7 Top Tips for Job Hunting in the U.S.

by Zhihao Ren

For many international students, the United States is considered to be the land of job opportunities - an excellent place to gain experience and to start a career. Nevertheless, many international students worry that it will be more difficult for them to find employment than it is for their American counterparts. How can you increase your chances of finding a good job in the United States? Job hunting is a process much like selling, and you are the only product on hand. There are seven job hunting steps to success - just remember the acronym `NATURAL`, formed from the first letter of each of the following stages.

1 Narrow your target and conduct market research

As we all know, the job market is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but you have to be selective. Therefore, before looking for specific companies and specific positions, you should decide on what the best fields are for you and which direction interests you most. It is worthwhile to decide on some key words for your job search as it will reduce time on useless internet surfing. Of course, the more key words you have, the more possibility you will find your ideal job.

The American market has many well known job sites, like Monster, careerbuilder and craigslist. craigslist is worth checking everyday because it updates ads fastest and you don't want to miss any potential possibilities. However, big companies like to post on Monster or careerbuilder, sites that have a very professional reputation. It is actually more useful to be aware of company names rather than a specific job positions. If you know some company names, it is a good way to find their link and view their official homepage for detailed job information, and even the contact person.

2 Aim for the job description and amend your résumé and cover letter frequently

Résumé and cover letters are the keys to starting your career. Recruiters won't want to read a book about you, but they might skim through a letter. Usually a resume is one page in length and includes your background, related experience, personal traits and contact information. Your cover letter lets your personality shine for employers, but it should be brief.

Most vacancies have detailed job descriptions. Your goal is to read those descriptions carefully and amend your résumé and cover letter to match as many skills as you can. A cover letter shouldn't be a narrative of your résumé, but should briefly list the highlights of your experiences, and express your personality. Having different kinds of résumés on hand for different kinds of jobs (such as technical jobs, managing jobs or creative jobs) proves beneficial when you are applying for various posts. Many companies scan résumés into a computer and search for specific skills they're seeking, so if you want your résumé to be viewed more, send the best matched résumé to them.

For resume templates, check http://www.resumetemplates.org/

3 Train yourself before the interview

The recruiter has very limited time to talk with you either on the phone or face to face. However, it is the only chance that you have to make them accept you as a qualified candidate. The ideal preparation before your interview is to check the company website and double check the job description to get as much information about the recruiter as possible. Also don't forget to train in front of a mirror and ask yourself some questions for preparation. The more you do, the less you will feel nervous during the interview.

In the U.S.A, job interviews often have two rounds: one telephone stage and one on-site stage. Some psychometric test may be required before you go to the next round. Remember, the interview is not a time to repeat your résumé to the recruiter. Usually, a HR person holds a telephone interview with you for 15 minutes to ask mostly behavioral questions. Use this as an opportunity to expand on your background and skills to let the recruiter know something which you didn't write in your résumé. HR loves to see solid examples of skills and past experiences, not fancy words or colorful letters, so you'd better emphasize the key points on what they want to hear from you.

For on-site interviews, conversation is more specific and technical. Directors and managers are your future supervisors, so they care more about your hands-on abilities. The difference between telephone and on site interviews is that you have time to ask questions about things that concern you. Your questions are often seen to be an indication of your interests and understanding of the company. If you answer their questions nervously in the beginning, the Q&A part could guide the conversation back to your track not theirs. What they want to see is your flexibility and adaptability in handling everything such as pressure, tension and embarrassment, so try to act calmly throughout.

4 Use an internship or a part-time job as a good start

Due to the declining economy, many USA companies cut their budgets in 2008. If they offer you an internship or a part-time job only, consider taking that as a starting point. Companies care about what you have done in your career, and what experience you have, so even an internship or part time job can be valuable on your résumé.

For that reason, a campus job can be valuable. However, campus job are mostly part-time and hard to get without recommendation by faculty members or friends. If you have good connections with fellow students and staff on campus, you may be informed of a vacancy. This method is useful for both market and job research. A good relationship with your colleagues will benefit your job search.

Companies often design internships or part-time jobs as a recruiting method, as it helps students to develop beneficial skills. Indeed, many internship or part-time jobs can be a stepping stone to a full-time position, especially when the US economy is back on track again.

5 Realize your difficulties and overcome them

Many international students realize that they have language issues before they enter the job market. Social skills are equally important. American companies treat communications and teamwork as being as important as professional skills. This can be a serious obstacle in the job interview process. If you can not persuade employers that you have good verbal and written communication skills, they may not offer you a position.

Another issue is your work permit. As a non-resident, you will have to pass your I9 form screen (Employment Eligibility Verification). Nowadays, many Americans are facing unemployment. Therefore, as international students or foreign labor, you must demonstrate that your skills are worth your company sponsoring your work visa application.

6 Ask for help if you need it

Job hunting could be a short or long process. Don't hunt alone! If you find there is nothing useful online or you failed at a number of interviews, it is the time to ask for help from your friends, advisors and professors. They can talk with you to rebuild your confidence and analyze your failure in a positive way. Also, they can help you revise your résumé and cover letter, and offer you some interview tips.

At the same time, a job agency is another good resource to consult. Senior recruiters always have some secret available positions on hand that they are waiting for their clients to take. Some may consider the fee to be unreasonable, but it is better to have a job on hand than none at all.

7 Look for your dream job until you find it

In tough times, it may take more than three months to land a dream job. Many international students get frustrated and will think about going back home. Actually, giving up half way through not only wastes time that you have already spent but also does nothing for your career. A dream job neither just magically appears, nor shows up without your perseverance in applying. Rather than take a fall, you could begin a career just to pay the bills. Start small and work your way up.

Some international students stop applying for their dream job when they get even just one job offer. A dream job is a job that meets your needs and embodies your values. Keep applying until you find your vocation. Job hunting continues throughout your life. Don't lose sight of why you chose this career and what you really want to achieve.

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