"Does this company hire international students?" Answer: It's complicated.

Figuring out who hires international students is a big challenge. If you've ever been to a career fair you know this. Many companies will tell you they don't sponsor international students. Some might say yes but later you learn that they only sponsor international students for certain jobs, not the one you want. So the answer to the question "Do you hire international students?" it's complicated. A company's decision to hire international candidate isn't as simple as yes and no. Companies make exceptions for exceptional candidates.

This is noticeable in the data. Consider Pfizer, a leading global pharmaceutical company. On their website it says:

We actively recruit on the campuses of leading colleges and universities throughout the United States, hiring the best-qualified people with a wide variety of degrees for internships and full-time assignments in our divisions, as well as our corporate functions. Successful applicants must, at the time of their appointments, have authorization to work in the US."

Yet last year Pfizer made an exception to that rule and filed 54 petitions for H1B workers:

That doesn't mean all of these hires were students. But it does mean thy hired international candidates to work in their company. They likely make an exception to their rules for the best candidates.

Some companies will hire an international candidate to work with markets outside of the US. Last year Twitch Interactive, the leading social streaming company for video gamers, hired two international candidates to lead their Korea partnerships.

This could be the perfect role for a Korean international student studying in the US. The trick is finding those roles. It takes a lot of searching and positioning to find it. Twitch probably doesn't hire for Korea partnerships frequently. It's a specialty role.

All this makes the question of hiring international students tricky. it's not always as simple as yes and no. The answer depends on the student, the role, and the timing.

So what should you do?

Build relationships

American employers hire people who they know and like. They want people who are comfortable interacting with Americans, working on teams, and who have relevant work experience. Talk to recruiters and people inside companies about their work and your interests. This helps them get to know you and see your talents.

Target the right jobs

Companies who hire international candidates will not hire them for every position. Remember, companies hire international candidates when they don't have enough Americans applying for the jobs. These are typically in STEM positions or positions where an international candidate has a specific knowledge (such as language and experience related to a region where a company does business) to contribute to the position. From the data above, it's clear that Pfizer mostly sponsors international candidates who have science backgrounds. If you are interested in working in an entry level marketing position, Pfizer probably won't hire you as an international candidate.

Communicate your skills and experience

Just because a company hires international students, doesn't mean they hire all international students. You have to compete like every other candidate. Compete by communicating the skills and experience you have to do the job better than everyone else.