Testing Potential Employees for Cultural Intelligence

John Krautzel
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Cultural intelligence is becoming just as important as IQ and emotional intelligence when hiring new employees, as of 2018. That's because companies, even startups, need to have a global focus to succeed. Knowing how to functional productively in a multicultural environment is a must for incoming job candidates. Discover five interview questions to ask candidates to gauge their cultural awareness.

1. How Have You Successfully Worked Cross-Functionally With Another Team?

Only 55 percent of employees say they can collaborate effectively across departments. Knowing how to work with people in a different department, who often communicate and think differently from someone on your own team, means you must have a degree of flexibility and adaptability when working with others. A good answer from a candidate indicates that he enjoyed working with various personalities and differences to achieve a similar objective. Similarly, someone with good cultural intelligence appreciates different approaches to getting things done.

2. How Did You Learn About Another Culture That You Found Interesting or Exciting?

This is an easy question to ask regarding cultural intelligence. The candidate could say he traveled overseas to immerse himself in a foreign language, took foreign language classes in college, or read books on various world cultures. An appropriate response is to give an example of how someone in a different culture operates in their day-to-day lives.

3. Talk About a Time When You Had to Alter Your Behavior to Make Someone More Comfortable?

Relevant cultural intelligence may mean altering the way you do things to accommodate someone else's ideals. The answer should reflect how someone changed a physical, emotional or mental aspect of their interactions to deal with someone from another culture. For example, the candidate may tell a story about he bowed in respect to someone in Japan rather than shaking hands.

4. How Has Being a Part of Your Own Culture Made It Easier or More Difficult for You to Succeed?

This question talks about how well a candidate adapts to other cultures by becoming self-aware of his own culture. Your candidate may say it's hard to adapt to other cultures because he grew up around people of his own background. A candidate may speak about how his household grew up in a multiethnic place, which made it easier for him to adapt. A candidate with good cultural intelligence recognizes how his own upbringing or background may hinder his opportunities.

5. Have You Ever Had a Perception of a Different Culture That Was Proven Wrong?

Again, this question probes someone's self-awareness, but also if someone is open to change. A person with high cultural awareness may laugh about his faulty perception and then is secure in knowing that he learned how to deal with someone from another background. Someone without a lot of cultural awareness could get defensive and abrasive about this question.

Diversity, inclusion and cultural awareness are all important for employers because they improve employee performance, increase flexibility and make companies better able to adapt to market forces. All of this leads to higher profits and better success.

These five interview questions demonstrate how you can test for cultural intelligence ahead of hiring someone. You can also foster cultural awareness by having company training, outings or initiatives to bring multicultural attitudes into your corporate mindset.

Photo courtesy of Liliana Gil at Flickr.com


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