s average tenure in their jobs over the past 10 years. If their average tenure is less than that what my client is looking for, I either don’t proceed, or I proceed very carefully.


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