You are part of a global community of talented students. Like international students across the world, you are trying to match with the right employer. Unfortunately not every employer is a good match. Not all employers offer H1B sponsorship. At career fairs in the US many employers aren’t looking for globally-minded students like you. Yet career fairs are important places to interact with employers. You want to make a good impression and build relationships with employers. A discussion with a recruiter or alumni could be the start of an important relationship.
Here’s how to make an impression at the career fair and get the information about H1B sponsorship that you need for a winning match.
Before You Attend
Know your visa options before you talk to any employers
Learn when CPT is available and how OPT and H1B sponsorship process works. Many employers do not know these details and will just assume you can’t be hired for an internship because you need H1B sponsorship. In fact, you don’t need sponsorship if you have CPT, so you can work for a summer as an F1 visa student. If you are talking to a potential employer about H1B sponsorship, be informed.
Learn which companies have sponsored before
Look at the list of employers (your career services department has this information.) Look them up on myvisajobs.com to see if that company has filed for H1B visas in the past. If so, they have hired international candidates. If their company is not in the database, they have not sponsored international students.
Pick your favorites from the list
If there is a company you are interested in but was not listed on myvisajobs.com (meaning they don’t provide H1B sponsorship), put it lower on the list. Since you have a limited time at the career fair, you should visit the companies that offer H1B sponsorship first.
Complete the One Sentence exercise
For each company on your list, answer the question: Why are you interested in this company?
Each company that you visit at the career fair wants to know why you are interested in them. Practice your answer to improve your confidence when approaching recruiters.
Practice your professional adventure story
Practice your 30 second story that tells recruiters about your professional interests and shows your personality. Here’s a reminder how to build a story that employers will remember.
At the Career Fair
Talk about your interest in a company
Recruiters want to hear why you are interested in their company. Tell them why you picked them. This is how you stand out. For example, consider the difference between these two answers:
Situation: A recruiter stands at the table of a company that creates custom digital solutions for energy companies. The first student approaches, resume in hand. The recruiter says hello and asks the first student why they’re interested in her company.
The first student replies “I’m a computer science student who’s looking for a job in a technology company and I saw that your company hires computer science majors.”
The recruiter smiles and says to look at the website. The next student in line approaches. The recruiter asks the same question. “What interests you about working here?”
The second student replies, “I”m currently studying software engineering and I’m really interested in working on mobile analytics and product design. I was reading your website and was impressed by your work in the renewable energy industry. Plus I looked at your Instagram feed and it looks like a lot of fun at your company! What it’s like to work at (name of company)?”
Which student would impress you? The second student, of course, because she’s more interesting! She shared her interests. Her comments showed that she researched the company (she also complimented the company – recruiters like genuine compliments about the place they are representing). She wanted to know more about the company by inviting the recruiter to share her experience. When you tailor your conversation to the company you will stand out.
Do not ask recruiters about H1B sponsorship when you first start talking to them
This does not make a good impression on the company. Before talking about sponsorship with employers, start a conversation.
Remember; Company representatives are helpers
Even if a company doesn’t sponsor you don’t want to come across as ungrateful or uninterested. You want to build a relationship with them. When you ask “Do you sponsor international students?” before you have a conversation, recruiters don’t get to learn about you.
When to ask about H1B sponsorship
Tell them your story and inquire about positions in the department or field you are interested in
Listen to their response. If it’s positive, then ask one of these questions:
- Have you hired international candidates in your company before?
- Are you open to international applicants?
- What advice do you have for international candidates who apply at your company?
- What are the work authorization requirements for this position?
If they tell you they don’t hire international students
Even though this isn’t want you want to hear, remember there are reasons why employers don’t offer H1B sponsorship. Hiring for H1B is not always a yes or no answer. Sometimes their company policy isn’t always clear.
You may be told no because:
- The company sponsors but the position is not a good fit for international candidates, so they will not sponsor for the position.
- The company sponsors for certain positions which are not being advertised at the career fair or represented by the recruiter
- The company says it does not sponsor but will make an exception for an exceptional international candidate
- The company will make an exception for an exceptional international candidate but will not tell you that because the person you are talking to doesn’t make work authorization decisions
- The company does sponsor but they have so many applications from international students because they are a rare company that sponsors that they start telling international students that they don’t sponsor.
If they tell you they don’t hire international students continue being friendly. While it is disappointing, it is not personal. Thank them for their time.
Ask to connect on LinkedIn
Now here’s the part that the most important after you get rejected: Tell them that it is unfortunate but that you still admire their company and ask to stay in touch. Recruiters are very connected people – you never know when a job might come up that you can actually apply to.
Does this sound confusing? It is!
It’s important to be friendly, open, and don’t get discouraged. Be warm-hearted. Recruiters are people just like you. Some company representatives are alumni. Some are recent students. Approach them with openness. Don’t argue with a recruiter. Instead, ask for their contact information and send a polite, short email followup to discuss sponsorship at a more convenient time. This happens with internship positions too. Recruiters may not know that you don’t need sponsorship for an internship.
Focus on building relationships with people inside of companies
You are part of a global community of students who are trying to match with the right employer. Not every employer is a good match. Remember, finding companies that hire international students takes time. Also, it may not be the right time. So use each interaction as a chance to make an impression. Build relationships with professional helpers. These people may make recommendations about you in the future. They will say, “yes, I’ve spoken to this student, they speak well, are friendly and a hard worker.”