Finding a job in London

From Chinatown to the growing array of boulangeries of French South Kensington, London is a truly international city which has become home to millions from across the world.

Those looking for a job in London will find the city is fast paced and dynamic.The work-life balance runs with the emphasis on a ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality. Before you arrive in London do your research, make sure you have some contacts and a basic career plan.

London’s finance, insurance and legal firms are world leaders, and many large national and international companies base themselves in the city. 

Flexible employment laws in the UK promote commerce, and with London at a global crossroads and gateway to Europe, many expats have seen the opportunities the city has to offer and now call it home.

There is no cap on foreign applications and companies in the UK tend to give preference to people with the right skills set for the position, rather than candidates of a particular nationality. So, if you have the experience, skills and qualifications that employers are after, then you’ve got a good chance of being hired in London.

Attracting expats has allowed industries in London to prosper, from entertainment and catering to media and leisure. Small and medium-sized companies often draw much of their workforce from outside the UK. This combined effect has also helped give the UK its multicultural appeal.

Competition for jobs in London is high with hundreds of applicants often applying for a single position. Employer conventions can seem rigid, requiring specific formats for CVs, covering letters and applications. However, once hired, positions are normally well paid and stable.

To work in the UK you must be eligible and most foreigners will require a work visa. To gain a work permit you may have to be accessed under the points based system. The categories are broken down into six main groups, including high-value migrants, skilled workers and temporary workers.

How to get a job in London

The best ways to gain employment in London vary depending on the industry; however, if you can capitalise on existing personal connections, this is by far the most effective method. Those expats aiming for the highest paid professions should consider career networking as a serious option.

As is the case in any big city, Londoners like familiarity and feel secure in the “old boy’s network”. Most companies would rather employ someone recommended by a colleague than an unqualified CV applicant.  Particularly, if the companies and roles listed on CVs are not well known in the UK. If you are in a position to network but have no experience then it is best to get some advice from a professional.

Before you arrive you will need to do some research on job opportunities within your industry. There are a number of avenues to peruse. The national press will often show adverts for the larger companies giving you a good idea about what’s on offer. The online versions of major national newspapers like the Times and the Telegraph will give you the most up-to-date job listings. Expats working in a niche industry will find that there there are hundreds of specialist recruitment agencies available online. 

For the vast majority of expats, the most successful method involves using a mix of local agencies and applications direct to employers. For this to be successful it is essential to have an effective CV and covering letter. Using a badly written CV will severely limit your options so it is well worth investing the time into perfecting you CV beforehand. Some expats will even hire a professional to write their CV and increase their chances of being hired. Once the necessary steps have been taken, expats are well received and can find work reasonably quickly in UK. 

Interview tips for London

Once you have a good CV and have mastered the British job application process, you should start to get some interviews.  Employers are looking for transferable skills and a good ‘team fit’ so make sure these are emphasised.  

Sociability is also important; it’s not uncommon to have a final interview over lunch or in the pub. The aim of this is to see the ‘real you’ and find out how you would get on with the team when the interviewer-interviewee setup is broken. 

What you wear, your hand shake and general appearance make a significant impact too.  First impressions count for a lot, and once established are hard to break. It does depend on the industry but, interviewing in London is a formal affair. This means a smart suit and tie for men and a skirt or trouser suit for women. When in doubt dress up, and if you aren’t used to this sort of interview get some practice with friends or with an interview training service. Many such companies exist, which have an expat emphasis. 

Staying positive and engaging in rapport building goes a long way. If you act naturally you will come across well, so stay calm.