EBC Series: Recruiting in the U.S. as an International Student
This blog post is the beginning of a series from representatives of Kellogg’s European Business Club. Check back for more updates!
By Reme Fernandez (2Y 2020)
Though I am originally from Spain, my father’s job had us moving countries every couple of years when I was growing up. Through this, I quickly realized that every culture has their own way of doing things. As I grew older and started working, I observed that this also applied to the professional world. And yet, while I had recruited for jobs successfully in different European countries prior to Kellogg, I never stopped to think whether recruiting might be any different in the United States. Let me tell you… it is.
As I got to Kellogg and started searching for a summer internship, I started noticing elements of the process that seemed obvious to my domestic peers but had my international peers and me second-guessing our own once-successful ways. There was a lot more handshaking, calling, and delivering pre-rehearsed pitches than I had ever experienced. Of course, with the support of Kellogg’s Career Management Center and fellow students, we all figured things out eventually. But it was a steep learning curve, and one that I want to share my learnings on for future generations of international students coming to the US.
Recruiting lessons for international students
Below are some of my biggest observations, along with my humble advice on how to navigate the process:
1. Find out if you are eligible
For better or for worse, not all companies are willing to sponsor international students. This is something I realized early on and factored into my recruiting strategy and list of target companies. Don’t waste your time and energy barking up the wrong trees – it’s better to focus on companies that will actually consider hiring you. Ask firms about their hiring policies and check job posts carefully for any work authorization restrictions. Armed with this information, it’s then up to you on how to proceed: you may want to move on with your search, or you might ask your target companies to connect you to any international subsidiaries where you would have the required authorization to work.
2. Network, network, network
This was perhaps the biggest surprise for me. In the U.S., it is expected that you attend company presentations, mingle at networking events, call employees to ask about their work and show your interest in the company. Sending your resume without having spoken to anyone at the company first is like not sending your resume at all. They simply want to know that you’ve put in the ground work first and that you’ve made the effort to know the company and culture inside out before you applied. Leverage the Kellogg network, both peers and alumni, and talk to as many people as you can. When you’re done with a conversation, send a thank you note and ask to be connected onwards so that you can continue building relationships.
3. Leave your humility at the door
In some countries, boasting your accomplishments can be perceived as arrogant and actually make you less likable and detract from your application. Conversely, to be a successful candidate in the U.S. you need to be prepared to describe your leadership and impact. Have your pitch ready 24/7: where did you study and work, what initiatives or projects did you manage and what were the tangible outcomes? If you can’t clearly articulate how you add value to an organization, who will? You need to become your best and most vocal advocate if you want to stand out.
4. Know when to negotiate your offer
While most internship offers are a done deal, negotiating your full-time offer is a lot more common in the U.S. than in other countries. Most companies will offer you a given set of pay and benefits, but often expect you to ask questions and perhaps even push for modifications or additions. Negotiating your conditions is almost a signal that you think highly of yourself and expect the company to do the same. It’s important to balance your ask, ground it in logic, and present it as a constructive and fair request rather than a confrontation. It’s also important to know when to take no for an answer: the fact that you asked doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get what you want. However, not asking at all means you might be missing out on an opportunity to get closer to your ideal terms.
My biggest piece of advice
Clearly, recruiting in the U.S. has unique nuances that might not be immediately obvious to international students, but which are crucial to understand and embrace in order to be successful. While most of us figure these out quickly, my single biggest piece of advice for international students is the following:
Stay open-minded and flexible. Your ideal company might not sponsor, or your dream job might require you to move to a city that wasn’t even on your radar. Whatever the situation, be honest with yourself on what your priorities are and where you are willing to make trade-offs. Like it or not, international students need to be more flexible than domestic students, if only because of the reality of work authorizations and visas. However, if you are willing to adapt and keep an open mind, you will have no trouble finding a job… and who knows, it might just end up being the perfect fit for you.