How to Deal with cultural differences while recruiting

January 10, 2024

How to Deal with cultural differences while recruiting

Recruiting is one of the most important functions of any organisation, as it determines the quality and diversity of its human capital. However, recruiting can also be one of the most challenging functions, especially when it involves dealing with cultural differences. Cultural differences can arise from various sources, such as the organisational culture, the personal cultural background, or the national culture of the candidates and the recruiters. These differences can affect the way people communicate, behave, think, and work, and can create misunderstandings, conflicts, and biases in the recruitment process.

Therefore, it’s crucial for hiring teams to be mindful of cultural differences within the talent pool. By adopting effective strategies, recruiters can navigate and overcome potential hiring challenges, ultimately tapping into the advantages of cultural diversity. In this blog post, we will discuss some of the best practices for dealing with cultural differences while recruiting.

Before delving into the complexities of addressing cultural differences, it is essential to establish clear definitions for the concepts of culture and cultural differences.

Understanding Culture and Its Multifaceted Impact:

Culture can be defined as the shared values, beliefs, norms, and practices of a group of people, that influence their behaviour and interactions. Culture can be manifested at different levels, such as the organisational culture, the personal cultural background, or the national culture.

  • Organisational Culture

Organisational culture refers to the way an organisation operates, its vision, mission, values, goals, policies, procedures, and norms. Organisational culture can shape the expectations, preferences, and behaviours of the employees and the candidates, and can affect their performance, satisfaction, and retention.

  • Personal Cultural

Personal cultural background refers to the individual characteristics, experiences, and preferences of a person that are influenced by their family, education, religion, ethnicity, gender, age, and other factors. Personal cultural background can affect the way a person communicates, interacts, and works with others, and can influence their personality, attitudes, and motivations.

  • National Culture

National culture refers to the dominant values, beliefs, norms, and practices of a country or a region, that are influenced by its history, geography, politics, economy, and society. National culture can affect the way people perceive, interpret, and respond to various situations, and can influence their communication styles, work ethics, decision-making processes, and professional etiquette.

Cultural differences refer to the variations and contrasts that exist between different cultures, at any level. Cultural differences can create challenges and opportunities in the recruitment process, depending on how they are managed and utilised.

Focus on the right fit, not the best fit while recruiting

Shift from “Best Talent” to “Right Fit”

One of the common mistakes that recruiters make when dealing with cultural differences is to focus on finding the best talent in the market, rather than the right fit, for their organisation. The best talent implies that there is a single, objective, and universal standard of excellence that can be applied to all candidates, regardless of their cultural background. However, this approach can be problematic, as it can lead to overlooking the potential value of cultural diversity, and to imposing a dominant or preferred culture on the candidates, which can result in discrimination, exclusion, and at times a sour exit.

The Power of “Right Fit” in Culturally Inclusive Recruitment.

Recruiters should focus on finding the right fit, which implies that there is a match between the skills, qualifications, and potential of the candidates, and the requirements, expectations, and culture of the organisation. The right fit also implies that there is a mutual understanding, respect, and appreciation of the cultural differences that exist between the candidates and the organisation, and that there is a willingness to learn from and adapt to each other. The right fit can help to create a more inclusive, diverse, and innovative organisation, that can benefit from the different perspectives, experiences, and talents of its employees.

Consider the impact of organisational transitions

Another factor that can affect the way recruiters deal with cultural differences is the impact of organisational transitions, such as mergers, acquisitions, expansions, or restructurings. These transitions can create significant changes in the organisational culture, structure, strategy, and goals, which can affect the recruitment process and the candidates’ expectations and perceptions.

For example, when an organisation merges with or acquires another organisation, it may face the challenge of integrating two different organisational cultures, which can create conflicts, confusion, and resistance among the employees and the candidates. Similarly, when an organisation expands to a new market or region, it may face the challenge of adapting to a different national culture, which can create misunderstandings, miscommunication, and mistrust among the employees and the candidates.

Therefore, recruiters need to be aware of the impact of organisational transitions on the recruitment process, and to communicate clearly and effectively with the candidates about the changes, the reasons, and the implications. Recruiters also need to provide support and guidance to the candidates, to help them cope with the uncertainty and ambiguity that may arise from the transitions, and to foster a positive and constructive attitude towards the changes. When we work with clients who are expanding in a new region, we ensure to build sensitivity in the corporate hiring managers as well as regional hiring managers, so that we not only support talent acquisition but retention of talent.


Make difficult decisions based on multiple criteria

One of the most difficult decisions that hiring managers may face when dealing with cultural differences is what to do when they encounter a candidate who has the right or crucial skills that they need, but may not be a great cultural fit for their organisation. This can be a dilemma, as hiring teams may have to balance the trade-offs between the short-term and long-term benefits and costs of hiring such a candidate.

There is no easy or definitive answer to this question, as it depends on various factors, such as the nature and importance of the skills, the degree and impact of the cultural mismatch, the availability and feasibility of alternative candidates, and the goals and priorities of the organisation. However, some of the possible strategies that recruiters can use to make such a decision include:

  • Comprehensive Evaluation:

Using multiple and diverse criteria and methods to evaluate the candidates, such as tests, portfolios, references, and BEIs, to get a comprehensive and balanced view of their skills, qualifications, and potential, as well as their cultural fit and adaptability.

  • Collaborative Decision-Making:

 Seeking feedback and input from other recruiters, managers, and colleagues, who may have different perspectives and insights on the candidates, and who may be affected by or involved in the hiring decision.

  • Investing in Candidate Growth:

Exploring the possibility of providing training, coaching, mentoring, or other forms of support to the candidates, to help them develop or improve the skills that they may lack, or to help them adjust or adapt to the organisational culture that they may not fit.

  • Adapting Culture for Diversity and Innovation:

Considering the possibility of modifying or adapting the organisational culture, structure, or processes, to accommodate or leverage the cultural differences that the candidates may bring, and to create a more inclusive, diverse, and innovative organisation.


Embracing cultural diversity in recruitment is not just a necessity but an opportunity. The focus should be on creating an inclusive environment where the “right fit” is valued, allowing for varied perspectives and experiences. Navigating organisational transitions with clear communication and support is key. Making tough decisions requires a balanced approach, considering both skills and cultural fit. Ultimately, building a diverse and inclusive workplace contributes to innovation and organisational success.

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Ranjan Kumar

Ranjan Kumar

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