MICHELE NORRIS, host:
With increased globalization, you might think that companies are eager for multilingual employees. Yet many recruiters working college campuses in the U.S. refuse to interview foreign students, citing problems with their English or difficulties with their work visas. Now, some business schools are trying to improve prospects for these students.
Jessica Jones of North Carolina Public Radio reports.
JESSICA JONES: In a tiny seminar room high up on the fifth floor of the University of North Carolina's Business School, teacher Paige Vincent(ph) is just starting her weekly course for international students. She passes around the handouts they are about to read through in today's class.
Ms. PAIGE VINCENT (Teacher, University North Carolina's Business School): Let's look at this page, and then we'll practice on these. On that first page, final rising intonation.
JONES: There are only three students in the course, two from Japan and one from Taiwan. But today's lesson isn't about global marketing or brand management, instead Vincent asked her students to read through scripts, so they can work on the way they ask questions in English.
Ms. VINCENT: P.J., you start, will you?
Mr. P.J. LUNG(ph) (Foreign Student, University of North Carolina): They moved their (unintelligible) in your campus.
Unidentified Man: Where?
Mr. LUNG: In your campus.
Ms. VINCENT: Good. Okay.
JONES: This is one of two English as a Second Language courses the business school is offering this semester to improve international students' job prospects. That's because more than half of the company recruiters who come to campus will not interview foreigners who make up almost 30 percent of the student body.
And UNC isn't alone. A handful of other schools, form U.C. Berkeley to the University of Buffalo, are offering similar courses to help their international students find and keep jobs.
Mr. GREG RUF (CEO, MBA Focus): You hear a number of recruiters who are saying I really like this candidate, but they're so hard to understand.
JONES: Greg Ruf is the CEO of MBA Focus, the world's largest database of top MBA's looking for jobs. He says ESL classes for international students can only help in what's currently a very tough job market for foreigners.
Mr. RUFFUS: If U.S.-based firms had the ability, it would be lot easier from an immigration status standpoint to be able to hire this folks, I think you'd see a lot more being hired. I think it's the majority of - the reason for not hiring these folks is the basic, they just can't from an immigration standpoint. The number's just not there.
JONES: The number of H1V work visas Congress makes available every year to foreigners has dwindled significantly since 2003. International MBA students like second year P.J. Lung from Taiwan says he's glad he has an ESL teacher who can fine-tune his English before the school year ends.
Mr. LUNG: Most people can't understand. So that made me lose the incentive to improve. It's not easy for me or for others to find my blind spots.
JONES: Lung and his teacher are also working on ways to help them sound more confident when he's interviewed. Where Lung is from, bragging is frowned upon, but here in the U.S. job applicants must be able to talk about their strengths.
Lisa Ong is a national director at PricewaterhouseCoopers, a global consulting firm that is hiring international students. She says an MBA doesn't have to have accent-free, grammatically perfect English to get hired.
Ms. LISA ONG (National Director, PricewaterhouseCoopers): However, if the individual cannot persuade you or articulate their vision or their idea to be able to sell an idea to a client, that's a little different. For individuals that's pitted(ph), we need them to be able to hit the ground running. If you cannot tell me your ideas in way that connects with fairly quickly and build rapport, that's going to be a deal killer.
JONES: Second year student P.J. Lung says he knows he's up against a lot. He dreams of a U.S.-based job with an American salary that would eventually lead him overseas. But Lung says he just can't have his heart set on one particular job because right now, he says, any decent job will do.
For NPR News, I'm Jessica Jones in Durham, North Carolina.
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