December 4, 2017

How to Talk With Recruiters About International Student Status

Hi. I am …. from… [country]. I am an international student here at [university name]. 
Hi. Do you hire international students? 
Don't be the first to give away your
international student status when at job fairs.
If you are an international student, do NOT open your conversation with recruiters at job fairs using the above greetings. Recruiters most likely will not continue talking to students who start the conversation with this casual, unprofessional opening. It is not a way to make a good first impression.

Do not immediately give away the fact you are an international student. Don’t assume your dressing style, accent, or mannerisms will give that fact away because America is diverse and there are many people who are citizens with various accents, dressing styles and mannerisms as well. 


Instead, when going up to an employer, you can say:
Hello, I am [name] and I am completing a _______ degree in ____________ [at university name]. 
Let the conversation flow naturally. Normally, employers should not ask you directly if you are an international student, but let’s say they see your resume or make an assumption that you are an international student and say to you:
Sorry, we don’t hire international students.
How should you react? What should you do or say? Should you walk away? 

This can be very intimidating and scary, no doubt. It’s hard to respond to something like this without some foresight, thought and practice. According to Anna Renzetti, one of the career coaches facilitating this session, international students can keep the conversation going by trying to educate the employer.

Keep in mind that if your job hunt as an international student is confined to global companies that already have international students or expat employees, this dialogue wouldn’t be required. This dialogue is only required if and when there are objections made by smaller companies; as smaller companies may have little or no experience hiring non-citizens in comparison to larger multinational companies (MNCs). This means that these companies, and the recruiters who represent them would not be aware of all the different kinds of student visas and the worlds of CPT and OPT that you have been living in and educating yourself about for the last few years.

Keep in mind, that the script below is not meant to be memorized and used word for word, but as a basis point for creating your own dialogue in your own words about this in natural, conversational English. It will feel odd, and it may feel uncomfortable, but with practice, I hope you will be able to utilize this to your advantage. 

The proposed dialogue can continue as follows: 
Employer: Unfortunately, we do not hire international students. 
Student: I have [specifics of visa/work authorization] which allows me to work in the U.S. for up to a year or more without any cost to you as the employer. I see that [company name] does interesting work in ____________, and I have skills in [name skills] that align with your hiring needs. Has your company worked with international students before? 
Employer: No, we have never hired international students. 
Student: I know this process can be confusing, but I would be more than happy to explain it to you. Would you be willing to work together to see if there are any opportunities that would be a good fit for me within [company name]? 

[End of sample dialogue provided by the Career and Professional Center at the University of Utah.] 

One thing I liked about this sample dialogue is that each bit said by the student ends with a question. Ending with a question typically forces the other person to respond to you, keeping the conversation going. However, don’t overuse this technique because it can feel like you are begging. Don’t forget also, in job fairs, to collect business cards of those you talk with and follow up with them a few days or a week after the event is over. 

If you are currently an international student in the U.S. reading this, I suggest to share this post with your advisors or career coach at your university’s career center so they can help you practice this and other good tips that will give you an advantage in your job search in the U.S. Also, do not forget to attend all possible immigration and visa workshops through your college’s international student office to educate yourself on the ever changing student visa and work permit scenarios. 

Thank you to Anna Renzetti, Career Coach and the team at the Career & Professional Development Center at the University of Utah for arranging this seminar (and sample scripts in this post) which was part of a day long career conference held on November 10, 2017. 

More Resources: 
Employment Visa – University at Buffalo FAQ
International Student Job Search Guide Advice  
Tips to Americanize Your Resume 

Read More About the Career Conference: 
General Overview 
Tips to Beat the Applicant Tracking System 
Tips to Negotiate Salary for your First Job

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