No matter how you feel about working with people from different cultural backgrounds, it’s important to remember although their customs and communication styles might be different from your own, they have the right to work and be respected, the same as you. Workers who seek employment in the U.S. from other countries should be allowed to integrate into the workforce, sharing space and functions without having to shed their personal identities for the sake of fitting in. On the job, those from different backgrounds have the same right to maintain their cultural identities as those workers from within the local community.
But what about before they are hired?
Let’s make three assumptions before going any further:
The individual has the necessary skills and training to fill a competitive employment role and make a positive contribution.
The individual has the right to work in the U.S. either via a Green Card or appropriate work and residency Visa.
The individual is already a “resident alien” and not here with an H-1B work visa and its presumed legitimate employment offer and specialty employment status.
For many seeking work in the U.S. there are multiple obstacles. One of the biggest and obvious obstacles can be language differences. Not everyone arrives to U.S. with the same level of English language skills, and for those with little-to-no English, that’s a pretty large barrier to gainful employment. It’s hard to interview and fill out applications and related forms when you don’t understand the language. Some applicants might speak and understand English to one degree or another, but their ability to read and write might be less than optimal. This makes it harder for an employer to assess – even a uniquely qualified applicant – whether to hire the person. Sadly, not all employers have the in-house staff to provide the translation services and other support necessary to facilitate an immigrant applicant the ease of communication that enable them to properly convey their strengths for a particular position.
In other countries, many employers have different expectations from their prospective hires. Depending on the position a company is trying to fill, expectations of what might be submitted by a candidate may not resemble the resume that we are so familiar with. In other countries an applicant might just send a list of where they have worked without any mention of skills or accomplishments; or just a list of accomplishments and skills, but no mention of where they performed those tasks. And there may or may not be any formal background checks to verify applicant assertions.
However, that lack of a complete employment picture of what they did and for whom can present an unexpected obstacle to their job search on these shores. And it is harder to overcome that obstacle when the job seeker is too attached to the way things were done “back home” and insists on not supplying the requisite detail because, “it’s not the way we did it back in my country”. This kind of cultural difference will surely negatively impact one’s chances of job-seeking success.
While employers can insist that job functions are performed a particular way, they can not force an applicant to do things their way. Of course, it is to the applicant’s detriment to not make the effort to meet the employer’s preferences. By not doing so, they will not receive due consideration, no matter their qualifications.
By the same token, it is also to the employer’s detriment to not make every effort to be fully inclusive of all aspirants, no matter their ability or knowledge to meet the employer’s expected criteria for applying at their company. Granted, as stated earlier, many employers just don’t have the resources to properly address this issue. It would be great if all companies had the HR staff that was culturally diverse enough to help prospects fill out paperwork and interview applicants in their native tongue. Thankfully, because our work force has become so diverse, there is occasionally someone on staff who can potentially assist an alien job seeker over these hurdles. But because they aren’t necessarily trained in HR functions, the situation may not be handled optimally.
The good news is that throughout the U.S. there are groups and organizations representative of almost every immigrant group, that can provide the services needed by alien job seekers. Your state’s employment development department likely has a diverse roster of services to help immigrant job seekers, including interpreters who can help them navigate the way things are done here. Plus, the EDD offices have many job listings. But there are also specialty groups to support the efforts of those from Eastern Europe, Mexico, South America, Russia, Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. Finding the relevant agency closest to you can be achieved through a quick internet search.
Finding a job is never easy. While it may be easier for some, there are far too many people who are unable (for too many reasons) to convey they have the requisite skills and experience to get the job they want. Their experience and cultural differences should not prevent them from finding work and earning a living for themselves and their families.
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