This is a guest post by Grayson Leverenz of MBA in the USA.
It was late in the spring, and the international student sitting across from me was nervous because she didn’t have an internship yet. She had solid skills, a flawless resume, and she prepared for her interviews. What was the problem?
We started her session with a behavioral question. I asked, “Tell me about a time when you worked on a virtual team project.” She launched into her answer using the MBA STAR framework: Situation, Task, Action, Result.
About two minutes later, I recognized the issue. The student was still explaining the Situation.
Americans communicate directly. We value clear, concise messages, and don’t require a lot of background (or context) before the main point.
This student was from a highly indirect culture. She was taught the value of nuances in word choice, tone, and non-verbals. Her culture also required significant background in communicating messages. The Situation and Task were important to her because they provided the context.
I explained the cultural dimension of Communication to her, and gave details about the range from direct to indirect. “Americans prefer a direct communication style and are highly results-oriented. What that means for STAR is that you spend very little time, no more than 45 seconds, on the Situation and Task. You focus the majority of your answer on the Action and Results.”
Her eyes brightened. She understood. We practiced again, and she integrated the new information perfectly. The student ended the season with multiple internship offers, and used her new cultural communication skills to succeed on the job.
Culture dictates the way we approach everything, even the STAR format of interviewing. As you’re preparing to be Accepted, communicate with the receiver in mind, both in interviewing and in writing.
Grayson Leverenz founded MBA in the USA® to help international students build networks, find jobs, and have fun in the USA. Hundreds of global professionals have benefited from Grayson’s intercultural workshops, and she has worked with people from Brazil, China, India, South Africa, South Korea, the UK, and the USA to build effective virtual teams and craft brilliant careers.