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How to land a job in the U.S. (as a foreigner) in 2024

I hesitated to add the last 3 words to the title of this blog, as landing a job, in general, is already hard enough. As a foreigner, who needs any kind of visa sponsorship, it’s harder.

[From America Josh]: Eva came to me and said “Josh, I can help people who are moving here be more successful at finding a job. So I thought why not and said “write me a post with your top 5 tips to start”, so here we are! Over to Eva.

Let me start off with some general context.

A recent LinkedIn study showed that 1 out of 3 people in the US are looking for (new) career opportunities. With a labor force of 160 million people, that makes more than 53 million competitors for open roles.

On average, an advertised job at a tier 1 company gets 250 applicants, of which 75% come from some sort of portal. Once submitted, these applications are screened by an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that scans them for keywords. At the end of the process, only 5 resumes make it to the hands of an actual human: the recruiter. That’s 2%.

On top of these depressing stats above, it turns out that around 80% of actual open jobs are not even posted.

Ugh, I know. So far it sucks for everyone.

Now, what’s the difference for foreigners?

The initial screening process by the ATS contains a couple of default questions that are:

  • Are you eligible to work in the US?
  • Do you, now or at any point in the future, require visa sponsorship?

If your answer to the first question is no, you’re screened out before someone even looked at your resume.

If your answer to the second question is yes, the same thing.

I hear you say: “but I’m Australian and I only need an E3 which is super easy and cheap to get.” Save your breath. ATS’s don’t make a difference. You’re out.

5 tips that will help you stay ahead of the competition

No need to panic though. Luckily, there are some things that you CAN do to work around this broken system and land yourself your dream job!

1. Build a meaningful network

A meaningful network is THE key to success, as referrals make up the vast majority of hires.

Conservative estimates put hires-by-referrals at 40%, while other data have them at 80% (!) of total hires. Building meaningful relationships is a process that takes time, so you want to start doing it right away and definitely before you’re desperate for a job. Research the leaders you admire in the companies you could see yourself working for and connect with them without an ask. You can comment to an article they published, tell them how much you enjoyed the marketing campaign they ran at their company, or what you took away from their latest podcast.

Give before you take.

Then when that dream role opens up, they may want to refer you to it, as that’s what friends do.

2. Optimize your LinkedIn headline and summary

Your LinkedIn headline needs to reflect exactly what you bring to the table.

Your current/desired job title is a good start, but make sure you use all the 120 characters available to pop up in as many relevant recruiter searches as possible. Every missed keyword costs you 10 to 20 search appearances a week.

Though some people use funny words to describe themselves like ‘guru’ or ‘ninja’, this is not recommended in practice, since recruiters will never search on those words.

Another opportunity is the summary. You should use those 2000 characters to show some personality and brand yourself. Your summary should be like your elevator pitch. Please write it in the first person.

3. Make sure your resume is “ATS & recruiter friendly”

Though you want your LinkedIn summary to show your personality and tell your brand story, your resume should be more concise and keyword focused since the initial screening is done by a system.

Also, IF a recruiter looks at it afterward, they spend on average only 6 seconds! Americans like ‘dry' resumes: no pictures, no personal information, no creative formatting (unless you’re applying for a creative job, maybe).

Keep it to 1 to 2 pages, and make sure you include quantifiable achievements for each job instead of generic responsibilities. The reader should take away the value YOU brought, versus an overview of what the role is supposed to be.

4. Apply in a targeted manner

When there is no immediate success in a job search and feedback is lacking (which is almost always the case), some people tend to go overboard and apply for everything and anything they find online.

This will not help to turn the situation around. Instead, what you should do it spend some time to research companies that you want to work for and the problems they face. If you have solved similar problems in your career, make sure to showcase that on your resume.

Much more powerful than applying online is connecting directly with the hiring manager on LinkedIn and sending them a personalized note. If you can hit on what keeps them up at night and how that can be addressed by hiring you, you’re good.

5. Don’t drop everything the moment you get an interview

Too many people shut down their applications and outreach as soon as they are invited for an interview.

Not a good strategy! A phone screen or an in-person interview is a long way from a job offer and anything can happen between now and then. They could identify an internal candidate (you’d be surprised how often that happens after posting a job online), their budgets can freeze, there could be a reorg so that the hiring team and priorities shift, they might not reach consensus on the candidates and put the process on hold.

Most importantly, keep going until you have your dream offer in your hands.

If you need help with all or any of this, you can also consider working with a career coach, like Eva Offermans, Founder and Certified Coach @ Innovo Coaching. Check out her website here and feel free to get in touch!

Eva Offermans

Eva Offermans

Eva Offermans is a Dutch global citizen and a New Yorker since 4 years. She is an entrepreneur, career coach and executive recruiter. Her mission is to maximize your potential by getting you in the driver's seat of your career and steering it towards purpose. Eva loves everything the city has to offer, especially the food, and she is the proud mama of a fur baby called Max.View Author posts

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