Recruiting Tips for International Students

The recruiting process is probably the biggest cause of stress for most HBS students and for international students it can be doubly stressful. Hopefully the following advice will help. It is generally targeted at international students wishing to work in the United States, but could also be useful if you are searching for a job internationally. Use this advice in conjunction with other HBS recruiting guides, and also assistance from the Harvard International Office (HIO) and Career Services.

International status is not an issue with the large consulting firms and investment banks – they usually have dedicated staff that attend to immigration/work permit issues. The smaller companies typically have a harder time navigating the INS regulatory labyrinths so they may be a little more timid when you let them know of your foreign status.
On this point, has been some good news recently: first, as an international HBS student doing a summer internship in the U.S., you can now opt for the Curriculum Practical Training (CPT) option, which grants you the right to work in the US during the internship without your summer employer needing to take any action. The process only takes 5 minutes in Spangler (to register your offer with the MBA Registrar), and 10 minutes at the HIO office in Holyoke. This is a huge improvement on the previous time-consuming Optional Practical Training (OPT) option, and it does not deplete your 12-month work authorization post-graduate in the U.S. The other “good” news, to some extent, is the fact that the current cooling of the US economy makes it much easier for companies to obtain a full-time H1-B visa for you (that assumes, I agree, that you actually get a job offer!)

1. Job Bank
It can be depressing to go to the job bank and find a company or job that you are really interested in, only to then see that the company limits applications to “US Citizens or Permanent Residents only”. Do not let this deter you! There are some (very few) companies who genuinely do only want US Citizens but most companies are simply unsure about the process for hiring international students (see above about the CPT program, they might just not be aware of it). Call the company recruiting coordinator (normally they will tell you that there is no issue at all with international students and ask you to send your resume to them). If you have no luck, contact HBS alumni at the company (see point 2 below) – often they can help you to get an interview.

2. Use the HBS Alumni database
You are always being told that the HBS alumni network is one of the best assets of this school, and that you should use this network as much as possible. Many international students find this difficult – we are often not accustomed to calling strangers to ask for help, and may feel that we don’t know enough about the company, or how things are done in the US. Find the courage to make that first call (or email) and you will see how easy it is. HBS alumni love to talk to current students, love to talk about their company and what they are doing, and would love to see more HBS people working alongside them. Their advice can be invaluable, so use it.

3. Attend the company presentations
Many international students know very little about the companies recruiting on campus, and if you only look for companies that you know you may miss your ideal job. If you know nothing about a company it’s obvious that you should go to their recruiting event. Even if you are an expert, go anyway. You will find out a little about the culture of the company, the people who work there, and what they consider to be important attributes for people that they hire. Also it’s a good opportunity to find out about the key issues of concern to the company, which you can then turn into great questions when you interview. A couple of points about

If you don’t feel comfortable with the schmoozing that often occurs after a presentation don’t worry. It’s great if you can talk to people from the company, but if you feel a little overwhelmed and that you don’t have anything to say, you are not alone. It’s quite OK to email or call somebody after the presentation.

4. Manage risk
You may know exactly what company you want to work for but don’t let that stop you applying to other companies. You will learn more about the particular industry, will get more “practice” in interviewing, and you’re in a great position if you can get more than one summer internship and/or job offer. Additionally, with several companies to choose from you will run less risk of being disappointed by an unexpected turn during visa/work permit application (or by a rescinded offer for that matter).

5. Do your homework
This might sound like a no-brainer, but you should definitely plan to spend a significant amount of time researching the companies you are interested in, their industry and their competition. You cannot be over-prepared going into an interview.

In addition to brochures and the website, you can easily gain valuable knowledge of the companies you are interviewing with from websites specializing in company profiling, like Hoover’s and OneSource.

6. Networked Job Search
If you are interested in high-tech in small or medium-sized companies, you will likely be conducting a networked job search. This requires a significant investment of time and energy, but the result can be a dream job. You have to be prepared to spend hours in company and industry presentations at HBS, to actively participate in several clubs’ activities and to network, network and network. Here are some useful tips to start with.

 If you want to have a high-tech job, FIT is the most important word. Fit with the industry, the function and the location. With your HBS MBA you should be able to build on your previous experience and change TWO of the three characteristics. For example: you are South American, with a banking background and business development functional experience. You might find it tough to get a product management job in the software industry in the US. You might be more successful building on your banking experience and looking for a job in the e-commerce division of a US bank, or building on your Latin American experience in a marketing role in a Latin American start-up. Use your summer job to build the bridge for the job you are really looking for, as opposed to trying to change everything at once, without showing a solid track record.
o Sign up for HBS clubs. The High Tech & New Media and Venture Capital & Principal Investment Clubs are good examples of industry specialized associations, whereas the European, Ibero-Americano, or Asian Clubs are focused on specific regions. Select the right club/s, depending on your interests and be ready to show some commitment to that club/s. More importantly, take a leadership role in the clubs (they really need first-years) so you can have the inside scoop on what’s going on at HBS.

 Subscribe to industry publications (or at least read them regularly at Baker Library). You have to speak the lingo, and reading magazines such as Red Herring, Business 2.0 and Industry Standard should be as obligatory as your daily cases. You will be able to learn about different spaces and companies and will be ready to have interesting conversations with people from the industry.

 Go to the Treks. HBS clubs and Career Services organize treks (visits) to different high-tech hubs in the U.S. and Europe. You will gain valuable knowledge of the local scene and develop excellent industry contacts.

 If high-tech is your thing, go to Cyberposium. You probably have already heard about this conference. It’s simply the biggest high-tech event in the US organized by students and it happens here, at HBS. You’ll be able to rub shoulders with the “who’s who” of the New Economy, in Aldrich classrooms.

 Talk to your classmates and other HBSers. The key to your next job might be sitting next to you in class.
It’s amazing how much your classmates and friends from HBS can help you in your networked job search. Approach both first and second-years -use the MBA directory to your advantage.

7. Visas and general information
It is very easy for almost every HBS student to work in the US during the summer and after graduation.

See above for the CPT process for your summer internship (noting that HBS will require you to submit a report on how much you learned during the internship).

For full-time employment, you have the right under the OPT program to work in the US for 12 months after your MBA (note that the countdown for these 12 months will start no later than 60 days after graduation, no matter whether you have started working or not, which can be a problem in these times of delayed starting dates). This full-time OPT application takes several months and should be initiated through HIO early in your graduation year (you do not need a job offer to initiate it). Go to for more information about visas.

If you want to stay in the US after this 12-month period, your employer will have to apply for an H1-B visa for you.

Your Section International Rep should have information from the International Office regarding the visa application process and dates that you need to consider. Watch the HBS event calendar for information about workshops specifically targeting international students to help with applications, deadlines and strategies for obtaining the required permits on time.

You can also check INS’ home page at