Job Hunting Outside the US

I got this question from a reader: A friend of mine from Suriname claims that in her country job candidates should never follow up on the status of the recruitment process because doing so will make them look desperate and impatient, and will kill their chances of being selected for the job. So if, for example, she has been contacted by a prospective employer who expressed interest in her resume and at the end of the conversation told her they’d be in touch, and then two weeks later she still hasn’t heard from them, it is extremely bad form to send a follow up inquiry and to confirm she’s still interested. The same even goes for if she’s actually had an interview. She says this is also the case in Europe and Africa. I find this so hard to believe because it’s so completely contrary to the way we’re coached here in the U.S. I’m hoping that you and your European and African readers can confirm/deny the validity of her claim.

I live in Europe–Switzerland to be precise, but I’ve never job hunted, nor hired here. My husband has, obviously, and it was very much like a US job interview process. I will say that his company is largely expats so they probably adapt to different styles for different candidates.

I certainly can believe that different cultures have different ways of doing things. Pictures are popular on resumes here. Another reader from India said you need to put your age on your resume because job postings have age requirements.

So, tell me what you know about job hunting outside the US. Or does that vary strongly by region as well?

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16 thoughts on “Job Hunting Outside the US

  1. When you say Europe, I assume you mean the UK and being a British citizen who works in HR, I can confirm that is nonsense. It is perfectly acceptable, and even recommended to follow up on an application for a role as it makes you seem keen and enthusiastic.

    I personally follow up and if unsuccessful, I request feedback as to why so I know what areas to develop for future interviews.

    I currently work in the Middle East and recruitment here is the same – follow up is very good.

  2. Thanks for the info. I'm interested in pratices all over the world. Europe and Africa are big places, and what is acceptable in the UK may not be acceptable in, say, Italy.

  3. I can confirm this for Finland as well – following up after a suitable grace period (which depends on the company size; you can expect larger companies to be a bit slower) is quite acceptable.

    Showing interest and enthusiasm for joining the company is good, and will count in your favour.

  4. Same for Germany, it's absolutely acceptable to politely follow up after a suitable time has passed.

  5. I'm in Japan, and ages for job postings are completely normal, as are pictures.

    I'm not sure what the point of pictures is, but the purpose of age range seems to be a quick way to say "people with experience working wanted" (if the age range is above the early 20s,l that's exactly what it means).

    There are also things the law forbids companies from asking, including familial hometown (to prevent discriminating against invisible minorities like the Burakumin).

    Follow-up letters and even small gifts seem to be okay but not absolutely required.

  6. I'm working in Qatar for a foreign college. Most of the countries in the Gulf have adopted British, American and Australian HR practices if you are looking at a typical white collar expat job (IE Oil, Finance, Education) Your mileage may vary in other professions.

    A follow up is a good idea, especially as a lot of firms/colleges here are operating between two HR departments. I would suggest politely following up with your first HR contact in the recruitment offices in your country of origin.

  7. As another Brit working in HR, I'd really have to say it doesn't matter. To be honest though, a thanks same day and a follow-up in the next few days would seem quite desperate, but just a follow-up a few days later would be OK. Gifts (as mentioned for Japan) would be entirely inappropriate. When recruiting, I will simply give candidates a timescale and stick to it (or update if we can't for some reason), which negates the need for candidates to chase. It seems by far the best way to deal with it. With reference to the comments about age and pictures, we actively discourage age-related information (by asking for number of years at a job rather than dates, I know you can still work it out if you really care) and pictures are just wrong – the same as people who give info about their marital status, kids etc. It's far too much irrelevant information.

  8. It would be interesting to find out about the thank you note following the interview and whether this just a ridiculous US thing.

  9. I am British and have never sentb a thankyou note, however other than my first job, all my roles have been found via recruitment agencies, via whom I have communicated my 'thanks but no thanks' or 'would be interested in a second meeting'. Or indeed in one case, to a recruiter I had known for some time, 'What the hell, Ian?' (particularly clueless employer, apparently could not read, had not established what they wanted)

  10. I've worked in HR in the UK and New Zealand and would also consider an appropriately timed follow up to be an indication of interest and enthusiasm. The only exception would be calling before a reasonable time period had elapsed, or calling multiple times.

    I'd also consider a thank you note to be good manners and a possible way to distinguish yourself from other candidates.

  11. As someone who has worked in the UK, US and Mexico I would say that it is nice to follow up in the first 2 countries but the recruiting process might not be moving as fast as the person interviewing may think. As for Mexico the process can move much slower here and you should just keep on moving. I know when i got hired they did not contact me for more than 2 months after my interview (and this was for a big multinational company)

  12. Absolutely agree with my Finnish counterpart. Not a bad thing at all to follow up. Like in any communication, it's the manner of the approach that communicates your (in this case) desperation or enthusiasm.

  13. Having worked in HR the UK and now the US, it's not that different, people follow up all the time. Although as someone who recruits all the time,I do like the idea of 'if we say we'll contact you, we will, and if we don't, we're sorry, you probably did not get the job -please don't follow up…' but having been on the job seeking side too, I can see why it's just got to be done to put the nail in the coffin and move on.

    I have never received (nor sent) a thank you card in the UK, but have received a 'thanks for interviewing me' email…cards sound like the British thing to do, I guess, but have never seen it done.

  14. As someone who has worked in the UK, US and Mexico I would say that it is nice to follow up in the first 2 countries but the recruiting process might not be moving as fast as the person interviewing may think. As for Mexico the process can move much slower here and you should just keep on moving. I know when i got hired they did not contact me for more than 2 months after my interview, you are just amaazing

  15. Just found a job in Austria, and was told thank you’s of ANY kind, written or email are not common. One thing that is VERY common, apparently, is bringing someone in for an interview and never contacting them again, which burns my butt. I understand if you are dealing with the 1000’s of resumes from a newspaper job posting, or through your automated system, to never contact the person, but once you are calling people in for an interview, that’s a much shorter list of people to deal with. You can drop a line saying “sorry, I gave the job to someone else.”

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