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Finding a Job, CVs, Interviews and Etiquette for Expats in the United Kingdom

Submitted: July 2013

Finding a job
In the UK it has become common to search for jobs online. Job search websites enable you to filter your search according to job function, industry, salary and location or search for keywords. Some of the major job search sites in the UK include:

Most daily newspapers also offer extensive career pages. See for example:

Other useful job search sites include:

Another popular option for job seekers is to register with a recruitment agency which can help you find a suitable job for your profile. There are numerous recruitment agencies in the UK. For advice on selecting a good agency, read the articles on Prospects or the National Careers Service.

Finally, make sure to look directly on the websites of British companies/organisations that interest you. These will often include a section called Employment or Vacancies, where their present job openings are announced.

CVs

Most employers in the UK demand a curriculum vitae or CV as part of your job application. It is essential to have a strong CV highlighting your qualifications and past work experience since this is your way of introducing yourself to the employer. There is no general CV template as different sectors have different preferences. However, there are certain guidelines that apply to most CVs in the UK.
It is vital that your CV is concise. Unless otherwise specified in the job advertisement, a standard non-academic CV in the UK should be no longer than 2 pages. CVs in the academic sector can be longer since it is common to list all publications and conferences attended.

Furthermore, your CV should be well-structured. You can achieve this by dividing the CV into various sections and using subheadings to denote these sections. Typical sections include Personal Details, Education, Work Experience, Further Qualifications, IT Skills, Language Skills and Interests.

Commonly you list your personal details first by putting your name and surname on top of your CV and including your contact details (address, telephone number and email) underneath. Due to strict anti-discrimination laws in the UK, it is not necessary to include your date of birth, nationality or marital status on the CV. It is also not common to include a photograph unless specifically requested.

The sections devoted to education and work experience are generally arranged in reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent academic qualification and employment. When listing previous employment, clearly indicate the start and end date, job title and name of the company/organisation you worked for. It is also recommendable to include a brief description of your primary responsibilities and achievements in your recent jobs.

Last but not least, your CV should be written in a positive tone, emphasising strengths and achievements throughout. Whenever possible use action words, such as ‘achieved’, ‘obtained’ or ‘developed’. Also make sure that your spelling and grammar are correct and avoid using informal language.
The National Careers Service offers further advice on writing CVs and an online CV building software.

Cover Letters and References

In addition to CVs most British employers request a cover letter. Cover letters should normally be around one A4-page long and drawn up as a formal business letter. The purpose of a cover letter is to explain your motivation for applying for the position, how your skills and qualifications match the employer’s requirements and what you will bring to that particular role. When writing cover letters, pay attention to the requirements mentioned in the job advertisement and comment on how you fulfil these. The National Careers Service provides helpful advice on writing cover letters.

When applying for jobs in the UK, you might also be asked to provide references. These should typically be from previous employers (or academic supervisors if you have started working recently) who can comment on your skills and qualifications.

Interviews
Job interview types in the UK vary from employer to employer. They differ in length, interviewing technique and the size of the panel. Usually they take place in person. However, telephone and Skype interviews have also become common, in particular if interviewees are located abroad at the time of interview.

Generally interviewers first give you the opportunity to introduce yourself, present your motivation and argue why you are a good candidate for the position. Subsequently, employers ask questions about your previous employment and test how your skills match their requirements. The National Careers Service provides further advice on job interviews and lists the most commonly asked interview questions.

In recent years many British employers have started using competency-based interviews or behavioural interviews. Such interviews focus on past experience as indicator for future performance. You are asked to provide examples of how you reacted in particular situations in previous jobs, for example: “Give us an example of when you worked as part of an effective team” or “Provide an example of when you had a tight deadline to complete a project”. Such interviews demand thorough preparation. For further information see Jobs.ac.uk.

Some British companies also use assessment centres as their recruitment technique. Such assessment centres last a day or two and include a range of tasks, such as presentations, group activities and written tests, to test your suitability for the position. To read more about assessment centres see Prospects.

Etiquette

When applying for jobs in the UK always make sure to use formal language and polite wording throughout the application process.

When writing cover letters or emails to potential employers, start by “Dear Mr/Ms Xyz” and end with “Yours faithfully” if you know the recruiter’s name, or start by “Dear Sir or Madam” and end with “Yours sincerely” if you do not know the recruiter’s name. Furthermore, avoid using slang and colloquial expressions and always explain all abbreviations you use. Short versions such as “don’t” or “isn’t” should be avoided and instead spelled out as “do not” or “is not”.

When attending a job interview in the UK it is crucial to arrive on time or a few minutes early. Another important rule is to dress appropriately. Even if the company/organisation does not have a specific dress code it is still advisable to opt for business-wear in discreet colours and avoid using eye-catching jewellery or heavy make-up. Throughout the interview make sure to sit straight and make eye-contact with the interviewers. Show that you are professional and do not forget that a smile can take you a long way!

 

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