As an international student, you may encounter unique opportunities and challenges as you approach the world of work. Cultural differences in the job search process may impact how you develop your network, present yourself to employers, and prepare application materials and interviews. Start with the information below to navigate the differences international students may face and the frequently asked career questions you may have.
Before searching for an internship or a job, whether it is paid or for-credit, or on or off campus, learn about current immigration regulations and university policies regarding your visa type through the International Students and Scholars (ISSO) office.
Not all U.S. employers are experienced in hiring international candidates. Knowing your work authorization and visa status, and being able to educate potential employers, are important. Watch the CPT and OPT videos and visit the employers' information page to learn the basics of the hiring process and equip yourself with key terminology.
Employers in the U.S. value a wide range of experiences. You can gain experience from internships and jobs, but also from on-campus experiences, volunteer work, student clubs and organizations, research projects, contests, athletics and other activities.
Brandeis graduates seek employment in diverse industries regardless of what they major in. As an international student, your employment may be limited by your major(s) if you plan to intern or work in the U.S. Hiatt recommends that you:
Explore majors and career options as early as possible.
Consider opportunities outside the U.S. including internships, jobs, and volunteering in your home country and other countries.
- Think about pursuing further education in the U.S. or other countries
Include the International Students and Scholars Office in your job search process. Do not accept a position or begin working without meeting with an ISSO staff member first.
Hiatt staff are here to support your career journey. Make an appointment to explore majors, discuss careers, internships, jobs, graduate and law school or just to check in. One-on-one meetings are available in-person, over the phone, or via Skype.
U.S. resumes may look different from resumes in other countries. To create a resume for a U.S.-based employer, start with Hiatt's Resume Development Guide.
U.S. resumes DO NOT include:
Personal information including age gender, marital status, race/ethnicity, home country or religion
All detailed work history in chronological order
All educational experience
English as a language skill
International permanent address
The purpose of a U.S. cover letter is to convince employers that you are a great fit for the position. Unlike admission essay or academic articles, the writing style is persuasive, concise, fact-based and action-oriented. Start with Hiatt’s Cover Letter Writing Guide.
While your internship or job search will have many similarities to domestic students' searches, there are additional strategies you will want to consider as an international student.
Refine Your Communication Skills
Strong verbal and non-verbal communication and interpersonal skills are crucial for international students who wish to work and succeed in the U.S. Make use of English Language Programs (ELP) Tutorials, student clubs and organizations and other networking opportunities to practice English in professional settings.
Research the Job Market
Employers hire to meet their needs. Don’t feel discouraged when employers say they don’t sponsor international students. Time, cost and immigration policies may be factors that deter them from hiring. Position yourself by researching what industries, companies and positions are aligned with your international background, knowledge and skills. Research international friendly employers as a starting point.
Expand Your Network
Networking is one of the most effective ways to find out about positions and get hired, and it is more popular in the U.S. than in other parts of the world. Networking may be challenging for international students due to language and cultural barriers.
In the U.S., directly approaching someone with a higher social rank is normal and appropriate to learn about a job or to build a professional relationship. It takes courage and constant practice, the same way you step out of your comfort zone to adjust to the American classroom and social life.
Get started with people in your social network. The Brandeis University Career Connections group on LinkedIn is another great place to find and connect with Brandeis alumni from all over the world. Learn more networking strategies.
Work on Campus
An on-campus job is a great way to gain work experience, explore career interests and meet new people. As an international student, your on-campus employment is subject to certain requirements; ask ISSO staff about your specific job and visa status. Search for openings through the Office of Student Financial Services.
Identify Employers Who Hire International Students
Start your search with employers and positions that are friendly to international students, including:
Companies with an established structure to hire international employees or a history of hiring foreign nationals. Myvisajobs.com has a current list of organizations that have sponsored in the past.
Companies with international contacts, including overseas branches, foreign clients, and/or business partners
Foreign companies or their subsidiaries in the U.S.
