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What makes a person effective in an international or cross-cultural work setting?

This is complex question and an important one for everyone seeking jobs and also recruiting academics internationally. Even the best designed interview questions or assessment tools are likely to stumble over this question, so this recent research brief from the Oxford Review caught my eye.

The main paper referenced by the brief looks at cultural intelligence, global mindset, and cross-cultural competencies as independent, but related concepts and, usefully, provides definitions for each term. All three terms are often used in job listings and in job applications, so I was interested in the way the study analysed their use across the growing academic literature in this field. The main study referenced in the brief is bibliometric and suggests that use of these terms overlaps in the literature.

For anyone recruiting internationally the list of predictors for the 3 concepts is particularly valuable. Cultural intelligence and cross-cultural competencies are hard to measure but they are well predicted by a list of simple factors that will be easy to discern in a well-designed recruitment exercise. They include exposure to different cultural contexts, having lived or stayed abroad for extended periods (more than holidays), speaking more than one language, and so on. If you will be planning an international recruitment exercise in the coming months, the predictor lists in the brief are a useful checklist for building person specifications and interview questions.

Here are some more examples:

  • Emotional intelligence
  • Cross-cultural contact
  • Cross-cultural interest and study of other cultures
  • Education –high levels of educational attainment is important here
  • Cultural beliefs
  • Trigger events, or situations in which the individual has been involved
  • Having a learning orientation or curiosity
  • Having been exposed to forms of cultural intelligence training and learning

Global mindset has a shorter list of predictors and is associated with high levels of international performance in a business context. To discover global mindset during recruitment you will be looking for individuals who are very open to new experiences. You will also want to explore:

  • their individual experiences of, and thinking about, global issues;
  • their interest in complexity;
  • any proclivity for experiential learning.

All these predictors will provide revealing interview questions for any role requiring a wide world-view and adaptation to new cultures or new ways of working. They will also help you build a comprehensive picture of a candidate without resorting to less helpful, subjective ‘tell me about yourself’ interview questions.

As an international academic candidate you can, of course, turn all this on its head and use the language and terms in these papers both as part of your job applications and your interview preparations.  If you have worked in several different countries, pulling your varied experience together into a coherent career narrative can be a challenge.  You will find plenty of language in this review briefing to help you explain how your international experience can directly benefit your prospective new employer.


Read the full Oxford Review briefing here

Main paper: Yari, N., Lankut, E., Alon, I., & Richter, N. F. (2020). Cultural intelligence, global mindset, and cross-cultural competencies: A systematic review using bibliometric methods. European Journal of International Management, 14(2), 210-250.

Wendy leads the team at Global Academy Jobs. She also makes respectable tea but should leave coffee to experts.

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