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Must-know job hunting tips for UK international students

Job hunting tips

Being an international student in the UK itself puts you in a great position to find work there. Years of living in any of its great cities have also made you well-acquainted with the UK weather and way of doing things. 

Nonetheless, the substantial work of securing a job still lies in your job-hunting efforts. Given the challenges and circumstances, including those unique to the UK job market, it’s all the more reason to expend your energies where they should yield maximum results.

Equip yourself with practical tips for job hunting for international students in the UK.

Why Is It More Difficult for International Students in the UK To Get a Job after Graduation?

Consider these factors when preparing for a job hunt in the UK.

  1. Post-COVID labour market. According to the Office for National Statistics’s most recent bulletin, employment rate for 16 to 64 years old was 75.9% from March to May 2022, an increase from the previous quarter but the figure is considered lower than pre-pandemic (December 2019 to February 2020). Unemployment rate for 16 years old and older during the relevant quarter of 3.8% was lower than the previous quarter and pre-pandemic period. 

Job vacancies slightly rose to 1,294,000 in April to June 2022, showing an increase from the previous quarter and pre-pandemic period of January to March 2020. The said quarterly rate of growth continues to slow down, according to the ONS.  

This is just an overview of the UK labour market after the coronavirus. The world including the UK is also bracing for recession with its link to unemployment. 

  1. Waiting time. It can take weeks for companies to process job applications, but that time is lengthy enough for new graduates.

International students looking to work in the UK also don’t have the luxury of waiting and must manage their resources accordingly pending an income-generating job. 

Even without tuition fees, London remains not a cheap place to live in unless you have a stable source of income from employment or business. 

  1. Competitive job market. A global business hub and an economic power (being in the top 10 of the largest economies in the world), the UK holds so much promise for students and all others who left their home country to find jobs in the UK. 

Competition is ever-present and tough in major industries like healthcare, banking and finance, and professional services (the Big Four). As a graduate with limited experience, the  

  1. Visa sponsorship. Before the introduction of the post-study work visa (PSW) or graduate visa, the usual route was for a company to sponsor one’s employment in the UK. 

The UK government opened the graduate route on 1 July 2021 that would allow international students to stay in the UK for the next two years or three years for PhD graduates to look for work, etc.

The route eases things up as the approval of the visa is not dependent on a job offer. Still, holding that visa presents a huge opportunity for graduates to find a job in the UK to cover their living expenses or be able to switch to a skilled worker’s visa later. 

Moreover, there is a push for the government to promote the graduate route to employers.  

How to Secure Post-study Work Visa in the UK

To be eligible for a graduate visa, you must be in the UK at the time of the application and hold a Tier 4 (general) student visa or student visa. It’s also in holding either visa that you were able to complete a degree (bachelor’s, post-graduate, or eligible course). 

If you wish to stay longer in the UK upon the expiration of your graduate visa, which can’t be extended, you need to apply for a skilled worker visa. 

This is a high-level overview of securing a graduate visa. For more information, visit:

Top 5 Job Hunting Tips for International Students in the UK

1. Have some work experience before you graduate

Having work experience on a CV could help you stand out in the competitive graduate job market. Engaging in a part-time job lets you develop transferable skills honed by practice.

Adaptability, teamwork, communication, and leadership are effortlessly tested and mastered in the workplace. There’s also learning how to handle criticism and feedback as part of growth.

Clubs and organisations are also training grounds for leadership roles. Even as a member, you learn how to deal with diverse personalities to achieve common goals, just like the proverbial team player.

Volunteering is another meaningful source of hands-on experience useful for employment. But be sure that you are not doing volunteer work, which is subject to the work-hours restriction. 

Internships or work placements also count as professional experience. You may undertake an internship on a full-time or part-time basis.  

2. Improve your English communication skills

For non-English speakers, studying in the UK is the perfect opportunity to practise the language that originated from there with its nuances, of course. 

Being able to write and speak fluently in the English language remains relevant for personal and career development. 

For one, being able to express your thoughts effectively would help you ace your interviews. This command of the language also boosts your confidence as a communicator.

There are standardised tests to show proficiency in the English language. Some students may be required to prove their English abilities to get their visa. Check out the British Council’s website for free resources.  

3. Get started early

For international students aiming to stay in the UK post-study, applying for a graduate scheme is a major route to employment.

This training programme is offered by companies or institutions and typically lasts one to two years. Here a graduate takes an entry-level job and undergoes training, sometimes with different departments within the company. 

Graduate schemes may be similar to internships, although the former is more structured, paid (unpaid internships still exist), and offered to recent graduates. 

Securing a place in a graduate scheme of any of these top graduate employers entails intense competition and preparation for psychometric tests and more. While some graduate schemes accept applications all year round, the sooner you can start applying for your desired programmes, the better.

According to the Graduate Recruitment Bureau, the summer before the final year is a critical time for tailoring and sending applications for graduate jobs. 

In the alternative, you can directly apply for work with companies that are usually SMEs. This direct-entry route entails similar job-application processes. 

4. Focus on quality job applications instead of quantity

Less is more. There’s no avoiding competition, especially in in-demand industries, and the job market conditions may only make job-hunting tougher. So best choose which companies or job applications you want to focus on.

Customise your every application and covering letter. If you need certain skills for a role you’ve been eyeing, take relevant training courses or jobs. Also practise answering interview questions. 

Choice applications also reduce likelihood of scheduling conflicts, as you still have your studies to finish to completion. One requirement of a post-study work visa is successfully completing the course.  

While it’s understandable to have a collect and select approach when it comes to job hunting, consider the logistics of pursuing prospects that you are half interested in.

5. Online applications are not the only way 

There’s LinkedIn, where you can directly respond to job posts on the platform. Do read the post carefully so that you can craft a well-written response (and really determine whether the job is for you).

A more indirect and long-term approach to job hunting on LinkedIn is to network with business owners, founders, hiring managers, recruiters, and other pros. But first, you need to build connections before reaching out to them about jobs. 

Send each a personalised request after checking their profile for any specific instructions on the best ways to contact them. Try not to spam their inbox.

Make sure you look trustworthy and professional for networking and job hunting purposes. Maintain an updated and relevant profile complete with a photo on the website.

Your uni’s Career Services is worth visiting and graduate recruitment fairs attending. Also, search for jobs on sites designed for international students like Student Circus and GradLink.

Final thoughts

Hopefully, these job hunting tips for international students in the UK will enhance your job search and job readiness. Consult experts on the graduate visa and other requirements. 

Finding a job is never easy, but your talent, diligence, and research will pay off and get the job that you love.



Aubrey i​s a writer and a regular contributor. She writes on topics on job searching and career development in hopes to provide better tips on job hunting and career development.

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