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What Employers Want in a Job Applicant

Thursday | December 15, 2016 | by WES Global Talent Bridge

An employer speaks to a job applicant

In our recent webinar, What Employers Want in a Job Applicant, WES Global Talent Bridge shared various ways skilled immigrants can improve their chances of finding a job in the U.S. Our presenters were Michael Lowe, senior director of human resources at World Education Services, and Alberto Mariño, senior sourcing officer at Diversity Recruitment WMATA.

In the U.S., there are currently 7.2 million work-authorized and college-educated immigrants in the labor market. Out of that group, more than 50 percent hold college degrees from abroad with a majority of those degrees in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. However, 1.6 million college-educated immigrants are either unemployed or underemployed.

Right now, immigrants make up approximately 16.5 percent of the U.S. workforce. This number is projected to grow in the next 20 years, with immigrants and children of immigrants making up 85 percent of the U.S. workforce. Skilled immigrants are also more likely to have degrees in “high demand” fields, and as a result, are often a hidden talent pool. Unless employers are willing to turn to this skilled workforce, many jobs will remain unfilled.

Continue reading to discover how to strengthen elements of your job application to stand out and increase your chances of being hired by a U.S. employer.

Your Résumé

Your job search typically starts with a résumé. Your résumé is often the first impression employers will have of you, so it is very important to construct it carefully. Think of your résumé as an opportunity to market yourself and answer the employer’s question of, “Why should I hire you?”

In your résumé, be sure to highlight your hard skills (such as software knowledge and technical abilities), soft skills (such as personal attributes and social and communication skills), keywords that match the job description, as well as relevant experiences you already had overseas or elsewhere. This is a chance for you to tell your professional story, so do not be afraid to showcase your abilities and be proud of your background.

Some necessary components to your résumé include:

  • Profile
  • Contact information
  • Education
  • Relevant skills
  • Professional experience

Other things to remember when creating your résumé for a U.S. employer include omitting any photos of yourself and avoiding any mention of personal information such as your marital status. This is because employers want to be able to evaluate you based on your merits and professional experience. You can find further information on writing a standout résumé here.

Your Cover Letter

A cover letter is an opportunity to show the employer that you have done your research on both the job and the company, and that you understand the job requirements. In a cover letter, you want to show that you have the knowledge, skills, and education to be a viable candidate for the position.

Some components of a strong cover letter include:

  • An intro paragraph explaining why you want the job
  • How your skills and experience match the job you’re applying for
  • How you are a good fit for the company
  • Stories of past professional experiences that demonstrate how you match the requirements.

Remember that you can be more descriptive in your cover letter than in your résumé, so do not be afraid to let your personality shine. Make sure to thank the employer for their consideration and include your contact information along with a request for an interview at the end. If you need more tips on writing an effective cover letter, you can read a post about it here.

The Interview

Congratulations! Your résumé and cover letter impressed the employer, and now you have to go in for an interview. The next step will be to prepare and research everything you can about the company and its officers. You can go to the company website, Google, and LinkedIn to find information. The more you know, the more you will impress the employer and give them a sense that you are well-prepared.

During your interview, the employer may say something like, “Walk me through your résumé,” or, “Tell me about yourself.” In this instance, do not be afraid to self-promote; it is a cultural expectation in the U.S. You must plan to tell your story in a way that represents you well and prepare to explain any gaps in your professional history. Other things to be aware of include maintaining eye contact (it is a sign of respect in the U.S.), and having a firm, confident handshake.

If you do not understand what an interviewer is saying, it is okay to ask them to rephrase or repeat questions. It may also be a good idea to research common interview questions (for example, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”) and prepare answers for each one ahead of time. Before the interview, find someone to practice interviewing with as this will help you to be more prepared and feel more confident during your interview.


Networking is another important element of the job search as it is about establishing valuable contacts and relationships with people. Look up groups in your local area or research online communities (such as LinkedIn) where you can meet like-minded professionals. By networking, you can find the names of hiring managers or even get a referral or formal introduction to the employer.

What is a Credential Evaluation?

A credential evaluation is a validation of the authenticity of your foreign degree. It explains your training and courses in a way that is understandable to U.S. institutions and employers. With a credential evaluation, employers will also understand the level and details of your foreign education, and help them know they are making an informed decision about you.


WES’ mission is to foster the integration of persons educated outside the U.S. into academic and professional settings. Interested in having your foreign credentials evaluated by WES so they are understood and fully recognized in the U.S.? Apply for a credential evaluation today!

WES Global Talent Bridge is a program dedicated to helping skilled immigrants fully utilize their talents and education in the United States and Canada. Global Talent Bridge joins with institutional partners and community organizations to help skilled immigrants leverage their training, achieve their professional goals, and contribute their talents to their full potential.