7 job application strategies for foreign nationals seeking UK employment.

Having 14 years experience recruiting foreign nationals into the UK, from both within the European Economic Area (EEA) and beyond, I have employer side experience of the barriers to recruitment that foreign nationals face. I have also observed what approaches the most talented and resourceful applicants adopt in order to overcome these obstacles

This article will set out 7 simple but effective job application strategies for foreign nationals seeking employment in the UK. These will not guarantee you interviews or job offers but they will ensure you are increasing your chances of success.

In my experience, when employers are faced with applications from foreign nationals they often ask the question, rightly or wrongly: ‘Is this applicant committed to the challenge of taking up employment in another country, (where English may also be a second language), or are they just speculating’?

The simplest way to address this concern (and I accept this may be more practical for EEA candidates), is to ensure that you move to the UK, prior to making any job applications. The ability to provide a UK based address on any job application will show that you have invested time and money to get yourself to the UK, which in turn will also demonstrate your commitment to a career and life in Britain.

If you have already moved to the UK, you can show your further commitment to a career and life in the UK by enrolling on a relevant training course such as a Business English Course or Communication skills and referring to this in your CV or cover letter.


2.) Are you in it for the long term? How committed are you to staying in Britain and building a career?

Rightly or wrongly, a UK employer may feel that an overseas candidate may be more likely to leave the role prematurely due to their relative lack of ties to the UK compared to a native job applicant. The result of premature departures to a business are increased turnover and lack of business continuity which can negatively impact business performance, hence why employers may favour local applicants, all things being equal.

In light of this, how does an overseas job applicant combat this negative reaction?

In some cases, it may be true and you may be undecided as to how long you wish to stay in the UK. If this is the case, I would recommend that you apply for temporary or fixed term positions which will be more complementary to your predicament.

However, if you do wish to stay and you want to combat this negative perception you should include one or two lines in your covering letter which clearly demonstrates your long term commitment to life and work in the UK. This may be nothing more than a statement of your intent to remain long term; however, if you can back your claims up with evidence of your intent to stay long term, such as having married a local person, having kids in a local school, having sold your home abroad etc… your statement of intent will appear more trustworthy.

3.) How good is your English, both written and spoken in a working context?

If you come from a country where English is a second language, employers may be concerned your English communication skills will be inferior to that of a native English speaker which could make you less efficient in the job than a native speaker. There are two ways to deal with this negative reaction, depending on your level of English. (Whatever, approach you adopt, you must always be honest and accurate about your level of fluency in English as you will be quickly exposed at interview if you are not telling the truth.)

If you consider yourself to be fluent in English, (it is best to ask a native English speaker to assess your level of fluency) then in addition to ensuring this is stated clearly at the head of your CV and in your covering letter, I would recommend that you did some advanced English or English for Business training.

If you are an intermediate English Speaker, then, as well as stating this accurately in your CV, you should immediately engage in some advanced English training and explain what you are doing to improve your English in your CV and cover letter.

You can  book an interview coaching session with the James Innes Group – Interview Coaching Specialists by Clicking Here

4.) Are you legally entitled to work in the UK?

UK employers are required by law to check the nationality and/or work permit status of all candidates prior to employment, and face severe penalties for employing people illegally. Therefore employers can be understandably cautious about employing overseas nationals. Make sure there is no room for uncertainty about your ability to work legally in the UK by clearly stating your nationality at the head of your CV, or, if your nationality alone does not grant you permission to work, you should also state clearly the name and type of visa that you possess which enables you to work legally.


5.) How convincing is your employment history?

Unless you have been working for well known brands in your home country, your overseas employers may lack the credibility when compared with local and better known UK businesses.

If this is the case, when constructing your CV, you should include a short promotional tag-line accompaniment to each employer entry, for example, ‘7th largest telecommunications company with 8 million customers and £1 billion annual revenue…’

If you need help developing your CV you might want to try out my CV Evaluation Service.

6.) How recognisable and reputable are your overseas qualifications?

University degrees are pretty much a universally recognised qualification, however, the quality of the university can vary dramatically, and UK employers may not know if your university is top, middle or bottom ranking, and may draw their own negative conclusions. If you attended an elite or good university within your country (and this can be proven), you should let this be known both in your covering letter and you should also add a tag-line to your educational establishment listing in your CV stating something like ‘Top 10 University as reported by XXXXX’.

Sixth form or High School qualifications can vary in their nature by country, along with the grading systems, and UK employers may not understand your qualifications and may not subsequently attribute them their true worth. Therefore, take the time to understand the UK high school qualification and grading system and, when listing your overseas High School qualifications and grades, be sure to list the UK equivalent in brackets next to them.

7.) Your second language is a differentiator

In Britain, the ability to speak a language other than English is a real strength and can be a key differentiator. The most recent survey I found shows that only 1 in 10 Brits can speak a foreign language.I used to work in HR in an international company in Oxford and we often struggled to find professionals who spoke English AND a second European language.

I would therefore commend that you target companies who have offices or do business in your home countries where you may find your language capability may give you an edge over local competition. You can find language jobs job in the UK by visiting the indeed jobs link.

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