Job Search & Fellowship Resources

Searching for a Job

Gordon Career Center

Take advantage of this resource! You can make an appointment to meet with a staff member or a peer career advisor. You can also attend events about career options and learn about how Wesleyan can support your career search. The GCC can also help with:

  • Practice Interviews – In-person or Zoom
  • Networking
  • Formatting Cover Letters, CVs, or Resumes 
  • Career Development Grants

Job hunting can be expensive! Wesleyan offers some assistance for that through the Career Development Grant. Wesleyan students can apply for up to $500 that can be used toward travel expenses, interview attire, professional conferences, and graduate school entrance exams.

  • Cover Letters, Resumes, and CVs

    The tone of all of your documents should be formal and direct. Depending on your culture, the style for these types of document may be more elaborate and indirect in your home country. The best method to realizing tone differences is by asking someone from the U.S. to review your application materials. This person may also catch awkward phrasing and help you to choose wording that may seem more polite.

    Cover Letters

    Although it is sometimes difficult, try to address your cover letter to the name of the person making the hiring decision. This information is not always listed on a employment post and will often require some research. Good places to look for the hiring manager’s name are the company’s website or their LinkedIn page. Some applicants also choose to call the company to ask who the appropriate person to address their cover letter to would be. If you absolutely cannot find the appropriate name, address your letter “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Human Resources Manager,” depending on whom you are submitting the letter to.

    Read more about Application Materials

    In addition to including the appropriate name, make sure that you always use the correct title:

    • Dr. if the person has a PhD, EDD, or medical degree
    • Mr. for males
    • Ms. for females (married or unmarried)

    Always make sure that you use the hiring manager’s last name (Dear Dr. Watanabe, Dear Ms. Lindstrom). Referring to a person by their first name (Dear Susan, Dear Zeno) is considered too informal in this type of situation and often seen as rude.


    Review your cover letter and resume several times to ensure that there are no spelling or grammatical errors. Make sure to use a grammar and spell check on everything, as typos and other errors on your application materials are considered extremely unprofessional and will usually cost you a potential interview. It is also important to remember that machines are not perfect. If you are not sure, ask a human being to review your documents before you submit them. 

    Interviewers will verify the details contained in your cover letter and resume, so make sure that all the information is accurate. You can selectively emphasize what you did at a job, but never lie about it. In most cases, including false information during the application and interview process is a reason to fire you.

  • Names and the Application Process

    What is my last name or surname? What is my first name? Your last name is your family name. In the U.S., it refers to your father’s family name. Your first name generally refers to your given name, the name you are called. If you have any questions, look at your passport and follow how it is listed there. 

    Should I use my “Western name” or my legal name? On legal documents, you must use your legal name. On other documents, like your resume and cover letter, you have more freedom. Some research indicates that Western names are called back more often than non-Western names. However, that may not be true depending on your field or the company to which you are applying. Many international job applicants list their western name in parenthesis or quotations following their legal given name: for example, Abbas (Alvin) Mansouri, Lingling “Cindy” Tsai.

    Read more about Names

    Help the person calling pronounce your name. Use Western letters (pinyin). The person who is calling you back will not be able to pronounce your name otherwise.

    You can also provide a pronunciation guide in western letters: for example Xin (Shin). You can add the pronunciation guide to your email signature or add the “hear my name” feature.

    Help the person know your gender. Gender pronouns can help a person calling you know what to expect and those writing a letter or email know how to address you. You can include your pronouns in your email, resume, or cover letter to assist them. For example, Su Jung Choi, who identifies as female, would add (she/her/hers) next to her name. Vikas Patel, who identifies as male, would add (he/him/his) next to his name. On the other hand, if you are in a field that favors one gender over the other, you may not want to reveal your gender. The choice is yours.  

  • Recommendation Letters

    Ask your potential reference for a letter at least two weeks in advance, longer if possible. When asking a for a recommendation letter, be sure your first email includes the following: 

    • When the letter is due – This is often the deciding factor for potential recommenders
    • Is it a letter, a form, or an online questionnaire? (If you do not know, just say that you do not know)
    • All of the information they need to know. If you have not seen the person for a while, they may not remember your name, but might remember you if you add a little context. “This is (your full name). I took your class (name), in the (fall/winter) semester of (20XX).” Even if they know you, this will help them find your information (grade, attendance, work records, evaluations, etc.)
    • Ask politely if they are willing to write it and do not assume they will say yes.
    Read more about Recommendation Letters

    If they agree, send them the following information:

    • All the information they need submit in the letter
    • Who the letter should be addressed to
    • Your resume or CV
    • Anything you would specifically like them to mention. This may seem like bragging, but it is very helpful for the person writing the letter.
  • Cultural Differences in Interviews

    Interviewing in the United States may be a very different experience than what you are accustomed to in your own country. The Gordon Career Center (GCC) and the Presentation Studio are great places to practice. However, they may not understand some of the cultural differences that might confuse you. Here are a few tips that you may not know

    Make eye contact with the interviewer. Even though the interviewer has a “higher status,” you should look at the interviewer’s face during the interview. In U.S. culture, someone who avoids eye contact is seen as untrustworthy or weak.

