Submitting a resume and getting no response is common. Many international students think lack of work authorization is the reason for rejected. Sometimes it is. But it isn’t the only reason.
Here are six reasons why American employers reject international students.
You don’t have work experience
Many international students think good grades qualify them for a job. Yet American employers value experience as much (and sometime more than) good grades. They want to hire smart people. But they always want to see U.S. work experience. It’s a challenge: you’re searching for an internship because you need experience but employers rarely hire without any experience.
You haven’t adapted to American cultural norms
If you’re not comfortable with American culture, you won’t get hired. For example, self-promotion is part of the US job search. You’re expected to talk about your achievements. If you come from a culture where self-promotion is considered rude, you might avoid doing it. Small talk is required during interviews. If you don’t like small talk, you won’t get hired. These small, cultural norms can make the difference between being hired and being rejected.
How to overcome this challenge: Hang out with Americans to better understand their cultural norms. Make friends with internationally-minded Americans so you can ask them about their culture. Also, connect with someone from your culture who has lived in the U.S. Ask them how they adapted.
Two resources to help you:
You haven’t articulated why you want the internship or job
If you can’t articulate why you are a good fit for an internship, you won’t get hired. Employers hire people who can communicate why they are the best person for the job.
Consider the difference:
Employer: What interests you about this role?
Candidate #1: “I study mechanical engineering and your company is very well known as a top place for engineering students.”
Candidate #2: “As an engineer, I’m always focused on solving problems. In your company’s mission statement, you write about tackling some of the biggest, most ambitious problems in the world. I want to join your team and help you solve those problems. When I was researching this role, I learned that this role supports Sales teams. While I bring strong math and engineering skills to this role, I also enjoy collaborating with diverse teams. I’m excited about the opportunity to work on a team that is solving complex problems.”
Which candidate do you think impresses employers? #2, of course.
How to overcome this challenge: For every job opening, reflect on why you want it. Before you apply, answer these questions:
- Why do you want to work at this company
- What qualifies you for this position?
Be as detailed as possible in your answers. Research the websites and social media profiles to get information about the team, products, services, and company mission.
You only submit resumes online
The average job positing receives over 200 resumes. Employers invited around 2% of candidates to interview. It’s hard to stand out. Building a network of people who know your goals is an advantage in the job search. When you build relationships inside companies, you build advocates who help your resume get noticed. Most international students do not network because they don’t have time, they haven’t been taught how, or it’s uncomfortable.
How to overcome this challenge: Start learning about networking. Networking is simply conversations with people who interest you. It’s about sharing information. Practice talking to speakers who come to your campus. Visit your professors and tell them about your career interests. Ask them for advice on your job search. Pay attention to networking events from your career services offices. Go to all of them. Then learn how to conduct informational interviews.
You haven’t found a way to stand out
College internships and jobs are competitive. Engineering, technology, and business are the most popular among international students. Everyone applies to Google, Facebook, and Amazon because they offer work authorization. So stand out from the competition by doing more than average.
How to overcome this challenge: Get creative. Here’s an example of a cover letter to a leading venture capital database company written in the style of their wildly popular newsletter. Here are examples of personal websites that stand out. Then talk to people inside companies about your ideas.
You aren’t showing employers your soft skills
It’s easy to show your technical skills. A portfolio or coding test shows you’re technically qualified. But many students forget to show their soft skills.
“Hiring managers are looking for applicants who have developed soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and leadership, according to a survey by PayScale. As many as 60% of employers found critical thinking and problem solving lacking in entry-level job seekers.” (from the article, The Skills to Get Hired at Google, Facebook, Amazon, and More)
Soft skills are personal characteristics that enable a person to interact easily with other people.
How to overcome this challenge: Practice building your soft skills while in school. Find opportunities to present on topics that interest you. Write a blog about your experience in the U.S. Apply to lead a club on campus (after you have settled into campus life!). Help out a startup on non-technical project. Create events that bring people together. Then talk about these activities to future employers. Include them in your resume and cover letter. Talk about the work you did to build these skills during interviews.