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Online job search tips for international graduate students

…OK, these tips are good not only for international graduate students - but let’s put you guys first in line!

If you have been following our blog, you know by now that international education is likely to get you ahead in the job market search. Yet, finding a job in another country can be extremely challenging. In a past post, we provided you with tips for finding a job abroad after graduation. This week, we will focus on using online tools to maximize your results in your job search, with a focus on the United States job market. We will not focus on the process of obtaining a work Visa / permit in this current blog.

The biggest challenge job-seekers face is to stand out from the crowd and get noticed. The US job market is huge. And with the economic downturn, employers and recruiters have thousands of CVs to go through and an unending pile of qualified job-seekers. For international students, the size of the market in the United States, combined with the cultural differences and lack of a network in that country, make finding a job all the more challenging. Understanding how to use online tools to search for a job in the United States will position you one step ahead in this market.

1.     Build your online profile: Having a comprehensive online presence that clearly and effectively represents your experience and aspirations will help employers find you and notice you among the thousands of others who are looking for jobs just like you. Use sites like LinkedIn, Monster, Indeed, Careerbuilder, dice (for IT jobs), simplyhired and many more, and create a profile on many of them (only those you trust, of course!). Recruiters (people who work for companies and are tasked with finding new employees, or people who work in placement companies that find candidates and match them to employers who are seeking new employees) search through these databases based on the information and keywords not only on your resume but also on your profile. Once you finalize your profile, you can choose to receive job recommendations from these sites. Sign up for these recommendations! Most of them will be irrelevant or even junk, but for the one or two jobs that are relevant – it is totally worth it. You can create a special email address just for that purpose if you wish.

2.     Create a resume that works for the local market: An online profile is vital to catch recruiters’ eyes, but it is your resume which is the most important component of your job application package. Make sure to make your resume relevant to the US market. Some things are cultural: in the US, do not include in your resume a picture, age, social security number, date of birth, sex, race and any other personal information. It is not culturally acceptable and may cause employers to disregard your resume for fear of discrimination lawsuits. Here are some good samples of professional resumes that you can get inspired by.

3.     Use keywords and buzzwords: A recent study found that  recruiters spend on average only 6 seconds reviewing an individual resume. A critical way that employers and recruiters will find you is through the keywords and buzzwords on your profile and resume. Make sure to put in relevant words to your field of study and career aspirations. To figure out what these words are, ask your Career development department at your graduate school, or ask recruiters who you speak with (see below on this point). You can also run a Google search for terms you think are relevant and see how many results come up. Use the ones that bring up the most results. Put the high-impact words at the beginning of sentences on your resume. Recruiters often do not read the whole sentences you write and skim through the resume.


4.     Emphasize your local experience: This is the Achilles heel for many good and proud international job applicants. It is a sad truth that employers are often not at all interested in your foreign experience. Even the most respected foreign companies are not likely to be known to them. Absurdly, a free internship position at an American company may be worth in their eyes more than a management role in the biggest company in your country! Therefore, in your resume and online profile, emphasize any experience you had in the country you are targeting for your job search (including unpaid internships and projects you did during your graduate studies). Especially in the US, but also in other countries, employers are interested in seeing that you can work effectively in the local culture and deliver results. Showing that you have already worked and succeeded in that environment will take you a long way.

5.     Get recommended: No need to include actual recommendation letters with your resume when you apply for specific jobs. Only provide recommendation letters or contact information if you are asked for them directly. Many US employers have stopped asking for recommendation letters because they feel they are not reliable, or are afraid of lawsuits related to negative recommendation letters. However, on your LinkedIn profile, it is actually helpful to get at least one person who you worked for or with to write a brief recommendation in perfect English on your profile. As we recommended in our blog about grad-school recommendation letters, have recommenders focus only on positive aspects – do not ask people who may write anything negative about you to write a recommendation.

6.     Be Active: Create a detailed list of employers that interest you and actively search and apply for jobs through their online job sites. All large employers have a “careers” website. Search their sites for potential jobs that match your background and aspirations and apply for these jobs. In many cases they will even keep your resume in a database and send you jobs that fit your background. Being active will also enable you to be among the first whose resume is being reviewed for a job. Considering the huge piles of resumes the recruiter is going to have within a few days or hours of posting a job, being among the first is a distinct advantage.

7.     Connect with people outside the digital world. You need a strong online presence, but having an opportunity to meet an employer or recruiter on the phone or face-to-face, will also make you stand out from the crowd. Meet, network, get introduced, try to schedule some time for coffee with them and do some “informational interviews” (an informal interview where you meet with someone from the company who answers questions you have about working there). It is good to look at LinkedIn if you and the person you want to meet have a common connection, and ask this person to introduce you. They will look at your online profile before the meeting, so make sure it is comprehensive and impressive. Oh, and here is an important note: when you speak or meet with a recruiter, try to also ask if they have any feedback about your resume. You’ll be surprised how nice and helpful people often are if you are just a normal person who asks politely for their help.

8.     Follow up, follow up, follow up. Be persistent, send emails to recruiters who have been in contact with you, find their phone number at work, call them directly, and politely say you have submitted an application for this role, and have some questions about it (prepare a couple of smart questions to ask when you call: about the role. NOT about the salary). It will make them pull your resume out of the stack of resumes they received and read it. This alone can make a huge difference.

9.     Spend many hours a day searching: finding a job is a full time job! If you are serious about finding a job in a country that is not your home country – you need to invest a lot of time in finding the right position for you and primarily – to spread your net as widely as possible so you get more exposure to potential employers. Set a goal for how many applications you will send per day and meet it! Check job boards at least five times a day. If anything new appears, you want to be among the first resumes to arrive.

10. Open your mind to related fields and jobs: Do not narrow your search so much that you will only have very few options. Look for related professional fields where you may gain practical experience that will allow you to later get the job of your dreams. For instance, you may want to intern at a prestigious employer so they, or other similar employers will later hire you.

11. Make sure you stand out “in a good way.” Recruiters do not appreciate a sense of humor in an application. Or anything that otherwise looks weird or out of line. They receive so many CVs that they do not feel they should take any risk with unusual candidates. As a foreigner, you have an inferior starting point in this sense. Don’t add to it by trying to be over-creative, funny or too personal. Make sure your grammar is perfect, your format is accurate, your style is culturally appropriate, and that you look as “American” and local as possible.
Within a few weeks, GradTrain will allow you to connect with people who have a similar background to your own, who have done what you want to do, and can guide you through the process. Many of them hold prestigious jobs and know a lot about applying for jobs in the US and other countries. To participate in our Beta program and to register for more information go here or send us an email to: info@gradtrain.com

Been through this experience and can help others? Become a gradtrain coach!

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