Mistakes to avoid when interviewing internationally | Teami

Avoid These Easy-to-make Mistakes When Interviewing International Employees

Learn how to avoid common mistakes like cultural gaffes and language barriers when interviewing international candidates.

Hiring top global talent is crucial for companies to compete and innovate in today's borderless business world. But without proper preparation, international recruiting can stumble due to cultural gaps or logistical mishaps that turn off candidates. This article highlights key mistakes like inadequate cultural awareness, communication barriers, and lack of relocation support that derail global hiring. Companies will gain specific, actionable guidance on respecting regulations, adapting practices, and tailoring assistance to ensure their international interviewing successfully attracts diverse, qualified candidates. Read on to access insights that will prevent easily avoidable missteps and lead to competitive advantage through engaged international teams.

Visa Requirements

For foreign nationals to work legally in the United States, they must obtain the appropriate visa. There are several main types of employment visas:

  • H-1B visa - For workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. This is the most common visa for skilled international workers. The annual cap is 65,000.

  • L-1 visa - For intracompany transfers of executives, managers or workers with specialized knowledge from a foreign office to a US office. No annual cap.

  • O-1 visa - For individuals with extraordinary ability in science, arts, education, business, athletics. No annual cap.

  • TN visa - For Canadian and Mexican citizens to work in specific professional occupations through NAFTA. No annual cap.

The visa application process can be lengthy, taking several months in some cases. Employers should account for processing times when hiring. Using an immigration attorney can help navigate any issues.

Work Permits

In addition to a visa, most non-US citizens require a work permit to be employed legally. Work permits are issued by USCIS based on the approved visa petition. The work permit specifies the employer, job title and length of authorized employment.

Some visas, like H-1B, inherently include work authorization. Others, like F-1 student visas, require a separate application for a work permit.

Under U.S. law, foreign national employees are entitled to the same basic workplace rights as American workers, regardless of visa status. This includes rights related to:

  • Minimum wage and overtime pay

  • Safe working conditions

  • Non-discrimination and harassment protections

  • Family and medical leave

  • Protection from retaliation for reporting issues

There are some exceptions - for example, certain high-level executives may be exempt from overtime pay requirements. But in general, companies must treat visa holders according to the same labor standards as US citizens.

Being aware of these regulations, and the differences between various visa types, helps avoid missteps when hiring globally. Using qualified immigration counsel provides an extra level of assurance for full legal compliance. But the bottom line is international employees have protections and rights employers must respect.

Cultural Sensitivity and Awareness

Avoiding Stereotypes

When interviewing someone from another country, it's important not to let stereotypes or prejudices influence your perceptions. Focus on evaluating the individual's skills and experience objectively. Avoid making assumptions based on their nationality or ethnicity.

Do your homework beforehand to understand the cultural background of candidates. But don't treat them as representatives of their culture. Get to know them as individuals with unique perspectives. If certain practices seem unfamiliar, ask respectful questions to understand, not judge. Maintaining an open mind creates space for meaningful cross-cultural exchange.

Respecting Cultural Norms

Research cultural norms before conducting international interviews to avoid missteps. For instance, etiquette around greetings, eye contact, and body language varies significantly across cultures. In some societies, direct eye contact is seen as disrespectful or aggressive. In others, a firm handshake is expected. Understanding these nuances prevents awkward situations.

If interviews require travel, be thoughtful about logistical details. Dietary restrictions, holiday schedules, dress codes, and gender dynamics differ globally. Arrange accommodations accordingly. Though it takes effort, respecting cultural norms makes candidates feel valued.

Communication Styles

Communication styles also differ cross-culturally. Some cultures prize indirectness while others prefer bluntness. Certain societies favor hierarchical dynamics rather than egalitarian ones. Adapting your approach is key.

Ask open-ended questions to allow space for diverse perspectives. Listen actively without interruption. Clarify meaning before reacting to ensure mutual understanding. Avoid idioms and slang that don't translate across cultures.

Patience and empathy are crucial. The interview process inherently involves power imbalances. Be aware of how these dynamics may be amplified for international candidates. Building rapport across cultures requires sincerity, humility and effort. But international teams who communicate effectively are proven to outperform more homogeneous groups.

With preparation and cultural intelligence, companies can conduct international interviews successfully. Avoiding bias while respecting cultural norms fosters an inclusive environment. Adapting communication styles also facilitates mutual understanding between diverse team members. Though it requires work, embracing cross-cultural differences allows companies to access and integrate global talent.

Language Barriers

Clear Communication

Speaking slowly and clearly optimizes understanding during interviews. Avoid complex vocabulary and idiomatic expressions that translate poorly across cultures. Ask open-ended questions that allow room for elaboration.

Listen attentively without interrupting. Seek clarification on any points of uncertainty to prevent miscommunication. Be patient providing explanations if needed. Summarize periodically to check alignment.

