With the current uncertainty over visa regulations in the UK following Brexit it’s difficult for international students to find the best way to approach the UK job market. Here we outline some things you may want to consider if making applications in the UK.

The current graduate recruitment market in the UK

Highfliers Research conducted a survey of UK based graduates in 2015 and the outlook was positive for this year with the country’s top employers planning to increase graduate recruitment.

The UK graduate labour market is always changing, and it’s difficult to know what the long-term impact of the vote to leave the European Union will be. However, through our meetings with employers and their high attendance at our events – including the banking, consultancy and internship fairs – we know the outlook is still positive for the coming year.

The main routes into the UK job market

There are two main ways students and graduates can enter the UK job market: graduate schemes and direct entry.

Graduate schemes are usually offered by large employers looking for a constant influx of talent. Recruitment for graduate schemes and internships often happens a year in advance of the start date so application deadlines can be as early as October. This means there’s not much time at the start of the academic year to get applications ready. However, we’re here to help – we run seminars and events to support you with CVs and applications from the start of term.

Direct entry roles cover the rest of the graduate market and are where the majority of graduate roles are. Employers tend to be small to medium sized organisations with few structured programmes. It can be difficult to know if these organisations can sponsor international students so it’s worth checking with them directly before you apply.

Sometimes these roles aren’t openly advertised so you may have to submit speculative applications. These can be very successful if you’ve got a unique set of skills and cultural awareness the employer is looking for.

Apply for jobs early

Investment banks and large professional services open applications in August and September. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis meaning employers assess candidates as and when they apply, rather than waiting for the deadline date. So the earlier you apply, the more roles are available.

Consulting firms open applications in September and October and deadline dates are often around October or November. Assessments such as online testing and case study interviews usually take place from November to January.

Applications for graduate schemes within sectors like fast moving consumer goods, and energy and utilities also open in September and October, with deadline dates and assessment processes often around mid-November or early December. These employers often recruit on a rolling basis too so apply early. There’s a full list of UK deadline dates for full-time roles and internships on our website.

Where to look for vacancies

There are some main places to look for UK vacancies. The first is LSE CareerHub where you can find all new roles posted within a sector you’re interested in. You can also apply directly to large employers through their websites, especially if you have specific employers in mind.

Other useful graduate level job sites are: Prospects; TargetJobs; The Careers Group – Jobs Online; and Milkround. There are also job sites targeted towards specific industries such as CharityJob and EFinancial Careers.

Remember, when looking for jobs within smaller or newer organisations they may not advertise on such sites and so it’s best to approach them directly to discuss opportunities.

What UK employers are looking for in international applicants

Skills UK employers want international students to demonstrate include:

  • excellent language skills to communicate with international clients
  • interpersonal and team working skills
  • understanding of the sector you’re interested in
  • the ability to communicate your career focus
  • why you’re applying to a particular organisation

Highlight your interest in recent projects they’ve worked on or the impact of a conversation with an employer at a careers event for example.

Relevant work experience is also important. In last year’s survey of the top 100 UK employers, a third said places on schemes were given to graduates who’d completed internships.

To support you, we deliver seminars on topics including: group activities, presentations, and mock assessment centres so you can learn more and practise. If you don’t secure relevant work experience or internships in your chosen field, employers also value skills you develop through joining societies, sports teams, and careers, cultural or social focused clubs.

Employers are also keen for students to volunteer or undertake voluntary positions to test and develop skills in a different environment. The LSE Volunteer Centre advertises many one-off and long-term roles – visit the website for more.

The UK application process

The application process for most employers is outlined on their websites. It usually involves completing an online application form and CV, or submitting a CV and cover letter. These should be tailored to every organisation – but if you’re applying for similar roles in the same sector it does get easier to prepare each application.

Most organisations then ask you to complete online aptitudes tests. Visit our website for more information and to practise using exclusive resources. This will ensure you’re familiar with the questions asked and the speed you need to work at.

If you’re successful in the tests, then you’ll have a telephone or video interview to talk through your academic and work experience and discuss your motivation for the sector and role.

If you pass this round, then you’ll have a face-to-face interview or an assessment day which often includes activities such as: tests; group exercises; case study work; individual presentations; and role plays. This is meant to emulate the work or projects you might be involved in.

Immigration and eligibility to work in the UK

The final thing you should do to prepare for applying to work in the UK, is fully understand your visa situation. To identify organisations that may sponsor you, check if they are on the UK register of sponsors and the minimum salary codes of practice. If it’s unclear on their website, ask the employer directly.

There are also other options such as tier 1 or tier 5 visas but the rules and regulations on working in the UK as an international student change regularly – so it’s your responsibility to keep up to date. You can meet with LSE’s International Student Visa Advice Team if you have any queries as they are the designated team for advising students on UK immigration rules. You can also visit the Gov.UK and UK Council for International Student Affairs websites.

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