Common Cultural Barriers to the Job Search
American cultural attitudes and behaviors related to job hunting may be different to those of your own culture. If you have not thoroughly absorbed American work-related expectations, you may want to read this section, which addresses some possible cultural barriers to an effective job search.
- Self-Promotion: You must be confident in discussing your goals and accomplishments, as well as assertive in making your case, initiating calls and following up with all contacts.
- Directness in Communication: In business, people expect open and direct questions/answers, as well as a firm handshake, eye contact and a confident, but relaxed posture. If these are uncomfortable for you, practice with American friends.
- Self-Disclosure: Many cultures consider personal questions about likes and dislikes or strengths and weaknesses as an invasion of privacy by all except family and close friends. However, you will probably be asked to disclose along these lines in an interview. Preparation should enable you to do this more comfortably.
- Career Self-Awareness: In the U.S. you are expected to demonstrate knowledge of yourself, your career goals and how they relate to the job. Informational interviewing will help you prepare.
- Individual Responsibility in Finding Employment: Personal and professional networks are very important in finding jobs in the U.S., in general, you must create them. Put great effort into identifying multiple job possibilities. If it is any consolation, the self-directed nature of this process comes as a surprise to most Americans, too.
- Language Barriers: Employers value effective communication when recruiting. They may be concerned about your writing and speaking ability. Enhance your skills by speaking during class, talking with American friends, completing communication courses, participating in student organizations, watching television, and reading. Provide a well-prepared resume and clearly articulate your responses during interviews. Contact the Student Success Center for preparation and feedback throughout the application process.
- Value of Time: While it may be common in some cultures to be 15 to 2 hours late, the dominant American culture values punctuality. Avoid any negative perceptions by arriving on time.
- Two-Way Stereotypes: Stereotypes that limit the objectivity of both interviewers and interviewees are almost inevitable. You can best deal with this issue by examining your own stereotypes of Americans, as well as of the particular work culture you are interviewing for, and by imagining what the stereotypes of the potential employer toward you might be. Then, when you communicate, try to indirectly counter questions or actions, or in some cases, confront them directly in your cover letter or the interview.
- Myvisajobs.com offers a list of companies, by industry, and by year, who have petitioned for H‐1B visas. There is a great amount of detail included, such as the job title, level of position, salary offered, etc. This website also offers a job search engine and the ability to search specific company’s H‐1B petition history. When you use other job search tools, such as Monster or Indeed, you can research if the organization has had a history of petitioning for H‐1B visas before to know if it is likely that your candidacy will be considered. This tactic is especially effective for larger organizations.
- The Foreign Labor Certification Data Center discloses relevant information about H‐1B petitions by companies in recent years. This resource shares a lot of information about the petitions including the companies who hired internationals, jobs titles, salaries, cities of the companies, as well as the locations where the hired person is working, and more. If the company hired an international candidate before, they should be on your list to investigate.
- Commercial websites, such as Vault, Glassdoor, and Hoovers, provide comprehensive industry descriptions, company profiles, job boards, detailed reporting, etc.
It is common to find employment as a result of having the right connections. The ability to make connections with people, or network, is a skill you can begin developing while in your degree program.
- Talk with faculty members and fellow students. Many faculty members have worked outside of the university context and maintain professional contacts with their former colleagues. In addition, start building relationships with upperclass students and attend networking functions where alumni will be in attendance.
- You can also use job fairs as a networking and educational event. Browse our upcoming events to learn more.
- The best way to find companies that are willing to hire international students is to talk to other international students and alumni, especially because companies who have hired international students in the past are likely to continue to do so. Connect with people who have already successfully found employment here in the U.S. and can provide you with insight about the process.
- Joining a professional association related to your field of interest is also a wonderful way to make connections with those who can provide you with sound advice about how to find jobs in a particular field. Visit the websites of these organizations to request information on their publications, student rates, chapters and conferences. For the names of professional associations, speak with faculty members or the student clubs who have affiliations with these groups.
- Use spring and interim break to engage in specific networking within your preferred geographical area.
- Create a professional LinkedIn profile and ask for introductions.
- Find common ground with your acquaintances (e.g., We both like basketball) and let others known what you are seeking (e.g., I will be graduating this May and hope to obtain a position with a ________ company.). Ask them how they entered the field or if there is anyone else they suggest you speak with. Finally, always express your gratitude and offer to return the favor. Networking is reciprocal.
Resume Writing & Additional Tips
Some employers like to hire people who share their interests. You can build rapport with recruiters and demonstrate that you have enjoyed living in America by following the local sports teams or discussing popular U.S. past times (e.g., current movies, local restaurants, hobbies, etc.). Many international students have unique attributes that organizations value, such as multilingual skills, geographic flexibility, proven work ethic, thirst for continual learning, adaptability to new environments, and knowledge of global business practices. Showcase these skills in your resume and during interviews. Provide a frame of reference for employers when a school or company from your native country is not widely known. (Example: #1 research institution in India; second largest technology manufacture in Europe). It is often difficult and inaccurate to calculate percentiles into a U.S. GPA. For this reason, we recommend using other methods to demonstrate your success (e.g., Top 10% in class or Honors Graduate).
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I list my visa status on my resume?
When in the hiring process do I reveal that I’m an international student?
This is a very sensitive question which needs to be assessed on a case‐by‐case basis. While some employers adhere to strict policies against hiring foreign nationals, others may prefer to hire U.S. citizens, but can be otherwise convinced. Therefore, it should be your goal to get passed the initial screening measures to the interview. Always avoid giving the impression that you want any job solely to obtain your H-1B. Research the organization and be prepared to articulate your interest in the company and specific position you are seeking. It is usually recommended that students wait until the employer asks, but be aware through research if the company has petitioned for visas in the past, especially in the functional area for which you plan to work. However, if you are being asked to travel for an interview, it would be wise to ask at that time: “Is this a position in which the company is willing to petition for an H‐1B as I am currently on an F1 visa?”