Supplement verbal communication with visuals. Share agenda outlines, organization charts or product images to provide context. Non-verbal cues like smiling and nodding also help build rapport.

Avoiding Jargon

Each industry and company has specific terminology. This business jargon is second nature to insiders but can confuse outsiders. Avoid overusing internal acronyms, product names or process terms during international interviews.

Explain relevant jargon concisely if it comes up. Define technical concepts simply without oversimplifying. You want candidates to understand your business, not feel excluded by it.

Language Assessment

Evaluate candidates' language abilities to determine if they meet job requirements. For roles with high communication demands, formal language testing may be warranted.

However, be cautious about overemphasizing fluency. Some accents or grammatical quirks do not indicate ability. Focus on clear comprehension of ideas, not perfect pronunciation.

During interviews, assess communication skills naturally through conversation. Seek diverse perspectives on the role languages play in aptitude and performance. Avoid assumptions based on accents or minor mistakes.

Translation Services

If significant language barriers exist, provide translation services. Hiring professional interpreters for interviews shows respect while optimizing understanding.

Some multinational companies have internal translation teams. Alternatively, external interpretation services can be contracted when recruiting abroad. Though costly, this investment pays dividends in hiring the right global talent.

With preparation, patience and adaptability, language diversity need not impede effective interviews. Assess true capabilities beyond accents. Utilize visuals, simplify jargon and provide translations when useful. By bridging communication gaps creatively, companies gain access to the world’s most qualified candidates.

Inadequate Compensation Discussions

Understanding Cost of Living

A major mistake is presenting U.S. salary ranges without considering local purchasing power. The same wage goes much further in some countries than others. Research costs for housing, food, and other necessities in candidates' locations. Adjust offers upwards for expensive regions so pay feels equitable. Don't rely on blanket national income data. Hyperlocalized conditions require tailored compensation.

For instance, while salaries in India may seem low overall, offers must account for steep housing costs in Mumbai or Bangalore. Benchmark against positions requiring similar skills and experience. Evaluate expectations based on living standards, not forex rates alone. With context, you can extend competitive, fair packages.

Currency Differences

Quoting salaries in U.S. dollars causes confusion, especially when currencies fluctuate frequently. Instead, discuss pay in local currency. This provides concrete numbers candidates can easily compare against market benchmarks.

To determine appropriate ranges, identify average wages for comparable roles in their countries. Convert these to target currencies using up-to-date exchange rates. Build in buffers allowing for currency swings over an employee's tenure. Clarify base pay only or total compensation including benefits.

Present multiple options within your budget to spur negotiation. Being flexible shows you respect international applicants as individuals with varying needs.


Given limited social safety nets abroad, prioritize benefits like health insurance and retirement savings. Compare plans to local standards so offerings seem robust. For countries with national healthcare, boost other perks like vacation time.

Clarify eligibility waiting periods, especially for relocation packages. Ensure proper visas are secured before extending official offers. Moving too quickly can create legal issues down the road if hires ultimately can't emigrate.

Patience and cultural awareness are key during international salary talks. Do your homework on local practices and norms. Adapt to individual circumstances instead of pushing rigid formulas. Understand how pay translates into lifestyle. Your investments will deliver a global team that enriches your business for years to come.

Failing to Accommodate Time Zones

Scheduling Interviews

The first step is researching time differences to identify reasonable windows for both parties. When scheduling, convert times to candidates' local zones to avoid confusion.

For locations many hours ahead, suggest interviewing early in your morning or late in their evening when there is overlap. If you're behind, aim for your late afternoon and their early morning.

Email calendar invitations in everyone's respective time zones. Include a note clearly indicating the equivalent local time. Double check candidates received invites covering their full names; certain cultures display surnames first.

Allow ample time between scheduling and the interview itself. This gives participants time to make arrangements around commitments impacted by the unusual hour. Never expect candidates halfway across the world to be available immediately unless confirmed.

If real-time conversations prove unworkable, suggest alternatives like email, recorded video or asynchronous chat. The goal is removing logistical barriers to assess qualifications, not rigidly following standard protocols.

Respecting Personal Time

Avoid scheduling international interviews outside normal business hours unless mutually agreed upon. Expecting candidates to sacrifice their early mornings, late nights or weekends demonstrates disregard for their personal lives.

If the time difference makes finding shared daylight working hours impossible, thoughtfully suggest one slightly expanded window per day. This respects cultural norms around family time in the evenings in many societies.

For candidates applying from countries that mandate weekend work restrictions, such as in the Middle East, keep interviews strictly within the Sunday to Thursday frame.

Ultimately, excessive scheduling flexibility should not fall solely on candidates. They have lives, commitments and careers outside your hiring process.


