International Students and the Job Search

Finding a job in general can be challenging. As an international student, there are even more details to keep in mind.

Many international students look for a permanent job in the United States after completing their undergraduate degree. The process is seldom easy for any student, but if you’re unfamiliar with American practices, it can be particularly confusing.

To begin with, there may be a lack of understanding of U.S. employment regulations. Recent international grads may also be unsure of their role as the job seeker. However, you have a distinct advantage as an international student: you have unique experiences and skills, which set you apart from your American peers.

Where to start

Like the rules regarding studying in the United States, there are guidelines for working in America, such as work visa requirements. Once you have decided to remain in the States to work, you should contact the international student services office on campus to make an appointment with a representative from the Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). International students should always obtain employment-related information from an experienced immigration attorney or a campus USCIS representative—advice from other sources may be inaccurate. In addition to helping fill out necessary forms, the USCIS representative knows the costs associated with working in the United States.

Skills and the job search

Finding the right school requires lots of research, and finding the right job does too. Start by using the Internet and American publications to find out if your degree and/or skills are currently in demand in the U.S. job market. An advanced degree, highly marketable skills, or extensive experience will make the job search easier. You should also learn all you can about your targeted field. Some good places to start include talking to professors, reading industry publications, and attending professional conferences.

Role of employers

Employers use several resources to find future employees, including college recruitment, job fairs, Internet job boards, newspapers, trade publications, employee referrals, and employment agencies. Try to take advantage of these opportunities, particularly college fairs and recruitment events.

Networking is another great avenue to employment. Just being open to meeting with people—without pushing your résumé and qualifications on them—can lead to an interview. Even if networking does not result in immediate employment, it can lead to more information about the industry, which is also helpful.

Strong communication skills

The first step to a job is a well-prepared résumé, but you need to convey your interest and ability during the interview too. A strong grasp of the English language and culture is very helpful in this area.

When you’re being interviewed, you need to positively promote yourself and talk with confidence about your education, relevant skills, and related experiences. Of course, self-promotion is rarely easy for anyone, but it can be especially difficult if you come from a culture where talking about oneself is considered inappropriate. When interviewing in the United States, however, people are expected to explain their credentials—why they are suitable for the position.

You should also be sensitive to the interviewer’s verbal and nonverbal cues. Some international students may not realize when their accent is causing them to be misunderstood, and interviewers may be too embarrassed or impatient to ask for clarification. For example, if your interviewer’s followup questions do not match your responses, this may signal confusion. If this happens and you are a non-native English speaker, you should bring this to the interviewer’s attention. In the United States, it is also necessary to express proper nonverbal communication. Always look directly at the interviewer in order to portray confidence and honesty.

Interview etiquette may be difficult to grasp at first, but with some practice, the process becomes less intimidating. It is helpful to rehearse responses with friends, a parent, or a school career counselor before the actual interview. You may even practice alone with a mirror! (Sample questions can be found using the Internet.) Be sure to take advantage of any career workshops offered at your university or even during secondary school to get some exposure to basic interviewing techniques.

Getting involved with campus and community activities also strengthens language skills, and the more you practice speaking English, the better. These activities are also a great way to make networking contacts, and they provide ample exposure to U.S. customs and culture.

Career center

The career center can be a valuable resource in the job search; however, some employers using the career center won’t interview students who are not U.S. citizens. Fortunately, there are still other ways to benefit from the campus career center. Primarily, you can work with the career services staff to develop a job search strategy. Career centers also coordinate campus career fairs, company information sessions, and other special events, and you can use these opportunities to practice your networking skills. With a detailed plan of action, you can find a job worth writing home about.

Resources for the International Job Seeker

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Amari Toussaint

Amari Toussaint

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress helped me narrow my school choices down from 10 schools to four and then two. It also gave me information on a school I had never heard about or thought about attending until now, which is the school I will be attending in the fall. I am thankful for CollegeXpress and its helpful tools.



High School Class of 2019

My favorite feature of CollegeXpress is the scholarship search. As someone going out of state for college, I needed all the financial help I could get, and CollegeXpress helped me easily find scholarships I could apply for to help fund my education.

Ana Sophia Garcia-Cubas Assemat

Ana Sophia Garcia-Cubas Assemat

$10,000 Scholarship Winner, 2020

CollegeXpress has been an instrumental resource for my scholarship search and has given me the opportunity to try my best so I can graduate from college debt-free.

Alexandra Adriano

Alexandra Adriano

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2016

I've used CollegeXpress quite a bit as a senior, particularly for colleges and scholarships, so it's been a very big asset in that respect! I would recommend it to anyone looking to pursue a college education, especially seniors! This scholarship will help me achieve my goals in ways I couldn't have before, and I know that there are opportunities like that for everyone on the website and in the magazines!

Cameron Lee

Cameron Lee

High School Class of 2022

I used CollegeXpress to search for colleges. It helped me narrow down the schools on the West Coast and which schools had Construction Engineering programs. I made my decision to go to OSU and I am so excited about it.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Lynn University

Boca Raton, FL

Moody Bible Institute

Chicago, IL

Miami University

Oxford, OH

Samford University

Birmingham, AL