Is finding a job in the UK Impossible?
Is finding a job in the UK impossible? That is what people have told you.
“UK companies don’t hire international students.”
“I applied to hundreds of jobs and got rejected…”
“It’s so hard to find companies and jobs that sponsor work Visas.”
But you did not listen to them.
If you honestly thought finding a job in the UK was impossible, you wouldn’t be here.
Impossible means “not able to occur, exist, or to be done.“
But what do the figures say?
We checked the UK Home Office Visa Statistics, for two figures.
These figures are released every year in September.
If it is impossible, the figure for number 2 above should be 0…
In 2019-2020 (June to June) 9,245 Tier 4 students changed their Visa to a Tier 2 Visa.
Which means of the 255,576 students arriving at the same time, 3.6% of those got a Tier 2 Visa.
The number is going up, as you can see from Figure 1.
Fig. 1: Comparison Table (2015-2019) of the number and percentage of students who switched from a Tier 4 to a Tier 2 Visa
So, not impossible.
Hard. But not impossible.
Now we know it is going to be challenging, but it is not impossible. We need a plan.
That is why we made this simplified guide.
Since 2013, I have spoken to almost 30,000 international students and coached 200+ into Tier 2 jobs.
At Job Ready English, we want to help international students succeed. The 3,000 students we have spoken to this year, and our Facebook members wanted a simple step by step path to go from knowing nothing to getting a job.
If you want an essential guide that explains working Visas, and what a Tier 2 sponsor is, or you are not based in the UK. You can download our 37-page free eBook “An Introduction to working in the UK.“
Job Ready English provides coaching, consulting, and information products for international students in the UK, you can out more about us here.
Or if you just want to speak to me, say hello, or ask a question, send me an email at email@example.com. I do respond to all my emails.
A step by step process from knowing nothing to getting a job
You came to the UK to study, but deep down, you had a dream. A dream to stay and work in the UK. Problem is, there is not a lot of information for international students to find a job in the UK.
Sure, you can use Indeed, get a profile on LinkedIn, and even get your University career’s service to check your CV, but then you are mainly on your own.
You are starting to realise that randomly 1-click applying for jobs on Indeed and LinkedIn isn’t working.
This guide will give you a good idea of how you can go from knowing absolutely nothing about getting a job in the UK, to finding a job.
After all, if over 9,000 other people did it last year, you can do it too right?
We use 7 Steps.
- Step 1: The UK Graduate Job Market explained
- Step 2: Seven Key Ideas for Success
- Step 3: How long will it take to get a job?
- Step 4: A step by step guide to getting a job
- Step 5: What companies to apply to?
- Step 6: What jobs to apply to?
- Step 7: How to pass 1) online tests 2) interviews and 3) assessment centres?
The UK Graduate Jobs Market explained
Before we even start planning where we are going to apply to. We need to understand the UK market for graduates.
Our approach should be based on the “best possible chance of success” rather than “I’ll only do this job and nothing else.”
The critical question is always “Do you want a job or not?”
We speak to lots of urban city planners, architects, historians, and artists. These are lovely subjects, but there just is not a massive demand for these types of graduates.
The good news is that most big companies will hire graduates from ANY academic background. You can be an Anthropology student who works at an investment bank, or a Marketing student working and studying to become an auditor.
It all comes down to Supply of Jobs vs Demand for Jobs. As you can see from the orange line in Figure 2, there is a big demand for jobs (blue line) , but a small supply of jobs (red line), so we get fewer jobs at a lower salary. (See a more detailed explanation of Supply and Demand here:
Fig. 2: A (badly drawn) Supply and Demand Curve for Today’s Job Market
But this diagram changes depending on the type of job. Take our urban city planners, architects, historians, and artists (sorry guys) , you probably know from experience that there is a small supply of jobs, but huge demand from graduates who studied that subject. Makes for a tough marketplace.
You want to look for jobs, where there’s a big supply of jobs.
For example, if there is a big demand from employers for people who make cake but not a big supply of people who studied baking. You are likely to find a job as a cake maker.
In the UK there is always going to be a big supply of graduates. In 2018/19 alone there were 2.39 million full and part-time students in the UK.
