7.2. Large Vs Small

Most companies coming to recruit on-campus are large. Only such a company can afford the time and effort necessary to attract and interview top candidates (with the exception of small local companies).

Large companies are safe bets for international students because they usually:

– Know what hiring a foreigner means.

– Have done it successfully in the past.

– Have a large Human Resources department (and very often a legal department as well).

– Understand the process and are willing to go through it.

– Are very concerned with diversity issues, and hiring people with different national origins may be important to them.

On the negative side, large companies:

– Have strict formal rules for hiring (i.e. if their policy is not hiring foreign people, even being the best candidate ever may not land you a job)

– Being large, usually the people interviewing do not know exactly how it works (and you might be caught in their bureaucracy)

– May have hired many foreigners in the past, and may have had problematic experiences.

However, always consider small companies as well. Compared to large companies, they have a few advantages:

– The decision-making process is shorter and easier (if you find the right person, he or she will be able to make any decision, including hiring an international student).

– They are more likely to consider hiring a skilled foreign student for a little bit less from what they would pay an equivalent US-citizen. (Although it’s not legal to pay less in these cases, it happens)

– They probably don’t know how the process works, which makes it easier for you to influence them.

– Usually don’t have formal rules for hiring.

On the negative side, small companies:

– Trying to avoid uncertainty and legal trouble, might not even listen to what you want to say.

– Due to the small size, tend to hire people with a solid network that can be effectively put to work (which for foreign students is harder to have).

Keep these issues in mind when contacting companies. Diversify your chances by considering all sorts of companies, large and small.

Contacting large companies is fairly easy: they recruit on-campus; they have powerful recruiting web-sites, and so on. Contacting small companies can be a challenge. The best-proven ways are:

– Forums and Fairs: Many schools organize career fairs in specific areas (like local to the school, in Silicon Valley or Wall Street). This is a good opportunity for small companies to contact and interview people without having to spend a lot of money in travel and accommodations.

– Trade publications: Usually small companies have small advertising budgets, and focus all of it to trade magazines. Find the trade publications in the area you want to work in, and you will find plenty of small companies.

– The Internet: Needless to say, you will find anything there. Try local newspapers, classifieds, forums, company directories, and so on.

– Entrepreneurial magazines: Publications like Upside, Red Herring, Inc, Success and Entrepreneur, usually profile hot and rising small companies. Do not miss Fast Company.

Some international MBAs have reported some degree of success with international trade oriented mid-sized companies, looking for multi-tasking, multi-lingual MBAs for a variety of assignments.