An International Student's Guide to Landing a Job Offer

By: Maria L. Novianti

Feeling overwhelmed, not sure where to start or how to get ahead?

Fret not fellow student, you are not alone, I was in that exact same position last year.

When I started my job search, I wanted to ask the international students before me, how exactly did they get their jobs and internships?

I realized there were not many articles sharing their experiences in their respective job searches.  I can change this and provide some of my insights. I have distilled my experience to about 11 steps and actions you can take to have a better outcome: an internship offer.   
I cannot guarantee that if you follow all these steps you will land an offer immediately, there are many factors that come to play: different types of industries will require different ways to navigate, and unfortunately some industries simply have more openings than others. Nonetheless, these steps worked wonders for me and I hope this article can help you in your jobhunting journey.

Mindset matters:  remember to stay positive and optimistic. You will face rejections; I can guarantee you that 100%. You will face recruiters that will not even take a look at your resume simply because you are not a US citizen or a green card holder. I could not even apply for many jobs through Career Knight because of the visa restrictions. My take on such situations was that it’s their loss really, because I know we all have plenty to offer, and they are losing out on awesome, hard-working candidates. So, with all that being said, keep your chin up, brace yourselves, and let’s dive right in.

Steps and Actions towards success:  

  1. Start your job hunting process early, according to statistics it takes about an average of 6 months to secure a job. Expect longer for us international students. I started looking in September-October 2016, and landed my offer in March 2017. 
  2. You absolutely have to build a network, attend events from your industry, make your existence known. You do not have the luxury of having connections from your family, friends, a luxury that you would have if you were in your own country. We have to build our own from scratch. Subscribe to your industry’s society websites to get notifications on events happening in the area. When you attend these events, introduce yourself to as many people as possible, exchange name cards with them, and keep the communication going.
  3. Make yourself business cards; it will make you feel more powerful when you network, because when other students usually just receive others’ business cards, it leaves a great first impression when you have yours to give out too. Having name cards shows professionalism and how serious you are about your job search / networking.
    Go to this link here
    This site lets you customize the information you can include on your card. I recommend putting the url of your LinkedIn profile, on top of your basic information.
  4. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete and professional. Some things I did to improve my profile included attending LinkedIn workshops from Career Services. Additionally, I had a friend shoot a professional photo of me for my profile. Complete all the sections as much as possible, including links to your publications, if any.
  5. Get your resume vetted by as many experts as possible, especially people from your industry. Keep a close eye at Career Services events; sometimes they have resume critiques coming in from your specific industry or even specific companies you want to work for. It is especially important for us because the resume styles from our home countries will probably differ from the style here. Also, each industry will have their own preferences. I landed my first job interview with IFF (International Flavors and Fragrances) through a resume critique session hosted by IFF at Rutgers and it ended up being an unofficial first interview. They considered me for a full-time entry-level job, and I went through a couple of rounds of interviews. I did not land the job, however, but I did make a great impression and expended my network.    
  6. Go to Rutgers Career Fairs (and find other career fairs from your industry too).  Filter the companies that would consider sponsorship, they tend to be more open to international students.  There probably won’t be many, but it is a good place to start. When you visit the booths, explain your situation (do your homework and know our F-1 CPT/OPT circumstances by heart), that you are authorized to work for at least 1-2 years without visa. Most employers aren’t aware of this special F-1 CPT allowance that we have thanks to our special MBS curriculum.
  7. Follow up with the recruiters you met in the career fairs/networking events. Email them, find them on LinkedIn and add them. Remember when you add people in LinkedIn, you should include a note on how you met and not just send an anonymous invite. This is how I received a call back from Croda, though unfortunately, my schedule did not match with their hiring timeline.
  8. Remember to continue applying for jobs through various websites, eg: LinkedIn, Indeed, recruiting agencies, and also through companies’ websites. Applications through companies’ websites may seem lengthy and daunting at times, and they usually take longer time to process than recruitment agencies. You probably think that they probably do not go through them, but trust me, they do. It may take a few months, but they do go through them. In fact, Sensient Cosmetics Technologies (the company I got my offer from) contacted me in March 2017 from the application I submitted in their website 3 months’ prior (December 2016).  

    I would suggest is to keep all your job applications documented on a spreadsheet, so that when someone does give you a call back, you know exactly which job application it was for. The last thing you want is creating a bad impression to the recruiter by not knowing the job that you applied for.

  9. When you do eventually reach the interview stages (which I am sure you will), go to the interview 100% prepared. Know yourself inside out (apart from your resume). Know your goals, values, strengths, weaknesses, how you play with others, know what you can and cannot tolerate. Knowing these will help you and the interviewers examine whether you are the right fit for the company, and vice versa. An interview is a two-way street; you also have to examine whether the company’s values match with your own. Additionally, find out as much information as you can about the role, go on LinkedIn and search for people with similar roles, and reach out to them if possible. Know the specific skills and expertise required for this role, and have examples from your own experience relating to those skills and expertise. I found it useful to make a separate interview prep document for each interview that I had, listing all the possible questions together with my answers. Finally, come up with questions to ask your interviewers.

    Information you ALWAYS leave the interview with: the interviewers’ contact information, what comes next after the interview, what are the appropriate ways for you to follow-up, and when can you expect to hear back from them.

Check out Emily’s Tesoriero’s blog entry for more in-depth details on interviews.

  1. One of the most memorable piece of feedback I received from my interviewer was that I demonstrated my passion for the industry. I am in personal care, both in my resume and in person. She explained to me that it was one of the things that made me “stand out” within the pool of applicants. My resume revealed that even before I started this MBS program, I took an online course in cosmetic chemistry independently. I further elaborated how I left my old life behind me, packed by bags and moved half way across the world to pursue my dreams in the cosmetic industry. I even showed the interviewers a novel type of makeup kit that I had brought along with me that day. All these truly caught her attention and she said, “You would be surprised, very few candidates display the level of passion that you possess.” So, what does this tell you? Pursue your passion outside of the academic realm, and know how to show for it in a way that puts you in a great light, both in your resume and during interviews.
  2. Remember to maintain good correspondence with your interviewers even if you get a rejection, because it could still lead you to other opportunities in the future. Be positive! A rejection does not mean that you are not qualified enough, many times it is a simple matter of fit, and if you leave a good impression to your interviewers, they will be more than happy to consider you for future openings in the company. I can testify to this: I maintained a good relation with my interviewer from IFF and even though I did not get the initial job I applied for, he considered me for a new internship role and gave me another interview. This also goes for when you receive multiple job offers (yes, it can happen to you, believe me) and you have to turn down positions from other companies. Be honest, sincere, and respectful to the interviewers you turn down, do not keep them waiting. Let them know that you would still like to explore other opportunities in their company in the future. The industry is big yet tight at the same time, you want to maintain good relationships with everyone.

These are the most important lessons I have learned throughout my job search experience in the past two semesters in Rutgers. As I mentioned earlier, be positive and optimistic, believe that the perfect role with the right company that will look past your immigration status will come along. Do not take rejections personally, instead, learn from each interview experience and make notes of what you can do better next time.

Know that you are not in this journey alone, many students before you have had these exact same issues and persevered through them, and so will students after you. Do not hesitate to reach out for help from our wonderful PSM department, Rutgers Career Services, as well as alumni or other students. It is perfectly okay to ask for help instead of struggling alone, and I highly suggest you do. We are all in this together and we should look out for one another.

Are your experiences similar?  Different?  Can you add some insights?  Please submit to the PSMblog your thoughts, comments and experiences.

If you would like to get to know me or ask questions, please feel free to contact me through email! All the best and I cannot wait to hear about your success stories!