International students: how to maximise your chances of getting hired by a UK employer

The beauty of the Graduate route is that you can live and work in the UK even if you are not offered a Skilled Worker visa. As you probably know, securing sponsorship can be quite competitive. The Graduate route opens the door for international students to also consider less competitive opportunities, such as jobs in smaller organisations (called SMEs – small and medium-sized enterprises), which in the UK account for over 99% of all businesses. Therefore, targeting SMEs to look for a job seems like a wise move. There are many benefits to working for smaller organisations – and you can find out more in our online guide “What is an SME? Why work for one?

How do I find a job with an SME?

Once you have narrowed down your search and feel you have some understanding of the market, focus on writing quality applications for a few of your preferred employers.

Stand in the hiring manager’s shoes and consider what will convince them to hire you.

Firstly, employers want someone that can DO THE JOB.

If you study a relevant degree, then you should be equipped with the right knowledge; you can include your relevant units and university projects in your CV to demonstrate this. If you have worked in a paid or unpaid role similar to the one you are applying for, detailing this experience is  key so that the employer can benchmark your abilities in the workplace. While in some countries employers focus primarily on academic results, UK employers are often more practically-minded and tend to favour experience in the workplace. We cannot stress enough how important it is to try to get as much practical experience so you can to provide evidence that you are a trusted professional.

Read through the listed skill requirements (which are usually clearly stated in the job description’s “person specification” section) and make sure you can provide varied and relevant examples of these skills.  Remember, when preparing these examples, follow the STAR structure.

You can prepare examples to demonstrate that you have commonly required skills in advance –use a spreadsheet to record your stories. Prospects’ job profile lists some of the typical skills asked for.

Compared with home students, you might have less UK experience and connections, so to counteract this consider your experience from your home country and do not forget your USPs (unique selling points) such as foreign language skills. If the organisation you are applying for runs projects in your home country or is preparing to expand to your home country, then you need to prepare yourself and confidently present your understanding of your home country market.

Secondly, employers want to know you will fit in

This is why most job listings include communication and team working skills as requirements.  If English isn’t your first language, it’s likely that your written English skills for academic purposes have been sharpened during your study at the University of Bristol, but you also need to familiarise yourself with the language professionals use and how they present themselves:

Your personality and values also matter. Connect with employees on LinkedIn and ask them about the work culture to assess whether the employer will be a good fit for you.

Thirdly, employers need to understand that hiring you is easy

SMEs may not be familiar with the recent immigration changes, or may be concerned that the Graduate route only allows them to hire you for a limited period. However, there is no guarantee that any recent graduate would stay longer term. Confidently present the value you can bring during the Graduate route period and make sure you know how to explain longer-term options like the Skilled Worker route: Watch our Intro: Get a graduate job in the UK – your visa options.

For more on getting work in the UK, including sponsored jobs, read our other blogs:

3 steps to making the most of the graduate route

Get a UK Job: A Timeline for International Students

Inline illustration by Mohamed Hassan on Pixabay

Author: Stella Wang, Careers Support Officer (International) 2021