To work smart, and as you have the added disadvantage of needing a work visa, you first need to find where the demand for graduate jobs is coming from.
We turn to information from the 2020 Graduate Highflier’s Report on the projected graduate hiring from the Times Top 100 Companies, who have been reporting on graduate hiring trends for the past 25 years.
NOTE: This report appeared in January 2020 pre-COVID, for an updated report from August 2020 from Highflier keep reading on
Figure 3: Projected Vacancies by top industries from leading UK Industries
We lose Armed Forces and Public Sector as they tend not to apply foreign nationals, and Charities are unlikely to sponsor international students, as it costs an average of £4,000 to sponsor a Tier 2 Visa for three years, plus the additional salary you may need to pay them compared to a British worker.
You can see above that most graduate vacancies from the Times Top 100 employers (the biggest graduate employers in the UK) are in:
- Accounting & Professional Services (Audit, Tax, Consulting and Deals)
- Banking & Finance
- Engineering & Industrial (Most jobs demand a technically specific degree)
- Investment Banking (Front, Middle and Back office)
- Law (Most jobs demand a technically specific degree)
Fig. 4: Table of Graduate Vacancies by all Industries
What does that mean for you?
You now know what industries the biggest employers of graduates are, and therefore most likely to sponsor international students.
You are highly advised to apply for these industries alongside your own preference EVEN if you would not choose these industries.
Remember the key question “Do you want a job or not?”
If the answer is “YES” then you may need to adjust your expectations about what you will and will not do.
How has COVID-19 affected graduate hiring?
We cannot escape the effect that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the UK job’s market. Though the situation is still evolving, we know you want some idea of how COVID-19 has affected the UK graduate market.
Luckily for us, Highfliers put out another report at the end of August 2020.
Firstly, vacancies fell by 10.8%, not as bad as 2009 when they fell by almost 24% but still a sharp drop. After the initial drop in 2009, graduate job numbers did not return to pre-2009 numbers until 2014.
Fig 5: Changes to Graduate Vacancies in 2020 by Sector or Industry
The 10.8% was not the same across all industries, intriguingly Banking and Finance grew slightly, and Investment Banking took a slight drop, but other industries were affected significantly like Engineering and Industrial. Most of the growth came from retail, specifically e-commerce.
Fig 6: Adjusted Graduate Vacancies for 2020
Step 2: Seven Key Ideas for Success
Of the roughly 200 clients I have coached 1 to 1, I have had a 92% success rate.
Here I want to give you seven helpful habits and ideas these clients have shared, which contributed to their success.
“Success leaves clues.” ~ Tony Robbins
1. Start Applying Early
No matter how much you want a job, if you apply one day before the deadline, you are unlikely to get it. A deadline is not a target date to apply. As soon as graduate jobs open for your chosen companies and roles, you should prioritise getting those applications done. Companies won’t wait for all the applications to come in. They will be interviewing as soon as possible and giving out jobs, so every day you wait, there are fewer jobs to apply for. Better to be the first 1,000 competing for 250 jobs, than the last 10,000 competing for the 25 jobs left. Ideally, you should start looking into finding a job as soon as you hit the UK. Get an application plan together in Step 4 and get applying.
2. No English Fluency No Job
If you struggle with spoken and written English, THIS is your priority. Do not ignore it. Join a language club, find people to talk to online through Apps like Hello Talk, Tandem, and iTalki, get a teacher, or just push yourself to speak to more people. Do not ignore your English level. Put an emphasis on speaking. If you cannot find anyone then practises by yourself. You can learn more about improving your English in our Interview Success System.
The better your fluency, the higher your confidence, and the greater the chance of you passing interviews and assessment centres. If you are stuck for ideas, join your local Toastmasters, and improve your public speaking skills. Check out a local MeetUp and find people who love what you love or volunteer at a charity shop.
3. Make Your Job Finding A Job
When I left University and started looking for a job, my Uncle said my “9 to 5” was to find a job. You don’t need to be that extreme, but you get out what you put in. Set aside time each week to get your CV done, send out application forms, draft cover letters, practise online tests, and hunt for new opportunities. Create a system and a schedule where you are putting in a certain amount of work each week.
