When it comes to getting a job in the San Diego/Tijuana region, people with a Hispanic and/or Latin descent seldom take into account the idiosyncrasies of the job market. Whether you are looking for that good fit in retail, professional services, management or at a nonprofit organization, every binational border job has its own “language.” Without being a human resources expert, I can tell you that my binational colleagues commonly make interview faux pas without knowing it, especially with questions often heard in the professional work environment.
These are a few of my favorites:
The quintessential question: Do you speak Spanish?
When it comes to native language, I would strongly suggest you only say yes if you are certain that you are comfortable speaking or writing in an articulate and natural manner, and are able to speak and write accurately. Would you feel comfortable being interviewed on the news in Spanish?
The common follow up question: How is your English?
Equally as complex, grammar and other region-specific euphemisms need to be taken into account. When somebody tells me they are 90 percent fluent, I wonder if the other 10 percent is emojis or the cunning use of hashtags.
Making them happy feels good: Are you a Chargers or a Xolos fan?
Sports or extracurricular activities are part of our region. Being a sports fan, a surfer, a fisherman, a runner, a cyclist, for example, makes you relatable to your interviewer because, thanks to our weather and open spaces, we are always out and about.
Comfort over content: Do I prefer to do my interview in Spanish or English?
Back to the language question, this one is not up for debate. Interview in your native language to better convey your skills, knowledge and ability. Trying to impress someone by not speaking in your native language may backfire.
The dreaded: How do you pronounce your name?
Be direct and polite, Irureragoyena and DeMugurutza are beautiful last names and need some explanation. Spell out and help the interviewer to pronounce it as you would. Don’t adjust the pronunciation to make it easier for them to say because if you get the job, they will always mispronounce your name.
The conversation piece: I used to go to Mexico all the time!
You will find it surprising how often San Diegans have said this to me. They remember Mexico as a place of enchantment and good memories. Mexico is a beautiful place, so play it up. You wouldn’t speak negatively of a past employer so don’t speak negatively of your country.
I am one-eighth Mexican: I still don’t know what to say to that. Just nod and smile.
Be honest and clear about your personal background. Where do you live? Where did you go to school? Taking a course at Southwestern College or providing your mother’s cousin’s address doesn’t mean you went to school or live in the U.S. Always be honest.
- You are not a WikiMexico: Do not try to answer every Mexico-related question about security, health and other sensitive issues. Tell your interviewer you know it’s a sensitive and complicated issue, and avoid sharing opinions. Instead, show off your resourcefulness. Promise to email a list of links to the best sources for answers to his or her questions, which gives you another opportunity to connect and provide further evidence why you should be hired.
My interview process at Nuffer, Smith, Tucker was a clear example of how honesty is the best policy. Being able to collaborate in binational projects as well as providing support to friends and members of this border community is worth those five minutes of: No I don’t know how to open a company in Mexico, but let me find out.