Graduate business schools, eager to enhance their global image and offset declining demand at home, are attracting international students—and that is causing headaches for the schools’ career-services offices.
Tight visa restrictions and complicated paperwork can make hiring overseas candidates a hassle, and with local talent abundant for many positions these days, some companies don’t see much reason to try hiring anyone else. The potential for cultural misunderstandings and additional training costs are just too high. That has left many overseas students with job-offer rates well below their domestic-born peers at many institutions.
Some schools are seeking out companies that are more amenable to sponsoring overseas hires, while others are beefing up their familiarity with foreign markets and employers to improve international hiring opportunities. Still other schools in the U.S. and U.K. are outright dissuading international students from enrolling, warning that the domestic job hunt will be brutal.
At Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management, one-quarter of the Nashville, Tenn., school’s 2011 M.B.A. class was international, with a number of students from China, India and South Korea.
“If we have too high a [percentage]of international students and then we can’t place them, shame on us,” says Tami Fassinger, chief recruiting officer at the school.
“Regardless of how high somebody’s GMAT is, we have to see that career fit as part of the admission equation,” she added, referring to the Graduate Management Admission Test.
In the past two years, Owen has increased support for its foreign-student job seekers, including hiring a dedicated career-services staffer for the international contingent; scheduling “how I did it” presentations by international students who successfully secured jobs in the U.S.; organizing job-hunt trips to Asia; and offering webinars to address cultural gaps and identify companies that are more open to sponsorship.
Despite the school’s efforts, 67% of foreign-born students from Owen’s M.B.A. class of 2011 had accepted jobs within three months of graduation, compared with 85% for domestic students.
Juan Jose Thorne, a 2010 Owen graduate and native of Peru, says he went to a U.S. school in part so he could land a job in the U.S.—ideally at a midsize or large consulting firm. While Mr. Thorne, 31 years old, didn’t have a job lined up at graduation, he found one a few months later as a pricing consultant at Tennessee-based Tractor Supply Co. But without a long-term sponsorship offer, he had to look elsewhere again in early 2011. Mr. Thorne now works out of Nashville for Revionics Inc., a pricing software company. Although Revionics has sponsored him for the long term, Mr. Thorne acknowledges that not all of his international classmates were so lucky.
At the University of Rochester’s Simon Graduate School of Business, administrators this winter visited with more than 20 multinational companies in China, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Accenture PLC, to learn what they are looking for in new hires and encourage them to consider Simon’s international students for those overseas posts. More than half the students in Simon’s M.B.A. class that started last fall are international; the same is true for the students who enrolled last autumn in the school’s one-year master’s program in finance.
Delores Conway, associate dean of master’s programs and a member of the visiting delegation, says several companies already have added new jobs in China to the Rochester, N.Y., school’s career-services website.
Simon also helps international students who don’t yet have jobs to land short-term consulting engagements in the U.S. The thinking is it will tide them over for a few months after graduation and allow them to continue hunting for a more permanent U.S.-based position. Such short stints are proving particularly popular in private equity and investment banking, where firms want assistance on analytic or financial projects.
India native Rajeev Samuel, 30, wanted to stay in the U.S. after his graduation from the Simonschool, preferably near his wife, who is based in Chicago. At one U.S. company, Mr. Samuel made it to a final-round interview only to have the company ask if he would relocate to India or China for the job. “I’m paying for a U.S. school in U.S. dollars, and I don’t think I can pay it back using an Indian salary,” he says.
After interviewing with five different companies, the best offer he got was in Montreal. Mr. Samuel will begin work this summer at miner Rio Tinto, focusing on pricing strategies for a new India-based joint venture. He is currently taking French lessons to prepare for the move.
Hult International Business School is also keeping job prospects in mind when considering international applicants, and has begun to discourage students from outside the European Union from enrolling at its London campus. Last year, 63% of non-EU students at the London campus accepted job offers within three months of graduation, compared with 84% of those with EU citizenship.
International students who do enroll at Hult’s London branch are encouraged to take a three-pronged approach to the job hunt: seek sponsorship in the U.K., search for a job at a multinational company in their home country, or find a local company back home. Most are aiming for the first path, says Paula Quinton-Jones, career-services director for Hult’s London campus.
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