Hiring managers who have an international background or take interest in international talents. They could be Brandeis alumni, parents, recruiting representatives, or people from your immediate network.
Explore Opportunities Outside of the U.S.
If you are searching for jobs outside of the U.S., there are a number of online tools to help you search for positions and learn about country-specific hiring guidelines. View the full list of international resources to assist you in your search.
Handshake: Search for jobs and internships using the location search box
GoinGobal: Global job and internship search database with career guides that provide country-specific job search information
Indeed Worldwide: Domestic and international job and internship site with opportunities from over 60 countries
- International Opportunities: Explore working, interning or volunteering in a country that is neither home nor in the U.S.
International students are encouraged to attend all of the career events hosted by Hiatt and throughout the Brandeis campus but you can also look for specific events for international students.
Interviewing in the U.S. can be a challenging experience for international candidates. The key to success is being prepared.
Being attentive, humble and following the lead of the interviewer is favored in some cultures. In the U.S., your role in the interview is to market yourself proactively. You are expected to answer general, open-ended and sometimes futuristic questions, and to clearly articulate the benefits and skills you can bring to the company. It’s important to keep an upbeat, positive, and enthusiastic tone. Making negative comments about yourself is not appreciated.
Explain Your Background
Don’t expect interviewers to be knowledgeable about your country. Develop strategies to explain quickly and concisely the relevant aspects of your background, such as the education system, political context, social or economic environment.
Demonstrate Your Experience
U.S. employers want to know what you can do for them. Focus on what you have accomplished as an individual as opposed to what you have done as part of a team or group. Take credit for making changes, solving programs and developing new initiatives. Don't spend too much time talking about your degree, credentials, affiliations and social network; spend more time discussing your own talents, abilities and demonstrated interests as they relate to the job. Having interests extending beyond work and/or school is a great quality in the U.S. Other cultures may not place the same emphasis on these types of activities, but U.S. employers may ask you about membership or professional associations, volunteering experience and even personal interests.
Customize Your Style
Depending on the corporate culture or industry, your interview with the employer may be informal and unstructured, with the use of first names, humor, a relaxed attitude and spontaneous questions. Research and preparation are essential to understand the regional, organizational, and functional differences among companies in the U.S.
Simplify Your Answers
Speed of communication is often critical during an interview. Efficiency and time management are highly valued in the U.S., and U.S. interviewers expect quick responses and the ability to "think on your feet." To help keep your responses simple and to the point, develop bullet-point style answers and rely on the verbal cues of your interviewer to see if you are saying too much or not enough.
Be Prepared for Sponsorship Question
Although it is illegal for employers to ask about your immigration status, they can ask if you have authorization to work in the U.S. and if you will need visa sponsorship now or in the future. Make sure you fully understand your work authorization options under your visa status and respond accurately. Meet with an ISSO advisor for your specific work authorization.
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Frequently Asked Questions
International students seeking opportunities in the U.S. are subject to visa regulations. Some companies may advertise that they don’t hire foreign nationals or prefer U.S. citizens due to a variety of reasons. However, international candidates also possess incredible qualities and skills that are highly desirable in the job market. Many Brandeis students and alumni from different countries have successfully found internships and jobs in all types of industries.
The challenge is to identify and articulate your strengths to employers. It will improve your chances to succeed if you refine your communication skills, understand the U.S. job search culture and conduct a target search.
When applying for a position, you don’t have to draw attention to your immigration status until you are asked. In the early stages of the process, your goal is to advance to the interview stage. If asked, explain your legal right to work in the U.S. for 12 or 36 months using Optional Practical Training (OPT), and employers do not need to do anything for that to happen. You should be knowledgeable and honest about your work authorization status. Clearly and briefly describe the H-1B process if the employer asks for more information. This is especially helpful if the employer is new to hiring foreign nationals or had no previous experience.
If you are offered a position or invited to the final interview, you can first use online resources or networking to learn about the employer’s history in petitioning for visas. You may also ask “What is the company’s policy in petitioning for an H1-B?” or “Will the company petition H1-B for this position?”