multicultural competench

Multicultural Competence — A 2022 Best Job Skill

There’s a recruiters’ rule of thumb to beware of any candidate who has spent more than 7 years with their current company. The concern is that the candidate won’t adapt to a new culture because they don’t have multicultural competence.

Can You Adapt to Different Cultures?

This problem shows up on resumes and at work.

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

Then, short-term stints with other companies follow that stability. When recruiters see that, they wonder if the applicant has multicultural competence and can adapt to new organizations.

Can You Work with People from Multiple Cultures?

Beyond adapting to new organizational cultures, many of us work with people from varied ethnic cultures. Those who are effective with people from any culture are more valued by employers than those who aren’t.

Why? Because diversity drives performance. A 2020 McKinsey report, Diversity Wins, shared research that found that companies with strong ethnic and gender diversity significantly outperform their competitors.

In fact, they found the correlation has strengthened since they started their research in 2014.

How to Stop Limited Adaptability from Tanking Your Career

So, how do you solve this potential career-limiting problem?

Use these 4 tips:

1. Don’t Put Short Employment Stints on Your Resume

They’re red flags to savvy readers that say, “Warning, potential interpersonal problems!”

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

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

2. Show You’ve Worked with Diverse Colleagues

Sample resume language:

Managed a multicultural, 12-person staff.

3. Prepare to Answer Questions About Adaptability

Here are a few examples:

Going from Company A to Company B must have been interesting.

  • What were the biggest cultural differences between the companies?
  • Which of those differences challenged you?
  • What did you do?
  • How did it turn out?

What actions did you take to learn the culture at Company B?

  • Tell me about your biggest misstep.
  • What did you do to recover?
  • How did it turn out?

Tell me about a time when you worked on a diverse team.

  • How was it diverse?
  • What were your biggest challenges?
  • How did you manage them?
  • How did it turn out?

4. Assess & Develop Your Adaptability

It’s important to realize you might have an adaptability problem and not know it.

To check, you can use a self-assessment tool, the Cross-Cultural Adaptability Inventory, available online for $26 (not an affiliate) to get a sense of your skills.

The CCAI lets you self-assess on 4 scales associated with adaptability:

  • Flexibility-Openness
  • Perceptual Acuity
  • Emotional Resilience
  • Personal Autonomy

You can also chart yourself against norms.

If you find you want to develop yourself on any scale, you’ll likely make fast progress by working with a coach.


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

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Updated October 2021

© 2010 – 2021, 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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