Confronting the Double-Standard in Hiring for International Experience

by Alexis Tai, MS and McKenna Hughes, MA

Career services appointment


The education abroad field spends significant time and resources establishing and fostering the connection between students participating in a study abroad program and future career employability. A study by Hostelworld shows that employers are 23 percent more likely to hire someone with study abroad experience over someone without and 41 percent are more likely to offer a higher salary to study abroad participants.

The same skills and experiences Employers praise from education abroad alumni are developed, often to a higher degree, by international students pursuing their degree in the United States. However, International students struggle to find work in their country of study despite the fact that they have the same skills and experiences that make study abroad students employable.

For decades, international students have been a big boost to the American economy, bringing in billions of dollars in economic benefits from international students every year, with the Majority of funding coming from outside of the United States. However, the political atmosphere in recent years has cut down the number of international students coming to the US and increased distrust in US institutions. We will likely now have to be more competitive to prove to potential international students that our institutions have more value to them; one of those ways is through employability after graduation.

It is in the best interest of our institutions to have an international presence to diversify the classroom, promote global and intercultural fluency, increase enrollment, and ultimately make the institution more competitive on a large scale. While the work of advocating for and serving international students often falls on overworked international student services offices, the authors believe it requires the training of the entire campus community to enable international student success, including career services offices.


To address this growing need to support international students joining the workforce after graduation, the authors, who come from career services and international education, collaborated to develop the following recommendations for career services:

Advocate for international students with employers to demystify the work authorization and hiring process. One of the biggest barriers international students face is having employers believe that international students are not eligible for internships or post-graduate employment. Although our F-1 international students do in fact have work authorization through CPT and OPT, career services professionals must put in the work to understand the basics of these processes so that they can, in turn, dispel myths and even show an employer why hiring for international experience is a positive for their company.

Show employers the value that international experiences can bring to their team. It is well-documented, in McKinsey diversity reports, Forbes, Harvard Business Review, and beyond, that diverse teams are more productive, innovative, and profitable. Hiring concepts, like culture fit, often create office groupthink and weaken inclusion in the workplace. When working with employers who are reluctant to open their candidacy to international students, career services professionals should focus on the benefits of creating diverse and inclusive teams for employers.

Teach international students to articulate the value of their international experience to potential employers. While career services professionals are aware of these desired competencies and have some leverage with employers, ultimately the students themselves are the ones that need to advocate for their own skills and abilities during the application process. One of the essential career readiness skills cited by the National Association of Colleges and Employers is equity and inclusion, which is in part developed through “global cross-cultural interactions and experiences” that international students have in spades. Creating programming that specifically discusses this value and provides the language for students to articulate that value, is an essential recommendation for setting up international students for success.

Collaborate with education abroad offices to affirm the skills built by both domestic study abroad students and degree-seeking international students. Many education abroad offices already have some programming in place to teach study abroad students how to articulate their international experiences to potential employers. Rather than reinventing the wheel, career services can work with education abroad offices on programs that are already in place. Additionally, sharing resources from professional memberships that your institution may already be paying for, such as NAFSAthe Forum on Education Abroad, Diversity Abroad, NACEand NASPAcan equip the campus community to learn about the value that international students bring to the institution, become trained in international student employability and the work authorization process, and empower students to discuss the value of their international experience.


Career services professionals have the ability to make positive changes that lead to lasting and tangible improvements for international student employability. By utilizing the resources, programming, and expertise of international education offices, career services can quickly and effectively build robust systems of support for professionals and students to advocate for the international student population. When this collaboration and learning is done well, campuses will see greater internationalization on campus, more robust student programming, and higher rates of employment post-graduation.

Disclaimer: HigherEdJobs encourages free discourse and expression of issues while striving for accurate presentation to our audience. A guest opinion serves as an avenue to address and explore important topics, for authors to impart their expertise to our higher education audience and to challenge readers to consider points of view that could be outside of their comfort zone. The viewpoints, beliefs, or opinions expressed in the above piece are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by HigherEdJobs.

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