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Interview Etiquette for First-Time Hispanic/Latino Job Seekers

Interview Etiquette for First-Time Hispanic/Latino Job Seekers

The basic rules for preparing for a job interview are the same for everybody: Research the company, get your resume in good shape, dress for success and show up on time. However, it's especially important for new Hispanic/Latino job seekers to pay special attention to the above list, because cultural differences may affect how they interpret these rules, say career counselors working in two of the most heavily Hispanic/Latino communities in the US.    

What to Wear

Rebecca Hoda, director of career services at Hostos Community College, a bilingual college serving mostly Puerto Rican, Dominican and other Hispanic/Latino students in New York, says that inexperienced job seekers tend to go off to a job interview "dressed for a social event -- not for the job." For example, the women sometimes put on too much jewelry, and the men sometimes wear clothes that are too flashy for work.

Dressing inappropriately tells the interviewer that the candidate is naive and probably misunderstands the job requirements. Worse, especially in the case of a female candidate, a revealing outfit may cause a hiring manager to make moral judgments.

Don't Provide Too Much Information

Sometimes candidates may reveal too much information, because they are not aware there are questions that interviewers are not legally permitted to ask. Open-ended questions can be problematic for this reason as well. When hiring managers ask, "Tell me about yourself," candidates need to have their answers already prepared to emphasize their skills and suitability for the job. It is very important not to give out unnecessary personal information that is not specifically relevant to the job.

"You don't want to say, 'I have three kids; I'm of this or that nationality' as you might to a friend you meet in the neighborhood," says Hoda. "Don't give them any information they don't need to know. You will just be disclosing things that may be used to discriminate against you."

Candidates are not required to disclose ethnicity, whether they're married, have children or anything else about their personal life. If the information isn't used for sexual harassment or ethnic discrimination, it may work against the candidate in other ways. "The interviewer may think, for example, 'Ha! A single mother. That means problems -- we can't count on her to show up on time!' even if that's not true. She may have her childcare situation taken care of," Hoda says.

Practice and Prepare

María de Armas, director of the Career Center at Miami Dade's Interamerican Campus, where many of the students are new arrivals from Cuba, Nicaragua or Colombia, notes that most of the students she sees want to find jobs in the familiar Hispanic/Latino environment of Dade County. The neighboring county of Broward feels like foreign territory.

But even if they stay in this familiar area, a problem many job seekers have is being prepared to meet professional work norms, de Armas says. First-time job candidates do not always appreciate how important it is to be on time. She emphasizes that they also need to know exactly where they are going for the job interview beforehand so they can be sure to get there on time. No employer wants an employee who is lackadaisical about time, and showing up late for an interview creates a terrible first impression.

Both Hoda and Armas's offices provide programs that give students practice in preparing for interviews, including tips on appropriate dress and how to handle tricky interview questions. The candidate who is prompt and prepared can go in with confidence. And if the questions the interviewer asks are inappropriately personal, then it's a good idea to look elsewhere for employment.

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