I have met so many students who put greater emphasis on their studies, extracurriculars, or even a part-time job. That’s all nice, but is it going to get you a job that gives you a work visa? Stay focused on your priorities.
4. Quality Beats Quantity
Avoid 1 click applying on LinkedIn and Indeed. If it is easy for you, it will be easy for everyone. We use LinkedIn Sales Navigator and can see how many people apply for jobs in LinkedIn. We see 250+ people apply for one position within a few hours of it being posted. Take the time to craft a great CV and Cover Letter, and answer questions to the best of your ability on a company’s website. It does make a difference, and you will make more progress over time. 1 click applying may seem productive, but you need to measure it by results, not applications sent.
5. Schedule in Practise
The big fear for most international students, interviews. This is why we created an in-depth 6 part course just for passing interviews. Interviews are hard and require plenty of time to write scripts and speaking practise. Do not wait to find a spare moment at University, because there will always be something to do. Schedule in time to practise, why not get your friends involved and make it fun.
6. Accept It’s A Marathon And Not A Sprint
The average graduate applies for 53 jobs. Our average client will apply for 20-30 jobs before getting a role.
Have a seat. This may take a while.
Whether you are a home student or international, finding a job is time-consuming. Few students get a job straight away. This is a journey that will take months. So, pace yourself. Do not go crazy. We regularly deal with clients in our bespoke coaching programme who start to burn out. Better to do 20 minutes a day, than 2-3 hours a week in one day. This is a game of resilience, consistency, and persistence.
7. Do not Take Failure Personally
Everyone fails. I have been rejected for more jobs than I can count. Billionaire Alibaba founder Jack Ma told a story of being one of 24 people who applied for a job at his local KFC. 23 got the job. He was the only one to get rejected.
Do not take it personally. You are still fantastic; you are just part of an enormous system of applications and moving parts. If you find yourself getting frustrated, depressed, and angry, this could be an early sign of burn out. Close the computer and take a day or two off. Recharge and come back energised.
Our most successful clients all started early, had a clear plan and schedule to follow, and never took failures personally. They had a clear goal in mind, and every day they took a step forward towards that goal.
Step 3: How long will it take?
There’s no textbook answer to this question, and you know that.
When we work with clients at Job Ready English at our bespoke coaching programme we tell them it takes on average 3-4 months, but I have seen clients get a job in as little as 2 weeks and as long as 18 months.
We regularly see clients spend more than 100 hours on the application process, practising online tests, interviews, and assessment centres. Not to mention all the time in interviews and assessments.
The better question to ask is what I can do today to get one step closer to my goal?
Like we said before, the process you go through should be systematic, remove as much randomness as possible, and have a clear idea of what you are doing each day.
Everything starts with clear goals set out in your application plan, then a systematic process of daily actions and practise.
Starting early. Doing regular daily or weekly bite-sized chunks will yield results. Don’t wait until the last minute, and start randomly applying for any job you can find.
Step 4: A Step by Step Guide to Getting a Job (1/2)
Below is a guide to follow to go from 0 to job. If your English needs work, then make sure to put regular English practice into your weekly schedule. If you are unsure how our Interview Success System has a section dedicated to improving your English and your nerves.
- Complete your CV
The first step is always getting your CV done.
There are so many free resources online, we aren’t going to go into too many specifics. Want the template and guidelines we use with our clients?
Download it for free here.
Nothing is going to happen without a professional CV. There is no shortage of resources online, and you can find them listed in Part 2: The Best Job Search Tools for International Students. We especially love the content and tools from Zety and Jobscan. Also, the guide from the National Career’s Service is super helpful.
If you want to speak to us about your CV and get some professional help from a real person check our Express Coaching Packages here.
Or you could just go and hire a professional writer for less than £20 on Fiverr to write it for you.
- Application Plan
Would you set off on holiday with your family without knowing where you were going?
Of course not. That would be crazy…
Yet, when I ask students what their application plan is, it goes something like this:
“Just apply for any job, as many jobs as I can.”
“I want to work as a consultant at these 6 companies, and won’t work anywhere else.”
