Working in San Francisco

Working in San Francisco
Updated 2021-07-30 12:54

For many years, San Francisco's unique location has consistently pushed the city towards self-realization, sufficiency, dominance, and financial independence. Located halfway between San Diego and Seattle, Tokyo, and London the other way round, San Francisco has maintained its dominance through an ever-rising economic activity and global market.

Popular industries in San Francisco

San Francisco is well known for its tech sector. And even though it's not the biggest contributor to the city's GDP, it is the reason why many aspiring job seekers venture to this city. San Francisco is home to over 300 IT companies — including industry leaders like Salesforce, Apple, Google, Uber and others. The area also has the highest concentration of research universities and federal research institutions in the country and is home to top-rated universities like Stanford and Berkeley.

San Francisco is a hub for digital entertainment companies. Some of the biggest names in the industry like Youtube, Zynga, Twitter, Dolby Laboratories, Pixar, Sony and more have made the city their base. It is also known for its substantial contribution to the development of the biotech industry and life science. Cleantech and environmental sectors are also well established here.

San Francisco is also an international trade centre and is the 10th largest exporting region in the country. It is also home to some of the major international bank branches including HSBC,

Barclays Bank, Sumitomo Bank, Banque Nationale de Paris and others.

While the city is buzzing with exciting work opportunities and career prospects — the competition is very tough. High salaries, good job prospects and a nice loving environment have made the city popular not only with locals — but also expats.

Another thing to consider is the cost of living, which is quite high in San Francisco. Housing costs tend to be the biggest expense as rent prices in the city are two and a half times the national average.

Where to start your job search in San Francisco as an expat?

There are several ways to go about your job search in San Francisco.

First, keep in mind that in order to receive a work visa to the United States, you need to have employer sponsorship prior to applying.

This means that you need to have a valid job offer from a company in San Francisco that is willing to sponsor your visa. The problem with this is that arranging a work visa for a foreigner to come to the United States is generally a rather long (up to six months) and costly process. Understandably, not a lot of companies would have the resources to go through this process — which makes your options quite limited. This is why you should immediately indicate to your potential employer that you will need a work visa sponsorship so that you can both evaluate the feasibility of the process.

You can start your job search in San Francisco by searching for companies in your home country with branch offices in SF. This makes for a much easier paperwork process as you will be transferring to work in San Francisco instead of applying for a work visa from scratch.

Another option is to narrow down a list of companies in San Francisco that you would like to work for and send in applications to their HR managers directly. Make sure your CV is well structured and add a cover letter to explain your interest and motivation for the job. You can use online job hunting platforms and apply to companies in SF with your profile and CV.

Another way to get hired by a company in San Francisco and settle in the city is by studying there first. True, this is a much longer road to take — but it is one of the surest ways to get your career started. San Francisco is home to some of the top-rated universities not only in the United States but also the world (like Stanford and Berkeley). Plus, you will not only be getting a prestigious degree from an American university but also networking opportunities during your time of study. On a student visa, you may have a chance to work off-campus and also explore internship opportunities that may lead to a full time offer.

Job hunting resources in San Francisco

There are lots of online and offline resources that can be helpful in your SF job search.

Online resources

The most obvious place to start your job search in the Bay Area is running a simple web search for job offers in your line of work. Additionally, run the same search and include the phrase “visa sponsorship” — this can help you narrow the search down to the companies willing to sponsor a work visa.

Register and upload your CV to popular international job hunting platforms like or You can also set up alerts for when new job offers appear in your field.

Social media can also be helpful in your job hunt. Make sure to keep your portfolio on LinkedIn is up-to-date and set alerts for job offers from companies in San Francisco. You could also indicate in your LinkedIn profile status that you are looking for new opportunities specifically in San Francisco.

Joining expat job search groups on LinkedIn and other social networks can be of great help.

Headhunting agencies

If you are an experienced professional looking for a senior position, your best option may be to go through a recruitment agency. Some of these companies specialize in specific fields (engineering, IT, media, etc.) and you may be able to find one that has a good success record for placing professionals in your niche.

Career fairs

If you are already in San Francisco and are looking for new job opportunities, consider attending a career fair. These are an excellent way to get a foot in the door with some big employers as well as talk to recruiters face to face and make an impression.

To find out about upcoming career fairs in Miami, check out the National Career Fairs website.

Contact employers directly

You can also contact employers directly with your CV and cover letter and inquire about available opportunities. Make sure to research the companies you are applying to do that you can highlight how you can be of help to them in your CV and cover letter.

How to write an American style CV?

Before you start your job search, make sure your CV is complete, properly formatted and up-to-date.

This is highly important for effective job hunting and your resume can directly affect the success of your search.

