Global Mingle Party | International Student Career Resources
Resume tips and networking help specifically for international students
how to get a job in the US, international student success, international students, international student cover letter, H1b, OPT, CPT, international student internship, resume international student
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Understanding the

International Student

Job Search

As an international student you have a unique value in the workplace. You bring regional knowledge of business practices and language skills to companies who do business globally. You bring new perspectives and methods to any team. The challenge is finding the right company and organization who values your unique experience. It’s not easy. It takes time. Most internship and job searches take at least 6 months. To succeed in your job or internship search you need an adventurous mindset, insights into American employers, strong research skills, and good conversation skills.
These job search resources are designed specifically to help international students like you who are looking for internships and jobs in the U.S. As you review them think of yourself as a cultural anthropologist. Though some of the information will seem awkward or new depending on your cultural background, make it a goal to understand the American way of doing business. Use your natural curiosity to learn as much as you can about the employers who you want to work for and what they want from a candidate like you. When you understand the process and American companies, you will better understand how to stand out in the job search.

The International Student Job Search Mindset

Curiosity

The job search is an adventure full of surprise and learnings. Embrace your curiosity. Use this adventure to learn how Americans work, talk, and interact professionally.

Flexible

The job search isn't always a clear path. There are many twists and turns. You must be flexible and adapt to new challenges and ideas.

Creative

You must go beyond submitting online applications to job websites. Discover new ways to stand out to employers and show off your unique experiences.

Understanding American Employers

Your job search begins with understanding what American employers want from new college graduates. Each year the National Association of Career Educators (NACE) produces a Job Outlook Report in which they share detailed information on employers who plan to hire new college graduates.

 

Below are the insights that help you understand what American employers expect from you.

What employers want to see on your resume

Leadership0
Ability to work on a team 0
Communication Skills (Written)0
Problem-solving skills0
Communication Skills (Verbal)0

The most important skills employers look for in a candidate

Ability to communicate with persons inside and outside the organization0
Ability to work in a team structure0
Ability to make decisions and solve problems0
Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work0
Ability to obtain and process information0
Successful international students are able communicate and demonstrate the above skills to American employers. To impress employers and show you are qualified for a job you must:
Create action-oriented resumes and LinkedIn profiles
Write error-free and concise emails
Talk with people about your specific job search interests and goals
Engage with recruiters and school alumni in companies
Learn which companies and positions are open to international students
Build relationships with people who can help you in your search
Get work and leadership experience while in school

Searching for an internship or job in the U.S.

The American job market is very competitive. The average job opening receives over 200 applications or resumes. The average recruiter spends under 20 seconds reviewing each resume. Of the resumes selected, only 2% are selected to interview. It is difficult to get noticed by an employer if you are in a stack of 200 resumes.

 

The worst way to get noticed by an employer or recruiter is to submit as many applications as possible to any job or company that interests you.

 

Unfortunately this is a very common tactic for new job seekers like college students.

Most international students assume their job or internship search looks like this:

  • Step 1

    Get a Resume

    Write a resume and cover letter in American style

  • Step 2

    Apply

    Apply to every job or company that sponsors international students

  • Step 3

    Wait for phone call

    Hope for interview

This is incorrect and ineffective.

Top reasons why international students don’t succeed in their job or internship search

Passive approach
Lack of preparation and knowledge
No interaction or conversations with those who influence hiring decisions

The correct way to look for a job or internship in the U.S.

  • Step 1
    Research

    Gather data and information to structure your search.

  • Step 2

    Create

    Create the items you need to show off your experience and skills

  • Step 3

    Communicate

    Talk to people about your interests, goals, and ideas.

  • Step 4

    Interact

    Ask curious questions to learn more about interesting companies, people, and jobs.

  • Step 5

    Apply

    Get noticed when you submit your application.

Explore the details of each step below

Your search begins with information. You need to learn everything you can about the companies that interest you. The U.S. has a wide range of companies, from large Fortune 500 companies to small business to startups. You need to get to know them. You need to know the types of services or products they offer, the type of people they hire, if they hire international students, and if they offer entry level jobs for college graduates.

 

Your research goal is to build a list of 20-30 companies or organizations that interest you. For each company you find, answer the question:

 

  • Why do I want to work for this company?
  • What jobs am I qualified for?
  • How can my experience and knowledge benefit this company?

If you can’t answer these questions, you are not ready to apply for any job at that company.

 

Your university or college usually has a database of companies that they partner with. You can also search LinkedIn for companies, as well as search platforms like The Muse and WayUp. You can also find lists of innovative or industry-specific companies on popular websites.

 

During your research, evaluate the job opportunities. Ask yourself if you are qualified for the jobs. If you aren’t qualified, review the job post to see what skills you still need and use your time outside of studying to get those skills.
If you are trying to figure out which companies hire international students, try the free course: How to Find Companies that Sponsor H1B.

Once you understand the type of companies that interest you, you must create the job search materials that communicate your skills to employers. For that you need:

 

 

It is easier to create these materials once you know what type of job you are interested in. Use your research from the previous step to identify which jobs interest you. As you write your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile, use the vocabulary and keywords from job descriptions to match the language of the employer you want to work for.

