Introduction to the UK job market

Here are a few of the main differences you may experience in the UK

What do UK employers want?

Focus on skills

  • UK employers focus upon your skills and qualities when hiring. They often define a set of skills they are looking for and ask you for examples that show you using these qualities.

  • Employers are looking for you to demonstrate skills, but they don't have to be from formal internships or even paid work. It is a competitive process, so you do need to use your time at University effectively, try volunteering, joining societies, or peer mentoring to build and show your skills.
  • There are more jobs suitable for “any degree background”. Unlike many countries, lots of UK employers are open to applicants from any degree discipline for a wide range of jobs. For example, accountancy is often open to biologists, engineers or any other discipline, as well as business and finance students. You still need to show your interest in, and knowledge of the type of work – even better to have some work or voluntary experience – but don’t let your degree discipline restrict your UK job search.
  • If you have not yet had the opportunity to gain work experience while you study, you could consider using part of your 2-year Graduate Route visa to gain experience in the UK, then apply to those competitive programmes later. Most graduate employers accept applications from graduates up to a year or two after graduating.

Work readiness

  • Employers value languages and experience of different cultures but you do need to demonstrate business level fluency in English.
  • We recommend you practice your English in social and work-based settings as this will also help you with your understanding of UK workplace etiquette.
  • Voluntary work outside the university campus is a great way to meet and interact with locals, feel part of the local community – and to learn to understand the Manchester accent!

Recruitment practices and hiring

Download our guide to Common Terms Used in the UK Job Market

Psychometric tests and assessment centres

These are common for application to graduate schemes. You can expect a multi stage application and selection process taking weeks or months.

Tests to see if you understand UK workplace norms and “etiquette” (situational judgement tests) can be tricky for international students without UK work experience.

Job fairs

Large UK employers like to attend university job fairs and events, meet students and talk to them about their opportunities. They are a good way to find out more about the jobs available and ask your questions.

Some fairs focus on a sector such as science and engineering, whilst others are more general. However, employers at general fairs also welcome approaches from technical graduates (either for business/general roles, or for technical roles such as IT) while employers at technical fairs normally have posts (such as HR or marketing) for non-technical graduates.

Recruitment fairs are only a very small part of the UK recruitment market. Most employers do not visit fairs, particularly:

  • Smaller employers - they may not need to recruit many graduates so it’s not worth visiting lots of university recruitment fairs.
  • Very specialist employers – the chances of finding a specialist in their field at a large graduate fair are low. They might prefer to target specific courses through academics or the Careers Service.
  • Employers in some very popular sectors – if employers already attract more than enough excellent candidates, why would they attend a fair to try to attract more? That’s why you are unlikely to see employers in the media, arts, policy/think tanks, charities etc at fairs.

Preparing for a fair

  • Do some research prior to a fair to see who the employers attending are and what types of roles they recruit for.
  • Employers will require you to make a formal application after you attend if you are interested, they don’t make job offers at fairs. This helps them to ensure every applicant is treated fairly. However, we would recommend your LinkedIn profile is up to date before a fair so that you can provide this information and link with employers.

Types of Graduate work

Graduate Jobs and gradute Schemes

  • Employers with formal graduate programmes (or schemes) start to request applications early, up to a year in advance. October – December is a busy time for job adverts and applications.
  • However, smaller firms hire later in the year, so you will find graduate level job adverts (and closing dates) all year round.

Graduate internships – or temporary jobs?

  • In some countries, graduates would normally start work in a “graduate internship” to gain experience after they complete their course. This is not very common in the UK. If you want to gain more experience after graduating in the UK, it’s normal to apply for a job at a level where you feel you can contribute, but also gain more skills, experience and understanding of the workplace. This may be on:

    • a temporary contract - makes it easy to gain experience and move on to a more demanding job after the contract ends.
    • an open ended (“permanent”) contract – once you have gained experience and are ready for a more demanding job, you can hand in your notice and move to a new job.

Looking for a graduate internship in Manchester?

  • Your best option is to consider our Manchester Graduate Talent scheme specifically for University of Manchester Graduates. You can apply for opportunities as they arise in your final year or just after you graduate. Most are within the University of Manchester and last around a year. These can be done on a Graduate visa.