International Interviews: Follow-up Etiquette

International interview etiquette varies among nations, but in most cases Western style business etiquette is the default form of etiquette for international jobs.

Following up on an international interview can involve some tact, however, and some applied realism in terms of time frames. International jobs have varying levels of complexity for employers, and it’s best to understand the employer’s situation before any follow up is attempted. 

Issues with Interview Follow-ups

It’s necessary to explain the situations which are possible with international jobs to give a clear idea of the potential delays involved. An international employer can be faced with some time frames which are out of their control. The issues may not be complex, but there may be multiple situations, each of which uses up time.

The employer’s hiring structure is one of those situations. International hiring is usually delegated to senior managers. That means the approval for hiring  has to go up through the chain to them, and is operating on their time frames, which can add one or two weeks to any process.

The legal obligations on employers hiring foreigners can also be major hurdles. Even in Europe and the US, where the processes are generally well known, basic paperwork can take a week at least. Any difficulties can significantly add to the time factor and the general fraying of nerves of applicants.

Immigration procedures and work permits are an inevitable part of international jobs, and they can come as a shock to those who don’t know the rules for getting a job in places like Belgium or Switzerland. The onus is on the employer to comply with immigration and labor laws, and that involves a bureaucratic process or several.

These procedures are actually pretty efficient, and not unduly lengthy, but they’re another factor going on behind the scenes when hiring foreign workers. It should also be noted that in some cases, hiring foreign workers from some countries is so demanding that employers really aren't kidding when they say it's going to take a while.

The net result of these situations is you could easily be looking at a month before the employer is in a position to ask when you can start. Interview etiquette, therefore, has to be based on reasonable expectations. There’s nothing to be gained by asking an employer for information they don’t have.

How to Manage Your Interview Follow-Up

The best approach is to ask in advance when the employer expects to have a decision. Use that as your first best estimate, because the interviewers will be well aware of the time frames and can give you a reasonably accurate time frame.

  1. Do not contact the employer prior to that time. The information won’t be available anyway.
  2. Preferably, allow another week after the time frame given, in case there have been any internal delays.
  3. Don’t phone the employer, send an email which can be easily fitted in to the business routine.
  4. Do not make a nuisance of yourself, or waste your own time with repeated contacts. One request is quite enough, and draws attention to the fact that you need the information.