Embrace flexibility when coordinating cross-border interviews. If a suggested time proves unworkable for a candidate due to a holiday or religious occasion, apologize and offer alternatives.

Avoid rigidity around exact time slots, within reason. If a candidate requests moving a scheduled interview back 30 minutes due to a last-minute conflict, accommodate graciously.

Likewise, if an unexpected delay emerges on your end, such as a prior meeting running long, inform the candidate promptly and adjust as needed. Extend the same courtesies you would want.

With preparation and empathy, scheduling interviews across time zones can work smoothly. Research appropriate windows in each location and convert times clearly. Build in flexibility to accommodate unforeseen events and respect candidates’ out-of-office lives. Your efforts will be rewarded with more inclusive global hiring.

Overlooking Relocation Assistance

Relocation Packages

A competitive relocation package for international hires often includes core elements like:

  • Shipping or storage of household goods

  • Temporary housing upon arrival

  • Reimbursement for move-related expenses like transportation, meals and insurance

  • Signing bonus to offset costs of establishing a new residence

Additional perks may involve severance payments to aid the transition, cultural or language training, and ongoing allowances for housing, education and dependent care. Major technology firms and multinationals frequently provide extensive packages worth tens of thousands of dollars. Benchmark against industry norms and local practices to tailor an attractive offer.

Navigating visa and immigration processes also represents a daunting prospect for newcomers to the United States. Sponsoring work permits and green card applications demonstrates an employer’s commitment. Covering legal counsel fees removes a significant barrier for hires who lack familiarity with American systems. Lawyers can demystify complex regulations around visas, taxes, banking, social security and more. Ensure proper adherence to all rules and minimize new team members’ anxieties.

Cultural Training

Even English-speaking countries feature significant cultural differences from the United States. Offering robust orientation programs helps international hires adapt. Training might cover communication norms, etiquette in meetings and the workplace, dress codes, management hierarchies and appropriate topics for workplace interactions. Insights into American holidays, sports and pop culture also enables watercooler integration. Beyond logistics, cultural training investments speed productivity by preventing new hires from feeling like outsiders.

Smart employers realize providing relocation assistance plays a pivotal role in hiring internationally. Competitive packages ease major burdens for overseas hires joining your team. Don’t overlook critical support like legal help, cultural orientation and general moving logistics. Investing in international relocations pays dividends through engaged, productive team members.

In Summary

The global job market is more accessible than ever before. Technology now allows companies to connect with and hire international talent across borders. However, successfully hiring internationally requires awareness and strategic support. Companies must educate themselves on legal regulations like visa categories, work permits, and employee rights for foreign nationals. They need to demonstrate cultural intelligence through proper interviewing practices that avoid bias or stereotyping. Effective communication strategies help bridge language barriers. Salary and benefits must be contextualized and localized to ensure fair, competitive offers. Logistics like time zones and relocation assistance require conscientious planning.

When executed thoughtfully, international hiring provides immense value. It allows companies to build diverse teams with complementary strengths. Different perspectives enhance innovation, productivity, and problem-solving. Access to the full global talent pool means hiring the absolutely best candidates for open roles. International employees' unique skills, experiences and networks plug gaps and fuel growth.

But without proper preparation, international hiring can stumble. Mishandling legal issues or failing to respect cultural differences turns off top talent. Ultimately, global recruiting done well delivers a long-term competitive advantage through an engaged, multinational workforce. The effort to understand regulations, tailor support, and adapt processes pays dividends. International hiring works when companies demonstrate commitment to making it work. The payoff is a thriving cross-cultural team lifting your business to the next level.

The most powerful time tracking software for agencies big and small, operating globally.

14 Day Free Trial. Cancel Any Time.

Here’s why agencies love Teami

Simple, fast and modern
We really care about the experience our users have within Teami, this means we put extra effort into making sure our product is user friendly and intuitive.
No training needed
High team adoption with privacy first
Teami is anti-surveillance meaning no screen recording or privacy violations. This helps our users get high team buy-in with a time tracking solution they are happy to use.
Powerful features for everyone
We do not charge extra for our multiple currency features or billing types. You can use our full product on every plan - the banded costs depend on the size of your agency.

Trusted by the best

Join hundreds of Agencies, Contract Recruiters, Outsourcing and Outstaffing teams that run better internal operations with Teami.
Our Ukraine pledge
Our team is spread across the United Kingdom and Ukraine. In support of our friends and colleagues we pledge to donate 10% of revenue to the Ukrainian army, every single month.
Donation updates are sent out in our monthly newsletter.
Join thousands of agency team members and receive our newsletter.
We are always writing, designing and sharing agency guides with the latest industry knowledge, tips, tricks and more. These get shared first in our monthly newsletter alongside our Ukrainian Army donation updates.

The most powerful time tracking software for agencies big and small, operating globally.

14 Day Free Trial. Cancel Any Time.