In the international graduate job market, education–job mismatches are affecting recruitment, and consequently efficiency. The purpose of this paper is to identify a widening gap in “global operating skills”, then put forward a structure for addressing the education–job mismatch, based on data gathered from higher education teachers and graduate recruiters. Framed as a case examining the contemporary context in Russia, the objective is to identify a cross-cultural management (CCM) skills set for graduates who are pursuing a career in an international environment. The study therefore has implications for managers and educators who work in this sector. Design/methodology/approach The study identifies a number of factors that need to be taken into account for developing CCM competence among graduate job seekers. Set in the specific case of a Russian higher education institutions and one of its international partners, stakeholder theory is used for theoretical underpinning and data collection. A qualitative-oriented mixed-methods approach was designed to: explore the education–job mismatch by using documentary sources and direct observations; collect data in a three-step sequence (focus groups, interviews and interactive seminar). Findings The key findings revealed the extent of the education–job mismatch. Specifically: a lack of transferable CCM skills, mismatch between the provision of CCM skills development in higher education and the needs of recruiters, and curriculum shortfall in terms of CCM skills. Furthermore, areas such as cross-cultural communication and cross-cultural awareness require urgent attention; new approaches are needed to enhance the knowledge transfer of CCM skills to students, in order to better equip them to work in an increasingly international workplace. Research limitations/implications The enquiry provides a snapshot of knowledge transfer regarding CCM skills based on a particular case, from the perspective of teachers and recruiters. While care was taken to respect the language and cultural norms, the interview guide captured only a narrow dimension of the subject area. The modest size of the sample does not allow any generalisations when interpreting the data. The findings should not be applied to other national contexts, disciplines or sectors. Practical implications The authors put forward actions for enhancing the implementation of an international education programme (IEP), emphasising the importance of co-creating with stakeholders. The distinguishing features of an IEP are identified and a framework for explaining the opportunities generated by such a programme is developed. Failing to address the “skills gap” may trigger long-term ramifications for both business and society. Social implications Academics and students claim to be dissatisfied with the current delivery of CCM skills. The identification of an education–job mismatch implies that CCM skills are not being effectively transmitted within higher education. This study sets out to identify and explain the current situation of CCM skills development in contemporary society. The genesis of this study stems from the topical debate surrounding reconceptualising higher education to reflect a more international-oriented approach. Originality/value Research into CCM is frequently undertaken from an Anglo-centric perspective, or sets out to compare an “Anglo” environment with a non-Anglo setting. Few CCM studies are set in the context of a contemporary Post-Soviet society.