How to Find a Job in the USA as an International Student

Finding a job in the USA as an international student is always challenging. Though you might have an advanced US degree, the lack of an unrestricted right to work for any employee and US-equivalent work experience will often limit your chances of finding a job in the USA as an international student. However, with the right approach and dedication, you can navigate the complexities of the job market and secure a position that not only aligns with your career goals but also complies with your student visa requirements.

What are the limiting factors?

Restricted Work Authorization Permit:

“Will you now or in the future require sponsorship to work in the U.S.?”. The work authorization based on your OPT is granted for a limited time frame. Usually, you will have a 12 months of work authorization after completing your degree. If you are a STEM student, then you will get an extension up to 24 months. However, to get STEM extension you will need to have a full time job. Within that time frame, you need to transfer to professional work visa (H1B). This H1B visa process requires sponsorship from your employee. And, not every company wants to sponsor that. That’s why they ask such question during the application so that they can filter you out accordingly.

In general, a company wants to hire US citizens and then US residents first, that is the fundamental policy. If they cannot find any US citizens or residents, then they will hire an international students. But this hiring process is not as simple as it sounds. The company must be e-verified. They also have to hire lawyers, which is costly and time consuming, to do the paperwork for your sponsorship. Therefore, often small to midsize companies refrain from hiring international students.

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Apart from that, your work authorization comes with a clause that you are only allowed to work for a position that is directly relevant to your program of study. For example, if you are an electrical engineer and have never taken any courses regarding networking or cybersecurity, then your OPT work permit for a cyber security related position might get denied. This often adds extra complexity to your profile, and brings an extra burden to human resources to create the right position for you so that they can hire you.

Lack of transferrable US-equivalent work experiences:

Most of the entry level positions in the industry are designed for undergrad students across the USA who are mainly either US citizens or US residents. By design, international students often do not qualify for such positions. Therefore, for advanced-level or mid-level positions, they often require experience ranging from 2 to 7 years to hire international students. Students who mostly come for their graduate studies often do not have enough US-industry-level work experience. These are very limited and highly competitive positions. This often makes it difficult for an international student to land a job in the USA.

So, is it possible to find a job in the USA?

The obvious answer Yes. However, the job hunting procedure requires your proper effort, time, and patience. You might apply to hundreds of positions in a month and not even get an interview because you will need future work sponsorship. Or, you are applying for such senior positions that require a PhD degree to compensate for seven years of work experience. So you always have to be patient and keep applying to maximize your chances of getting interviews so that you can convert them into a full time offer. Here are some strategic steps and tips to enhance your job search and increase your chances of success.

Build your network:

Research shows that around 70% of jobs are never published publicly, and up to 80% of positions are often filled through personal and professional contacts. Let’s do a math now. There are 100 jobs in the USA and only 30 positions were published. Imagine that of the 30 published positions, 80% were filled through personal and professional contacts. Then you are actually contesting for 6 positions left for you, which makes the process even more competitive. So how do you get a chance to knock through the door? Networking.

Only networking can help you get through the right door and provide the opportunity to speak with the hiring manager and the team who are looking for the right candidates. Therefore, it is very critical that you make connections with people. Find networking events relevant to your field. Universities often invite people from industry to different events so that their students can talk with them and build a professional connection for their future career endeavors. Go to such events and talk to those industry people. Each university has its own alumni association, and they also arrange different events so that current students can learn from their alumni regarding careers. Find such events and get connected with alumni so that they can refer or recommend you.

Get your resume right:

When applying for a job in the USA, customize your resume and cover letter to match the job description and highlight your strengths. American employers value concise and well-organized resumes, so make sure yours is up to the standard. Highlight your educational achievements, relevant work experience, and skills that make you a suitable candidate for the position. Also, mention any OPT or CPT work authorizations, if applicable.

Your university should have a career support center. Seek help from them. They have professionals who can help you properly format your resume so that it is easy to scan by an applicant tracking system (ATS) software. An applicant tracking system (ATS) is software that works like a resume database to help companies streamline their hiring process and review applications more quickly. So, if you are not getting any responses after applying to hundreds of positions, you may want to check whether your resume is ATS-friendly or not.

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Build a strong LinkedIn profile:

Whenever a recruiter or hiring manager gets your resume, they will definitely cross-check your credentials. One of the quickest and most reliable approaches is to check the candidate’s LinkedIn profile. It is often difficult to include detailed information about all your skills and achievements due to space constraints. LinkedIn is a great platform to showcase all your skills and achievements. Make sure you list them appropriately with a timeline so that people can track down your work records. Apart from that, recruiters often look for potential candidates on LinkedIn. So if you do not have a proper LinkedIn profile, you will remain unnoticed.

Apply to the right place:

Please keep in mind that most of the industry roles are very skill specific. They will only hire those who have the right skills. Therefore, apply to those industries whose requirements match your skill sets. Carefully read those advertisements and tailor your resumes according to the advertisement. Also, include as many keywords in your resume as possible so that it can pass through the ATS.

Prepare for the interview beforehand:

Whenever a recruiter or a hiring manager wants to talk to a candidate, they want to hire the candidate immediately. Therefore, you will be invited for an interview within very short notice, which might give you three to five days maximum for the initial interview. Usually, for full-time positions, there are at least two to three rounds of interviews where a person from HR or the recruiter will chat with you in the first round to make sure you are the right candidate. In the second round, a technical team along with the hiring manager will conduct a second round to evaluate your technical competencies, and so on.

So it is critical that you put in your best effort to pass individual rounds of the overall interview process. You should maintain an Excel file to write some facts about the companies you are applying to. Get familiar with the behavioral questions that are often asked during the initial phase of the interview. And, foremost, review the fundamental knowledge in your field so that you do not make any blunders during the technical round.

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Do not lose hope and never give up:

Finding a job in the USA is a very frustrating process, especially when you know that 8 out of 10 companies will simply reject you because you will need a sponsor to work in the USA in the future. Yes, you will feel morally down. But never ever give up. Regardless of what you are experiencing in your life, every morning you should always start your day with a positive attitude and say to yourself, “Yes, I will get a job.”

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1 Comment

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