Too vague, or too specific. Both have their pitfalls
Without a plan, prepare yourself for hours of 1-click applying to any job on LinkedIn and Indeed, endless rejections for jobs you aren’t suitable for and don’t even sponsor until you start to lose the will to live. If your plan is too narrow, you are probably missing out on great opportunities that are a bit out of your comfort zone. Or you mistakenly believe you can only do a particular type of job.
Let’s make an application plan:
1. Download our Tier 2 Sponsor List Google Sheet, we already picked out 83 of the biggest Tier 2 Sponsors plus all the links to their vacancies page. Start with those first.
2. Use this list to make a spreadsheet of 40-50 ideal employers AT LEAST. Why 40-50? Steve Dalton explains this really well in his book “The 2 Hour Job Search”, most people can think of 10 or 20 companies they would like to work for. But 40, you are going to really stretch your thinking and get out of your comfort zone. Struggling to think of more companies? Check out Step 5 where we list over 140+ companies we cover ourselves split up by industry.
3. For additional companies you add besides our Times Top 100 list, check that they sponsor using sponsortier2.com, our free web application which makes it super simple to look up companies, find their location and industry and also get a link straight to their website.
(Or you could carry on using use the Government’s Tier 2 and 5 thousand page PDF here)
4. Once you’re finished. Then start looking for vacancies at each of the companies (if you don’t know the best way to find vacancies, check out our Job Search Tools. Struggling to know what job to apply to? Jump to Step 6.
5. When you are done, you should have something that looks like Figure 9 below.
Fig 9. Sample Vacancy list from a Job Ready English client application plan.
Once you have a clear destination then you can start systematically working through your applications.
If you are struggling to do this and need some help you can book an hour session with us and we can do it for you in a Strategy Session here. We’ll get to know you first on a Zoom call and then go away and lay out a list of companies and roles you can apply for, as well as a 30-day plan so you can get started.
Step 4: A Step by Step Guide to Getting a Job (2/2)
3) Online Test Practise
Today, most companies will automatically invite students to sit online tests as soon as you submit your application form. Most will ask you to complete the tests within 5 days.
What does that mean for you?
You should be familiar with the different types of tests, and what ones your industry will be using.
The main types of tests are:
- Situational Judgement Tests
- Verbal (Rare for most companies, apart from those who particularly need students with excellent English, Law for example)
- Job Simulations (companies like EY use multiple types of questions within one test, to create a realistic job simulation)
There are six major providers of online tests, with SHL being the market leader by some distance:
- SHL: Read more here Start here
- Kenexa: Read more here Then here
- Talent Q: Read more here
- Cut E: Read more here
- Cubiks: Read more here
- Saville: Read more here
Get some practise tests and start practising as soon as you start your application.
Why pay when you can get it for free?
Most free online tests are incomplete, unrealistic, or just ridiculously simple (like the 3 question IQ test that magically reveals you to be the next Einstein)
At Job Ready English, we use Job Test Prep with our bespoke coaching clients. They expect us to provide them with the best tools for the job. We use Job Test Prep as they have been around since 1992. Give the broadest range of tests (500+) and stay updated with the latest tests from different companies.
Their platform system is easy to use and provides detailed answers.
See their pricing in Figure 9, full transparency we do work with Job Test Prep, as we only choose to represent products we use and believe in.
Fig 10: Job Test Prep pricing plans
You don’t have to pay for anything these days. Still, it’s going to save you plenty of time, and also what’s the price of failing a test for a company which you could have paid a small amount of money to be well prepared for.
4. Sending Applications
Did you prepare your application plan using our Times Top 100 Tier 2 Sponsor List?
If not, go back and do this now. Don’t start randomly applying for jobs.
You should have your list of 40+ companies and vacancies you can start systematically working through.
No applications. No jobs.
I remember sitting giving consultations to a long queue of international students in London. Every one of them I would ask how many jobs they had applied to.
The most common answer?
“Oh, like maybe 10.”
The average graduate will apply for over 50 jobs. That is not an international student, just a regular home student.
Be systematic in your approach.
A. Arrange your applications by deadlines: Deadlines are there as a guide, not a target for you to apply. You want to apply for a job AS SOON AS IT OPENS! That is when there are going to be most jobs. Companies don’t wait until the deadline and go “Well, I guess we better get started.” They are continually pushing applicants through their process, and many times all the jobs are gone before the deadline.
