How do I get a graduate job in the UK?
Whether you're an EU or an international student, it's important to be aware that your right to work in the UK will depend on your visa.
Getting involved and developing your skills through work experience, volunteering and extracurricular activities is a great way to stand out to potential employers and beat the odds. Read on for more information about securing a job in the UK after you graduate.
My advice to other students is to step outside your comfort zone and take a chance. Apply for internships, practice for the interviews, and then bring your full self to work. More often than not, we are hampered by our own thoughts. Therefore, it is important to give yourself opportunities to shine.
How do UK employers select the most suitable applicant?
Employees are key to a business’s success, so various recruitment and selection techniques are used to enable them to feel confident they are choosing the right candidate. Employers begin the process by producing two key documents, the job description and the person specification, which are then combined together in the job advertisement. It’s important that you read these documents carefully to understand what the employer is looking for, and how they will be making their decision.
This includes all of the tasks and responsibilities required in the role.
This gives information about the person they want to recruit, including items such as their qualifications, experience, skills and knowledge.
To make a competitive application you need to feel confident that you meet a large proportion of the criteria on the person specification.
The process by which an employer will make their decision can vary widely, but typically follow the pattern of an application stage followed by an interview stage.
- Firstly, the application stage in which the employer will review your CV and cover letter, or your completed application form, against their criteria. A large number of candidates are ‘ruled out’ at this stage. To progress through this stage, you will need to show evidence of how you meet the criteria, and clear motivation for why you have chosen to apply.
- During the second stage of selection the employer will invite you to take part in one or more in-depth activities in which you will talk about yourself in more detail, respond to questions from the employer, and participate in range of activities designed for the employer to observe your way of working and how you interact with them and others. These activities could be a recorded video interview, a telephone interview, an assessment day, and/or a panel interview. You may also be asked to complete psychometric tests, which can be incorporated into any stage of the process.
During these activities, the employer will continue to assess you against their criteria, but they are also looking for something ‘extra’. They are looking for motivated individuals who show potential to grow and ‘fit’ in with the culture of the organisation.
To succeed at this stage you will need to showcase your skills and knowledge, demonstrate your understanding of the company and its mission and values, as well as the wider industry in which the organisation operates, and also show your personality and enthusiasm for the role.
Where do I look for job vacancies? Login to Student Circus
We've rounded up top sources of vacancies on our Graduate vacancies page. This includes vacancies advertised on MyCareer, which is a dedicated jobs board for Nottingham students.
Home Office UK Visas and Immigration provides a list of employers who currently sponsor work permits for workers coming from outside of the EU. This list is useful as a starting point for candidates seeking a visa, but needs to be cross-referenced with more detailed information on each company's careers pages.
If you know which industry you'd like to work in, check the Career paths pages for more targeted information about how to gain experience and find graduate roles.
Networking is another great way to find out about opportunities. Our Career Mentoring scheme connects you with Nottingham alumni who can provide valuable insights into working in the UK.
- All the graduate roles advertised meet the UK Visa and Immigration salary requirements for sponsorship.
- Featured employers are sponsors of Tier 2 visas and registered with the UK Visa and Immigration office
- The employer has confirmed that they are willing to hire international graduates for the graduate roles advertised.
- Frequently asked questions on the platform have been checked and verified for accuracy by an immigration expert.
- The platform also provides access to internships, placements and start-up internships.
eCareersGrad - International Students: Target the Right Employer
eCareersGrad's latest course ‘International Students: Target the Right Employer’ is built around a unique dataset of employer listings - ranked, sector-based and searchable by those who have sponsored the most International students for the Skilled worker visa over the last 3 years:
Please be aware that when using the Student Circus platform your data will not be hosted by the University of Nottingham, however we have taken reasonable steps to ensure they are legally compliant with both the GDPR and UK Data Protection Act 2018 at the point of signing a contract/Service level agreement with them (August 2019). For more information on how your data will be used please see their terms and conditions.
Do I need to use an agency or paid service to help me get a graduate job?
In recent years we have seen a rise in the number of external organisations advertising themselves as experts in careers and employability advice, particularly around supporting students from specific countries. They often charge thousands of pounds for their services and we have received feedback that students often feel pressurised to pay for these services in order to secure a job.
Prior to entering into any agreement, we would advise you to contact us and check what support and resources are already available to you without charge.
If we aren’t providing a resource which you think would be useful, let us know and we will endeavour to provide it or a suitable alternative. If after doing your research you think you are getting something different or better from an external provider, you are free to make the decision to use them.
We are happy to discuss any support you are offered from an external provider to help you make an informed decision.
What are my visa options? Read case studies from Nottingham graduates and other UK students
Understanding your options can help you to have conversations with employers about their options to hire you on the student visa, graduate route visa, scale-up work visa or skilled worker visa.
To help you to do this the university offer briefings from immigration experts during the academic year. You can find out more about these sessions from the Visa and Immigration team.
UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) which is the UK Council for International Student Affairs is also a good source of information to help you understand your options.
Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS), the expert membership organisation for higher education student career development and graduate employment professionals have produced an employer guide for hiring international students and graduates which might also be useful to help you to understand your options or explain them to a potential employer.
Dafinah Azman, UoN alumna
Assistant Psychologist, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Trust
I am currently on a Graduate visa (introduced in summer 2021). This visa allows you to stay in the UK for up to two years and makes you eligible to work without the need for sponsorship.
You have to apply for the Graduate visa while you are on your Tier 4 Student Visa, and I would recommend doing this closer to when your Student visa is expiring. I would leave two months’ leeway just in case.
Read Dafinah's blog post
Read case studies from international graduates talking about their experiences seeking UK employment.
What help is available for a visa based on working freelance or being self-employed?
The University of Nottingham's Ingenuity Lab, part of the The Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (HGI), helps undergraduates and postgraduates learn about enterprise and build their entrepreneurial skills.
If you have an interest in business, whether it’s a commercial venture or a social enterprise, the Ingenuity Lab there to support you to create products and services that are not only fit for purpose, but also offer a different perspective and approach.
Visit the Ingenuity Lab website
Visit our page on self employment for more information about the support available to you during your time at university and after you graduate
From my perspective, the invisible glass ceiling for international people to get into the creative industries in the UK exists, so I attempted to break into the industry by attending lots of events both at and outside the university.