Depending on the position you are applying for, you may want to include different information in your CV. Here are some general things to consider when composing your CV:

Format. There are several different ways to format your CV. One of the most popular CV formats in the US is simply listing your work experience in reverse chronological order. Another frequently used format is to focus on your skillset rather than experience.

You can also bring the two formats together and use a mix of elements in your CV.

Header. At the top of the page, include some basic personal information: for instance, your name and contact details. Note that the United States have very strict anti-discrimination laws — thus, it is strongly advised that you don't include information related to your gender, race, marital status, religion, etc. — unless it is relevant to the position you are applying for.

Reason for applying. Here, you can also include a statement on why you are applying for this specific position. It may be about your dedication to your work, career aspirations, work values and more.

Work experience. Next, explain your work experience. It is common practice to start with your most recent employer and then move on to previously held positions. Alternatively, you can start with the position that was the closest to the offer you are applying for. Include the name of the company you worked for, your title, responsibilities, achievements, etc.

Education. Here, you should include information about your degree (BA, MA, etc.) as well as all relevant courses, certificates, seminars, conferences, etc. that have added to your expertise.

If you have graduated recently, you may want to start with your education rather than your work experience.

Languages. As an expat, knowing languages other than English can be a great advantage. Thus, you may want to highlight this section of your CV. Mention the languages you speak with the level of your language proficiency (basic, conversational, intermediate, fluent, bilingual, etc.). If you have any associated degrees or certificates (TOEFL, IELTS, TOEIC, etc.), make sure to include them too.

Computer skills. List your knowledge and experience working with different programs and applications, word processing, database skills, social media, etc.

References. Include references from previous employers (if relevant). If the job offer you are applying for doesn't mention the need for references, you can include an offer to provide them upon request.

Run the final copy through a spell checker. Spelling and punctuation mistakes can be a big turn off for your potential employer. Use a spell checker on your CV to make sure it's error-free.

Make it easy to read. Present all the information in your CV in a clear and concise fashion. You can use a ready-made design template to save time — there are lots of websites offering great templates for free online.

Do not send extra attachments. When contacting a potential employer for the first time, just your CV and cover letter should be enough — unless there was a specific request for additional information in the job offer.

How to write a cover letter?

It is general practice to include a cover letter with your CV. The main purpose of a cover letter is to get the recruiter interested in your candidacy and resume. It can also be a good chance to show your more personal side that would be hard to demonstrate in a CV

A cover letter should be short and to the point. Explain why you are interested in the job and what makes you the best candidate for it. While you can use the same base for cover letters that you send to different companies, it is strongly advised not to “recycle” the exact same letter. In fact, the best way to go about it would be to make your cover letter as specific as possible to the position you are applying for.

Here is a sample format of a cover letter:

Header. Include the employer's address, your contact information and date.

Salutation. Ideally, here you should write the name of the person who will be reading your letter. If you don't know who that person is, consider checking the company webpage or Linkedin page for more information on their HR manager. If you can't find this information, you may address the letter to “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear (company name) Recruiter”.

Introduction. State what position you are applying for and how you found out about the offer. Next, briefly explain why you consider yourself to be a good candidate for this position. Do your best to make this section lively and interesting — the goal is to get the recruiter's attention and stand out from other candidates.

Body. Here, briefly touch on your skills, qualifications and experience. There is no need to go into too much detail here as this information is covered in your CV. Select your most relevant experience and most notable work achievements.

Closing. Sum up your letter and mention that you are looking forward to the recruiting manager's reply.

Signature. Conclude the letter with a signature like (like “Sincerely”) and your name.

Interviewing for a job in San Francisco

The next step in the hiring process is the interview. Depending on the specifics of your situation, your interview may be in person or online. In both cases, here are some general tips for composing a cover letter:

Research the company you are applying to.

Prepare for your first interview, check what the company's mission and values are and think about what you can bring to the team.

Have your CV, degree and other documentation handy.

If you are being interviewed remotely, make sure you have a stable internet connection and your microphone and web camera (if needed ) are working properly.

Re-read your CV prior to the interview so that you can quickly answer CV-related questions.

Prepare a list of questions for your employer: this can help indicate your interest in the company.

At the end of the interview, inquire about the next step: ask if you should expect a call or email and if more information needs to be provided on your part.

As we've mentioned earlier, in order to work in the United States legally, you will need to apply for a work visa beforehand. Note that coming to the US on a tourist, family or other types of visa and then searching for work is against the immigration laws as it means that you have entered the country under false pretences.

As you can probably see from all of the above, searching for a job in San Francisco can be a lengthy and complicated process. However, with the right tools, a positive attitude and lots of research, you may soon be working in the job you love and living in the city of your dreams.

For more information on San Francisco, check out more articles in the San Francisco guide.

Useful links:
Bureau of Labor Statistics - San Francisco summary
San Francisco Gate Job Ads
Indeed - San Francisco Jobs - San Francisco Jobs

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