B. Set a weekly target: Can you apply for 1 job a week, 2, 5, 26? Whatever it is, set a reasonable target (One that does not make you want to throw your computer out of the window) and stick to it. I recommend batching. So, set aside 1-3 hours each week, and just smash out as many applications as you can. Rather than “trying to find the time.” Job applications will drop in priority below lessons, coursework, homework, gym, boyfriend, girlfriend, or impromptu party at Isha’s house. Schedule the time in your calendar or lose it.
C. Hit the big companies first: Remember the Times Top 100 companies have the most jobs and money. Hit them first.
5. Weekly Vacancy Searching
Set aside time for looking for vacancies each week. As we always want to be applying for the latest vacancies. Companies are continually opening and closing applications, so we want to keep up to date.
Wherever you can create an automatic system that does not need you and the best way to do this is with Google Alerts:
1. Google the name of the job you want. For example, “Graduate Finance Analyst”, under your search, you will see a box that says “Jobs”, click the little Arrow below that says “100+ more jobs.”
2. Check the top tab. There are three options “Jobs”, “Saved” and “Alerts”, click “Alerts”, or you can simply switch the “New job alerts” button on, in the bottom left-hand corner
3. Sign up. Use your Gmail and get Google Alerts sent to your email.
You will still need to check companies you know against sponsorship lists, which you can do easily using www.sponsortier2.com.
Couldn’t be simpler. Reduce hours spent each week trawling through Indeed, Linkedin, and 10 other jobs board, to 10-15 minutes a day searching through a custom list that Google sends for your chosen roles.
6. Interview Practise
When we created the Interview Success System, interviews were the biggest fear of the international students we spoke to, and they broke down those fears into five key ideas:
a. Not enough time to prepare for interviews
b. Wanting a detailed understanding of different types of questions and how to answer them like motivation, competency, strength, situational judgement, technical and brainteasers
c. Were nervous and wanted to gain confidence
d. Wanted easy to follow templates and guidelines to write out interview scripts
e. Did not know how to do video interviews
That is how we created the Interview Success System. The only course which is completely tailored to international students. Work great on desktop or on your phone. In over 10 hours of videos and 20+ handouts, you will learn:
– How to prepare for an interview in 30 minutes
– An in-depth guide and walkthrough to 40+ questions with answers
– How to answer any types of interview question
– A step by step guide to improve your English and your confidence
– Downloadable scripts, templates, and guidelines to follow for any type of interview question
– A video interview masterclass for everything you need to prepare for video interviews.
Buy it for £27, and if you don’t like it, you get 30 days to get your money back (If that wasn’t enough, we also included some fantastic bonuses)
Here are some quick tips:
- Do not write scripts for all the questions you come across. Pick the 10-20 most likely items, and just stick with those, there will always be questions you weren’t prepared for.
- Concentrate on practising speaking, rather than scriptwriting. 70% + of interviews are conducted via video, so get into the habit of recording and reviewing your answers.
- Get some feedback. Do not just keep watching and recording, get a friend, parent, teacher, or guy next door to give you some feedback and pointers.
7. Assessment Centre Practise
Practising for Assessment centres can be tricky.
Because you need exercises and other people.
Luckily, many assessment centres are now digital which is a good thing for international students.
Many companies will not do group exercises. For international students, this is what they fear the most.
So, what should you concentrate on?
• Writing business reports (for written exercises) you can check out our Brilliant Business Reports course to learn the structure and practise a real exercise.
• Giving Presentations (for presenting information for case studies) we cover presenting information in our Interview Success System.
• Practise Case Studies
There are some great free and paid results for practising case studies, we tend to do this in our Express Coaching and Bespoke Coaching services using custom material we write for individual companies, but you can also find a tonne of great free resources online.
We also love what Management Consulted DO, as they have been going since 2008, and specialise in jobs at Management Consulting companies with a heavy emphasis on case studies.
Here is a selection of some great sites, to find free case studied to practise. Do them by yourself or turn them into group discussions with some friends.
