Understanding Job Applications in the UK

Graduate recruitment in the UK - points to consider

  • Employers will appreciate your mix of academic achievements, work experience, skills and personal attributes, language abilities, awareness of different cultures and your international background.
  • You may improve your chances of getting a job by targeting employers who are active in the UK and your home country, and who will recognise the value of employing people familiar with both their UK and global operations.
  • Many other UK graduate career opportunities are open to people who have studied any degree subject. For example, an engineering graduate can become a chartered accountant, or a history graduate could enter human resources management.
  • Approximately 40% of graduate opportunities are available to applicants from any degree discipline.
  • Employers generally make their requirements very clear in their recruitment literature or websites.
  • Some big employers provide graduate training schemes and the competition for these is fierce. Many graduates start out with smaller organisations at lower salaries to gain the skills and experience required to develop their career.
  • Many employers ask applicants to complete online verbal and numerical tests. Some employers ask you to complete tests that ask for your judgement on particular workplace situations.  To do your best you should declare to the employer that English is not your first language (if this is the case). This might be a drop down box you can tick on the test but do check first with the company HR department before starting a test.  You should practise some of the tests that are available on this site. They are called psychometric-tests.
  • In 2013/14, according to HESCU's "What Do Graduates Do" report the average starting salary for graduates in the UK was £18,000 - £24,000 per year. Salaries vary across sectors, regions and by degree studied. 

There are four significant issues that international students need to address in order to make effective applications for work and further study in the UK

1. Equivalence of qualifications and your visa restrictions

Make sure that you know how your home qualifications compare to UK qualifications. The National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC) are the only official information provider on the comparability of international qualifications from over 180 countries worldwide. Individuals may contact them for help but they charge a fee. 

UCAS has a section on their website about how UK and international qualifications compare. This is really useful to show to employers who might wish to know more about your country's education system.  

Here is an example of how a student has described their home qualifications in a letter to an employer (Greenwich University Employability Guide for international students)

“As my qualifications were gained overseas, I am unable to provide a direct conversion to GCSE/A’ Level – however in Lithuania I managed to successfully maintain an overall 80% average at the equivalent A’ Level, which was the second highest grade awarded in my year at college.”

Visa restrictions

Understanding the visa regulations that impact on you and the type of work you are seeking as well as being able to confidently talk about these to employers is very important. Many employers will not be 'expert' about employing migrant workers and will look to you to inform them on your visa restrictions and what it means for your potential employment. 

Here is an example of how you could explain your Visa status in a letter to an employer:

"I can currently work full time on my student visa and understand that you hold a Tier 2 sponsorship license which this job meets the requirements for".

2. Improving English communication skills

Employers expect international applicants to demonstrate a good level of written English. At Sheffield Hallam, The University English Scheme offers free sessions to international students to develop English language skills. GoGlobal English Conversation Club is another informal activity which enables international students to build up confidence in speaking English. 

The Culture Connect peer mentoring scheme is a great way to meet new people, develop cultural awareness and gain valuable experience. Whether a mentee or mentor, you will certainly improve your communication skills as a result.

Global Friends - Although you can make friendships with people from any country, linking with a friend who speaks excellent will help you improve your speaking skills and introduce you to phrases you will hear in everyday life in the UK.

3. Understanding the UK job market and 'employer speak'   

The UK job market is very competitive. This includes jobs at all skill levels. Graduates need to be resourceful and seek out opportunities through targeting appropriate employers as well as responding to advertised vacancies. Uploading your CV to appropriate recruitment agency websites or professional bodies may increase your chances of securing employment.

The availability of some types of work may depend on the region you are looking in. You can learn about regional variations by researching your work sector through professional bodies and through government labour market intelligence. If you are interested in learning about the types of work sectors migrant workers are employed in see page 24 of the report Migration Statistics Quarterly (PDF). 

Most employers recruit online so your written communication needs to be of a very good standard. Being able to see exactly what is involved in a job from a job title can be difficult. An employment adviser can help you with this. Many companies and organisations use abbreviations and jargon in their job adverts. Knowing some ' 'employer speak'  can help you make sense of job adverts and job descriptions. 

4. Marketing your unique selling points

As an international student, it is important to be aware of what sets you apart from other applicants and to be able to promote these effectively to a UK employer. These may include:

  • being multi-lingual
  • commercial insight into home country or regional markets
  • global and multi-cultural perspective
  • previous work experience in your home country

The International Experience team run skills development sessions through ICE Club Xtra which includes business games and visiting employers. 

Don't forget to look at the CV, Applications and Interviews section for more information and advice.  You can also book an appointment to see one of our advisers.

Last modified: 
Wednesday, September 11, 2019 - 12:35