The Spooky Side of International Recruiting

Henry Donald, MBA Class of 2014

I remember being at the Fall Careers Fair during my first semester at Stern and talking to a recruiter from a boutique consulting firm for a good 15 minutes before asking about international student opportunities. We had talked about all sorts of things including the interview process, different internship projects, mentoring opportunities, etc, however as soon as I mentioned about being from New Zealand she quickly remarked that her company did not hire international students. I remember being very frustrated about having spent a fair amount of time speaking with her, especially since I have a strong accent and thought it was obvious I was not from the U.S.

Thinking I was likely not alone in my frustrations I decided to ask my fellow expats if they had similar experiences. Here are two tales from those beyond the borders…

“When I came to Stern, I hadn’t really decided what I was going to recruit for, and I was tentatively considering marketing. I had heard before that it could be tough for internationals to recruit for a marketing position in the US, but I didn’t realize just how hard. I talked to a few MBA2s who basically told me that unless you have prior experience in marketing, and you can show that you’re super-passionate about it, it’s almost impossible to get a position. So as far as the CPG companies that come to Stern are concerned, especially if Career Account says, “This presentation is being held for domestic students,” I wouldn’t waste my time, unless you’re very very committed.

Industry-wise, I thought it would be great to work in the entertainment & media. However, I had a one-on-one office hour with an alum at an entertainment company who hinted that it’s almost impossible for internationals to find an internship/job. Unless you have relevant experience (and let’s face it, a lot of us have come to business school because we want to transition into another function and/or industry) and you can prove that you’re the perfect fit for the job, they’re not going to go the extra mile.

Furthermore, some of the companies that come to campus are only interested in domestic students, even the big ones who you would’ve thought could afford to deal with your potential visa issues, and it’s just frustrating.

I did apply to a large media company last year for a summer internship position – the posting said it was for “candidates with U.S. work authorization eligible to work without restriction,” but I figured I should give it a shot, in the hopes that they might be willing to make an exception. I was psyched when I was invited to interview, and I signed up, but I also emailed the OCD to make sure it was okay… The relationship manager at OCD reached out to the company recruiter, who told her that unfortunately, they are not able to offer visa sponsorship for full-time positions; and “as the goal of the summer internship is full-time recruitment, they do regretfully prefer that you withdraw from the schedule at this time.”

Even though I did get two internship positions with tech start-up companies based in NYC and really enjoyed my time there, I found international recruiting to be continuously frustrating given I was trying to change the big three: industry/function/location – it was much harder than I had anticipated.” – [Jane]

“Coming to Stern from India I knew that there were going to be a lot of cultural differences but I guess I didn’t fully understand how much I would have to change my approach in order to succeed.  I thought my resume and experience was a good fit for consulting so that is where I targeted my recruiting efforts.

The first thing I noticed that surprised me was the sheer number of smaller consulting firms that flat out do not hire international students. Outside of the big brand name firms there didn’t seem to be much available to me. So from the outset my search for the perfect internship had been narrowed.

Targeting the big consulting firms really does take a lot of networking, which in itself was a foreign concept to me. Where I come from if your credentials are not on your resume; you don’t get the job, and so it took time for me to adjust to the importance of networking with everyone I met and how to do it effectively. There were definite setbacks and sometimes I felt that since I had a vastly different undergrad recruiting experience that I was once again at a disadvantage to those around me.

I went to a lot of the OCD events, corporate presentations, and had one-on-one sessions on networking and recruiting effectively and through a lot of effort I managed to get a couple interviews with some respectable firms, which I was very happy about. My next big challenge, culturally, was preparing for behavioral interviews. I had never really thought about my work experience with respect to finding stories where I ‘demonstrated leadership’ or ‘overcame conflicts’, I just did my work to the best of my ability. It took a long time for me to come up with stories from my experience that would translate effectively to a good behavioral interview answer. Through no short amount of hard work I managed to receive an offer from a firm in NYC and looked forward to my summer, relieved that recruiting was over.

However, even once I started I realized just how different the U.S work environment is to my home country. Networking does not stop with recruiting, if anything it only just begins. I had to adjust quickly to meeting and effectively gaining the favor of many people outside of my project team in order to get ahead. This was not something I felt came natural to me as it did to others. Being an international employee you have to be very conscious of the cultural environment in which you are in and how best to navigate it at all times.” – [John]

So there you have it; two quite contrasting experiences from students who went through the recruiting gauntlet as internationals last year but both with a similar set of obstacles to overcome.

I believe the biggest challenge we face as foreign students looking for employment in the U.S is misinformation. The truth is when it comes to hiring internationals for summer internships and even full time employment is that there is actually very little difference from hiring U.S workers.

For starters, all international students on F-1 visas are eligible for U.S work authorization over the summer under the CPT program and this does not require any additional paperwork from the company hiring you. In addition, upon graduation we have U.S work authorization for 12 months through the OPT program and employers do not need to interact with the U.S government in order to hire us. There is no cost to employers and from there it is easy to convert to a long-time hire at the company. Over 25,000 U.S companies do it every year.

There will undoubtedly be setbacks, frustrations, and cultural differences to navigate, but finding a job in the U.S is possible and many of us are going through it together. Do your homework; know the industry culture you are targeting, and be certain that you can sell yourself as a good fit for any company you apply for. Is it going to be more difficult as an international? Sure. But you’re at Stern now, and since when have you ever been one to shy away from a challenge.

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