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International students' guide to job hunting in the UK

International students' guide to job hunting in the UK

Working in the UK after your studies will provide you with experience that will help you stand out in the global employment market.

There are two main ways of getting graduate employment in the UK: graduate schemes and direct entry. Graduate schemes are typically offered by large organisations, include a period of paid training and work and usually last between eighteen months and three years. Competition for a place on a scheme is intense and most students enter the job market through direct entry.

Direct entry is when you apply for a job that's not part of a graduate scheme. Smaller organisations, or employers looking for specialist skills or experience, often employ graduates in this way.

When and how do employers recruit graduates?

Many graduate schemes follow a recruitment cycle, where jobs are advertised in the autumn of the final year of study and employment begins the following autumn. For certain sectors, such as banking and finance, schemes may be advertised in September with a closing date in November. However, some large graduate employers recruit all year round on a 'rolling' basis.

Direct entry positions are advertised throughout the year as vacancies arise. Employers usually expect you to start work straight after the recruitment process, so these positions are sometimes unsuitable to apply for before you've completed your degree.

Recruitment processes vary. Smaller organisations may have a two-stage process, with a written application followed by an interview. Larger organisations and graduate schemes often have a multiple-stage process, including some or all of the following:

  • a written/online application form or a CV and covering letter
  • a psychometric or aptitude test
  • a preliminary interview, which may be done by telephone
  • an assessment centre, which is often the last stage and may include a further interview and a series of individual and group exercises

Details of a company's application and selection procedures are usually available on their website. Your university careers centre will also be able to advise on the recruitment process.

How to boost your employability

The UK graduate job market is competitive. UK employers are looking for candidates with a good academic record and excellent English language skills. They'll also expect you to have a range of work-related skills and personal qualities needed for the job. You can develop these skills through:

  • work experience – part-time work, voluntary work, summer placements, one-year industrial placements or internships
  • extracurricular activities – get involved in activities outside your course such as student societies, sporting clubs and students' union committee work
  • academic activities – such as leading a group project or being a student representative for your course

Find out more about getting work experience as an international student.

Graduate employment and UK immigration rules

The UK government's points-based system allows students to stay in the UK to work under Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 5 of the five-tier system. It's important to research which of the visas within these tiers might be useful for you. See visas and permits for international students who wish to work in the UK for more information on the main work visas.

Job hunting resources

To get a job you'll need to research the job market by finding out more about the different career sectors and how to get into the top graduate professions.

Your university careers centre can show you a range of resources to help you. Resources include careers fairs and employer presentations on campus, skills sessions or workshops aimed at developing your skills, and online vacancy databases. You can also use professional bodies or associations in your research and networking tools like LinkedIn, as well as graduate job vacancy websites. Find out about skills and competencies for graduates.

It's also possible to find out about vacancies through doing a period of work experience. You'll be able to develop your networking skills and find out about jobs with both your employer and other companies in the sector. See internships, placements and work experience for advice and opportunities.

Further study

The main routes available are postgraduate taught courses or postgraduate research degrees. For more information on further study and types of courses, see TARGETpostgrad.

Before applying for a postgraduate course, make sure it fits in with your career goals as many careers don't require further study. Most applications are made online directly to the institution you want to study at, although some now use the online application portal UKPASS. You'll also need to make sure that you extend your student visa.

If you need funding to study, start your research as early as possible so that you can find and apply to relevant bodies.

Written by Justin Richardson, University of Liverpool, and Liz Robertson, Oxford Brookes University, 2014
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