Typical cultural diversity questions asked in interviews, and how to tackle them

In this article we take a look at interview questions that are designed to gauge your cultural competence and share some tips on how to answer them

 

It’s Heritage month, a time when we celebrate our diversity as a nation. South Africa is a melting pot of individuals with unique cultures, backgrounds, and values and because of this it is important for companies to hire employees who can work in an environment where there are diverse cultural groups.

 

One tool interviewers use to gauge your “cultural competence” is to ask you questions on how to deal with cultural diversity.  It might seem daunting, especially if you are trying to impress the interviewers. That is why we have compiled some of the questions you might encounter in an interview with some tips on how to answer them like a pro.

 

“Tell us how you work with people to create or foster diversity in the workplace.”

When faced with a question like this, it is important to answer based on your own past experiences. Talk about how your knowledge of other cultures has helped you in a certain situation in the past or how your ability to relate to others with different backgrounds has made it possible for a group to work together.  Employers love team players, but they love team players who can play really well with others even more.

 

“Describe a situation in which you utilised your multicultural skills to solve a problem.”

Not all of us have necessarily had the opportunity to solve a problem with our multicultural skills, so be honest.  Tell the interviewer that you might not have had a specific experience but explain how you would use your knowledge of diverse cultures to solve a problem if you ever encountered one.  You might want to include where you have learned this skill.  If you travelled or went to school with vastly different cultures in one classroom, mention it. Dazzle them with your diplomacy and ability to navigate multicultural environments.

 

“Talk about a time that you successfully adapted to a culturally different environment.”

It is important for interviewers to know that you will be able to adapt in different and challenging situations. The nature of your work might require you to spend a lot of time in a foreign country, for example. For you to be able to do your job effectively, you need to be able to adapt.  Draw on your previous experiences.  Mention the ways in which the people you encountered differed from you and how you were able to connect with them using your knowledge and experience.  You don’t have to refer specifically to an experience you had in your previous workplace.  It is just important to relate what you have learned from that experience to the workplace.

 

General tips

We can’t cover all diversity and culture questions that come up in interviews, so here are some general tips for making a great impression.

Avoid stereotypes

If an interviewer asks a culture-related question, avoid stereotyping. Talking about diversity can be tricky, so instead of using stereotypes focus on the positive and convey your emotional intelligence, cultural savvy and adaptability.

Show your understanding of diversity

Diversity isn’t just about race. Diversity, especially in the workplace, is about working together with colleagues as a cohesive unit no matter your difference. Show your interviewer that you can collaborate with people from all kinds of backgrounds, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age or disability.

 

We are lucky to live in a country with so many different races and cultures. We need to work to understand others’ cultures and backgrounds, so we can be more tolerant and prone to form cohesive units with people who are different from us. Being adaptable and culturally intelligent will make you invaluable in the workplace since you can adapt to your environment and relate to others easily.

 

Regardless of what you see in the news, South Africans are extremely inclusive and culturally sensitive. We know what it feels like to be excluded and dare not make the same mistakes of the past.  Therefore, we celebrate our diversity and pride ourselves on being a society that is inclusive and tolerant of others.

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