Purpose: The conceptual framework developed in the present study aims to highlight the importance of human resource (HR) practices as a mediator between national culture and employees' careers. Design/methodology/approach: The approach taken is a literature review and the development of a conceptual model. Findings: The paper contributes to the literature by focusing on how culture via HR practices might influence career success. Drawing on Hofstede's cultural dimensions, five propositions are developed regarding the impact of culture on career-relevant HR practices, and how these practices are likely to influence employee career success. Research limitations/implications: Culture's effect should not be overstated. Looking at the propositions, it is possible that the influence of HR practices on career success is more pronounced than the direct effects of culture on career success. Future work is needed to measure and compare the relative strength of different associations as well as the possibility that other HR dimensions relevant to the study of career success may exist. Originality/value: At a general level, there is ample evidence of the impact of culture on the effectiveness of a variety of individual outcomes. The paper focused on the mediating role of HR practices as opposed to advancing hypotheses about direct relationships between culture and career success. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.