Last night I was reading a book about Canadian work culture, and how it’s different from other parts of the world, especially south and east Asia.
It was interesting to note that the collective culture in these regions, coupled with a culture of humility and modesty.
While bringing those values into an interview works well in those regions, it doesn’t work well in North America.
The most common symptom recruiters notice when interviewing culturally different candidates from these regions is the excessive use of the word “We” in an answer.
When I’ve personally coached clients, I’ve seen this used very often.
“We did this project, where we had to do this and then we did that. In the end we accomplished this.”
Recruiters call this “hiding behind the team”. In their heads they’re thinking, “I’m not hiring your team. I want to know what you did.”
Then when asked about accomplishments, candidates would sometimes downplay their contribution stating “It was a great team effort” or “I was lucky because I had the resources”.
Once again, this will surely turn off a recruiter or hiring manager listening to the answer.
Interestingly, the book also stated that Canada has the opposite problem with Americans, who sometimes oversell. The answers leave the recruiter feeling “There’s no way you could have done that!”
So find the balance.
When preparing for your next interview, you have to start conforming to the individualistic culture in Canada.
This doesn’t mean bragging or being selfish or overstating your skills and experience.
It means you have to start thinking about what you did specifically in that project or situation and how you contributed to the end result.
Stop thinking you were lucky and start thinking you were resourceful and hardworking and genuinely believe and think about how you went above and beyond and why you were selected to perform a task.
“I used the resources I had available to me, and despite being a challenge, I was able to save X$”.
That’s much better.
Stick to the facts, communicate through strengths you genuinely believe you have. After all, your employment is an investment to the company.
In Canada, you have to be selling your skills and experience to the investor. Not downplaying it.