The Importance of Being Culturally Sensitive When Applying for a Job

by Frankie Wallace, a guest writer

Nowadays, most employers understand the importance of being culturally sensitive. It promotes acceptance and inclusion for everyone in the workplace, no matter their background. It creates a safer work environment, makes employees more comfortable, and boosts overall job satisfaction while encouraging collaboration. 

But, it’s not just employers who should consider cultural sensitivity in the workplace. 

If you’re applying for a job, it’s important to be culturally sensitive with every step you take.  While that starts with looking for a company that prides itself on diversity and inclusion, there may be some personal matters you need to think about as you go through the hiring process.  

Not sure what those matters are? We’ve got you covered. 

Dress to Impress

Research suggests that it takes seven seconds for someone to form an opinion about you. When you’re interviewing for a job, that means first impressions are everything.

Before you say a word, a potential employer/hiring manager will notice things like: 

  • Basic hygiene
  • Body language
  • Your greeting
  • The clothes you chose to wear

All of those things are important, but if you really want to “dress to impress”, make sure your wardrobe isn’t offensive or insensitive.  Unfortunately, cultural appropriation is far too common in the fashion industry. You might not even realize you’re making cultural fashion “faux pas” until it’s too late. That’s why it’s so important to do your research. If you’re not sure whether an item of clothing could be offensive, take the following tips into account: 

  • Research the culture
  • Determine what the patterns/colors mean
  • Don’t overstep any boundaries
  • Be willing to learn and listen to people from that particular culture

What you wear to a job interview is important. So, when you’re dressing for success, leave the cultural patterns and colors at home and avoid wearing them until you have a full understanding of what they represent. 

Culturally Sensitive With Small Talk

Sometimes, it’s the littlest things that can make the biggest difference. 

When you’re sending in applications and cover letters, you have the time to edit and “check yourself” before submitting anything. During the interview and/or training process, that isn’t the case. 

So, it’s necessary to think about the everyday things you might say and how they could affect certain cultures. With the holidays just around the corner, a perfect example is saying “Merry Christmas” to your interviewer or employer. Chances are they won’t be offended by it, but you’re assuming that they share the same beliefs and customs as you.  

There are plenty of holidays around this time of year, including Hannukah and Kwanza. If you truly want to be respectful of everyone’s customs, do your research. Try to use inclusive holiday greetings instead of focusing on one specific holiday or custom.  It’s a small gesture that can go a long way with someone who is used to just putting up with the wrong sayings. 

Simple sayings go beyond the holidays, too. A good rule of thumb is to be fully aware of the meaning of everything you’re saying. Whether it’s a slang word, a specific phrase, or even an assumption you’re considering making out loud, hold your tongue long enough to think it through. 

Applying for a job is the easy part. Showing a potential employer who you really are can be the stressful part. But, if cultural sensitivity is important to you as you look for a job, it needs to be important to you in the way you approach the application and interview process. 

Keep these ideas in mind to make a positive first impression, and to show your potential co-workers that you will champion diversity and inclusivity within the workplace. 

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About the author

Frankie Wallace is a freelance writer from the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys writing about career guidance and education, but occasionally goes back to her roots with socially active news journalism. Frankie spends her free time cultivating her zero waste garden or off hiking in the mountains of the PNW with her loved ones.

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