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Culturally-sensitive and effective interviewers know the background, experience and culture of the job candidates they interview and respond to each candidate on the basis of individual merit. By understanding that limited availability of work, lack of training opportunities, distance from major economic centres and a variety of personal factors may be responsible for inconsistent work records, the interviewer can more accurately assess an Aboriginal candidate’s resume.

When conducting interviews with candidates from different cultures, the interviewer must be alert to a variety of scenarios. For example, silence following a question may mean something vastly different to an Aboriginal person than to a non-Aboriginal person; similarly, a verbal communication in one culture may have no meaning in another.

To accurately evaluate an Aboriginal candidate, use the tips below to avoid the most common pitfalls of cross-cultural interviewing.

Basic Aboriginal Culture Differences

  • Community is the foremost of all values
  • Oral is preferred over print
  • Goals are met with patience
  • Work is often motivated by group need
  • Silences are acceptable
  • Listening skills are prized
  • Soft spoken words carry farthest
  • Nodding signifies understanding not necessarily agreement
  • Group praise over individual praise holds a higher value

Basic Guidelines for Interviews

  1. Cultural differences don’t always mean visible features are present
  2. Cultural differences may explain uncommon behaviour
  3. Avoid stereotyping candidates
  4. Assess each candidate on individual merit
  5. Prepare the candidate, in advance, by “walking” them through the interview process

Interview Setting Guidelines

  1. Create a degree of informality to reduce anxiety and intimidation
  2. Be inclusive in selecting the interview board
  3. Prepare board members for cultural sensitivities prior to an interview with an Aboriginal person

Resumé Evaluation

  1. Examine the resume for hidden skills and competencies that an Aboriginal person may place less importance on
  2. Explore work experience to determine true work habits and abilities
  3. Relate experience to formal qualification, not formal education

Guidelines for Questionnaires

  1. Understand that certain evaluation tools are biased and can potentially penalize Aboriginal candidates based on cultural grounds
  2. Understand that Aboriginal people are often reserved
  3. Aboriginal people may prefer to listen and learn in certain situations as opposed to displaying or discussing their talents
  4. Be aware that many Aboriginal people believe it is distasteful to focus on themselves. As such, they will speak about group accomplishments as opposed to individual accomplishments