    Use a firm handshake. In a business setting, people generally greet each other with a handshake. If the handshake is soft, it is interpreted as weak and even a little odd. You should grasp the other person’s hand with your thumb up and your fingers down and gently move slightly up, then slightly down. You do not need to squeeze their hand, but make direct contact.

    Investigate the dress code. For most business interviews a suit is appropriate, but not all of them. The technology field is particularly tricky. While IBM would definitely require a suit, Google appreciates a more casual look. It is best to check with a mentor, the GCC, or professor in the field.

    Read more about Interview Differences

    Answer questions promptly, but do not interrupt. Remember, for the U.S., “Time is money!” In some cultures, a quick response to questions means that you did not think about the question. In the U.S., taking a long pause can be interpreted as if you did not know the answer. This does vary some. In the Midwest and South, people speak slower as a rule, and longer pause time is acceptable, but on the East Coast, people speak very quickly. Speaking too slowly may be annoying to them.

    Phone interviews can be particularly tricky for international students due to accents or struggling to understand. Here are a couple of tips:

    • Count to three before talking to avoid interrupting each other
    • If you need a moment to think about the question use a hedge like “that’s a good question” or “can you tell me a bit more about more about that?”
    The first question is often “Tell me about yourself.” Prepare a one to two minute answer and practice it while looking in the mirror. Make sure to include information about your school and major, what your career ambitions are, your previous experience related to the job (a story is always good here), and why you are interested in this company and job. Do not include too much personal history unless it is appropriate. For example, if the job requires travel to your home country, definitely mention it!

    The last question is usually “Do you have any questions?” Do your research and be ready to ask one or two things. It could be about the company, the job, or even something that was said during the interview. Having good questions demonstrates your interest for the specific job and can help you to stand out. Make sure that you are prepared for this.

    Do not ask questions about salary, vacation, and benefits until you have been offered the job. Also, do not mention needing time off, working from home, or anything bad about your previous jobs.

    Be clean and neat, but do not wear cologne or perfume. Dress appropriately and hide or remove what is not appropriate. Find out about your industry’s opinions tattoos, piercings, long nails with bright polish and glittery jewelry. Wearing fragrances is never a good idea in an interview situation. If someone does not like your scent, it will make a bad impression. 

    Use appropriate body language. Lean slightly in to appear interested, make eye contact, and avoid crossing your legs and arms or slouching in your seat.

    Be friendly and approachable. If you are not good at small talk, prepare a little in advance. What questions can you ask? What topics are appropriate? Think about non-business topics you can discuss. Here are some ideas:

    • If the job is in another city, ask about the city. What is there to do and see? Where are good places to eat?
    • If there are photos in the office, ask about them. Be careful to ask, “Who is this?” rather than, “Is that your husband/wife?” (What if you are wrong?)
    • What do you have in common? When doing your research about the company, did you find anything you have in common? Ask about it.
    • Avoid controversial topics: politics and religion.
  • Networking Events

    If you are at a conference, job fair, or any large business gathering, it pays to make connections. This can be difficult if you are not good at small talk. Here are a few tips:

    • If you want to speak to a scholar, CEO, or any other important member of a company that you admire, start by thanking them for their work. If you can, specifically mention what you admire (an invention, article, policy) and how it was useful or interesting to you (studied it in class, specific part of policy that you admired, you own the product, used it in your thesis).
    • If you want to talk to peers, you might ask them if they were at the plenary session (or any large talk). It is likely that they were and then you can ask what they thought about it.
    • It is good to ask questions, but do not interrogate. Listen to their answers and try to contribute your own thoughts and ideas to the topic.
    Read more about Networking
    • Talk about something other than business, too. Networking events often have food – ask them if they like it. Ask where they are from and what they do “when they are not at events like these.” You may find you have hobbies and interests in common.
    • Before you go, find out something about the area you are going to. Look at the popular sports teams for the area and season, what is popular to do in the area, and some of the best restaurants. Pick something that genuinely interests you, too, so that you can be genuine. You can ask something like, “Have you been to the art museum? I saw that it has great reviews.”
    • You can also watch the local news the morning you arrive and look for interesting (but not controversial) topics. Something like, “Did you hear about the fire downtown yesterday?” can start a conversation.