• Acadia Institute of Case Studies (Wide variety of business cases)
• University of New Mexico Free Case Studies (Wide variety of case studies related to ethics)
• Merlot (California State University System)
• MIT Sloan School of Management (Wide variety of business cases)
• University of British Columbia (Wide variety of business cases)
Just like interviews, the best way to improve is by regular practise. Make your practise as close to the real thing as possible. Set aside time each week to work through a case study, write written exercises, and get your presentations done.
Step 5: What companies to apply to?
You should already have your list of big companies, but we have gone the extra mile and provided industry-specific lists of Tier 2 sponsors that we help our clients apply to:
Accounting and Finance
- Grant Thornton
- RSM Tenon
- UHY Hacker Young
- Dixon Wilson
Banking and Finance
- Bank of England
- Lloyds Banking Group
- London Stock Exchange Group
- S&P Global
- Fidelity International
- M & G Investments
- McKinsey & Company
- Boston Consulting Group
- Bain & Company
- Korn Ferry
- FTI Consulting
- PA Consulting
- Johnson & Johnson
- Enterprise Rent-A-Car
Engineering & Industrial
- Jaguar Land Rover
- Network Rail
- Mott McDonald
- EDF Energy
- Legal and General
- Munich RE
- Willis Towers Watson
- RSA Group
- NFU Mutual
- Direct Line Group
- P. Morgan
- Goldman Sachs
- Morgan Stanley
- Bank of America
- Deutsche Bank
- Rothschild & Co
- Marshall Wace
IT & Telecommunications
- Virgin Media
- Clifford Chance
- Allen & Overy
- Slaughter and May
- Baker McKenzie
- Herbert Smith Freehills
- DLA Piper
- Pinsent Masons
- Hogan Lovells
- Norton Rose Fulbright
- White & Case
- Irwin Mitchell
- Marks & Spencer
- John Lewis Partnership
- The Hut Group
- Micro Focus
- Tik Tok
Notable absences: Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals, Media, and Oil & Gas (we do not tend to deal with these industries, so we have not included them in this list)
If you want more companies we suggest you use Sponsor Tier 2 to quickly and easily search for companies.
Confused as to which companies are right for you? Check out our Express Coaching packages which include a free strategy session where we create an application plan for you.
Traditionally we have found that most jobs for international students will be in these industries, so we tend to stick to what we are good at.
Remember, many of these companies don’t care what you studied, and you need no prior experience.
For some companies, you may need to have gotten a 2:1 or 60% for your bachelor’s degree to be eligible to apply.
Step 6: What jobs to apply to?
Remember the critical question we asked you all the way back at the start of this guide?
“Do you want a job or not?”
This is an important question to ask yourself now you have assembled an enormous list of companies.
You may think that because you studied for an Engineering degree, you can only apply to Engineering companies.
You can apply for Engineering companies, but you can also apply to any companies and any role that demands the skill set you have.
Like Audit. Like Finance.
In fact, if you look at our successful track record, you will notice most of our clients go on to work in a set number of roles:
They have been students from a background as diverse as Sociology, Linguistics, and Computer Science.
In fact, quite rarely does a student go on to work in precisely what they studied.
So, be expansive in your mindset.
Make 2 lists.
- A list of jobs and companies you would love to work for and at
- A list of companies and jobs that you know will give Visas, looking at the list of roles and companies above.
Success leaves clues.
Instead of trying to be different, follow a tried and tested of method used by hundreds of students before you.
Step 7: How to pass 1) online tests 2) interviews and 3) assessment centres?
Practise. Practise. Practise.
We have already set out some practical steps that you can follow, you could pay a little bit of money for the Interview Success System, or you can do it yourself for free.
But one thing that does not change is the need for practice.
You will try. You will fail. You will learn.
Do not be disheartened as someone who always passes and excels if you fail. You are just learning.
Even for our bespoke coaching clients, it takes at least 2 interviews to progress to the next round in most cases.
Wherever you can make the practice as realistic to the real thing. Be honest about your weaknesses and relish the chance to improve.
With persistence and consistency, successful or not, you will come away from the process of finding a job in the UK a more practical and resilient person.
After all, if 9,000, other international students can do it.
You can do it too.