 

If you want to stand out even more among candidates, create a professional website. This gives you a chance to show off your personality and interests. If you are in a creative program like advertising or design, or in an engineering program where you build products, or write code, you need to use show off your work beyond a resume and cover letter. Platforms like Portfolium are good for showing off your projects or GitHub for code.

 

You need to create job search materials that reflect your experience, skills, and personality. The resume is the hardest (and most boring) to create. Once you get finish it, get it reviewed by your career services office and make sure there are zero mistakes. After that you can create your other materials.

To succeed in your job or internship search you need to talk about your professional interests to everyone – faculty, career services staff, strangers you meet at events, people inside of companies, employers who interview you. People can’t help you if you can’t tell them what you are interested in.

 

You don’t have to know what you want to do for the rest of your life. But you do need to be able to talk about what interests you professionally and your experience at university.

 

After you have done your research, you will know what types of companies, positions, and ideas interest you. Just as you created job search materials to communicate your skills, you need to create a professional story so you can talk to people about your career interests.

Your story should tell people:

  • what you are currently studying
  • why you study it
  • your professional interests
  • what you hope to work in after graduation

Almost all interviews will start off with the employer asking “Tell me about yourself.”  This is where you share your professional story. You want to have a smart, interesting story to tell them. This will help them to get to know you better and help you show off your communication skills and personality.  

 

Learn how to tell a story that summarizes your academic and professional interests. Then practice sharing it with people you meet. When they ask you about yourself, tell them. Practice your story in different contexts: when talking to a professor, at a career fair, with friends who are also searching for a job. You should have a few stories of different lengths that describe your professional interest.

Every time you look at a company or job post, you should have questions:

 

  • What kind of people does this company hire?
  • Does this company hire inexperienced graduates?
  • Will this company have an internship opportunity?
  • How can I get people in this company to notice me over my competition?

 

Websites and postings don’t answer these questions. Websites won’t be able to tell you if a company treats their employees well or if a certain department will hire in six months. The websites rarely have advice about what types of people they hire.

 

To get those answers, you need to interact with people inside the companies that interest you. When you make time to talk with people inside of companies, you get valuable information and build relationships. Sometimes people will tell you about a position that isn’t advertised yet. They may tell you about career paths in their company or how their internship is structured. Most importantly, when you interact with people inside a company, you give them a chance to get to know you. Many employers are nervous to hire international students.

 

You need to help them get to know you so they will take a chance on you. When you seek advice and perspective from professionals in your areas of interest, you build a army of helpers who want you to succeed.

 

To start interacting, you need to use informational interviews. Start by finding people to interview who interest you and email them to ask for a time to talk. To be successful in the informational interview, focus on the people, not your future job. That can be hard for students who are under pressure to get a job. But you build relationships by being curious about the person, their company, and sharing your ideas throughout the conversation.

 

As you prepare to interact with people inside companies, think of yourself as a cultural detective. Employers like candidates who are: Curious about others

  • Curious about people and their work
  • Curious about people’s perspectives
  • Curious about people’s career paths
  • Curious about organizations and companies

 

International students are the most curious students. After all, you’ve come to a new country to learn about the people, language and culture. In this case, informational interviewing is simply learning how to communicate with professionals and learning about different cultures inside American companies.

 

You may find the interaction part uncomfortable. Many international students do and often skip this step. That’s a huge mistake because people need to get to know you before you apply. For some students reaching out to strangers without an introduction is taboo in their culture. In the US, it is culturally acceptable to email someone you don’t know and ask for an informational interview. Americans value equality and when a student reaches out to learn more about a person and their company, the student shows initiative and motivation, two qualities that are valuable in American culture. Professionals enjoy helping students as they were students one too.

 

So before you apply to any job, make sure you have interacted with someone inside the company so they know you better.

You are ready to apply to a company when you can answer these questions:

 

Why do I want to work for this company?

How am I qualified for this job?

How can my experience and knowledge benefit this company?

 

Check your resume and cover letter to make sure it communicates this information. Visit your career services office to get a resume and cover letter review. Before you apply, send an email to anyone you have talked to inside the company you are applying to and let them know their advice helped you. Tell them which job you are applying to and ask if they have any advice. If this person has a good relationship with you it is likely they will forward your resume to the hiring manager. If not, they may do nothing (which is ok – you can’t pressure them to refer you). Then apply to the job.

Your Job or Internship Search Takes Time

Looking for a job in the US as an international student takes a lot of time. It is common for job search activities to take up to 20 hours a week. That’s the equivalent of a part-time job.

Expect to spend your time like this:

Submitting resumes or applications to a website

5

Revising/Rewriting cover letters and resumes

10

Talking to people about your interests and their backgrounds

20

Writing emails to people to ask for a meeting

25

Researching job opportunities, people, companies

40

Stay motivated

Stay motivated by talking to others during your search. Talk to your favorite professor about your interests. Visit your career services office to talk about your challenges in the search. Talk to a friend when you are feeling frustrated. Connect with a former international student who is working in the U.S. and ask themfor advice. Celebrate when you get an interview.
Thousands of international students like you have had success. With a the right information, lots of curiosity, patience, and clever approaches, you can too.

Resources and advice

Online courses

How to Find Companies That Sponsor

How to Find Companies That Sponsor

Improve Your American Small Talk

Improve Your American Small Talk

Live Career Workshops

Interactive Webinars for Busy Students

Interactive Webinars for Busy Students

Articles