How to get a job in London: 8 steps

27.03.17
5 minute read
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The idea of living in London can seem like a dream. One of the most historic and beautiful cities in the world, London’s external charm is captivating. It’s compounded by excellent cuisine, vibrant nightlife, an unparalleled public transport system and a plethora of events and activities happening year round.

Luckily, the job market in London is fairly extensive. With opportunities spanning a myriad of industries and job roles, it can seem easy to find a position that’s a perfect fit, however competition can be stiff.

So how do you get your foot in the door? This guide will walk you through the 8 steps for getting a job in London.

1. Think about your industry

London’s scope is massive. The giant UK city boasts businesses in every sector imaginable. While jobs can be found in many industries, it’s important to consider whether yours is prevalent in the city. This is beneficial in order to properly assess the likelihood of finding a position that will match your career goals and skill set.

While other industries are quickly on the rise, the most prevalent industry is (and historically has been) the financial sector. From banking, to underwriting and trading, the financial industry operates from the city of London, or “the square mile.” More than 400,000 people work in the city every day, and that number is continuously growing.

Other large industries in the bustling UK city include fashion, tech, private healthcare, media, pharmaceuticals, retail, tourism, legal, property and manufacturing. In any of these fields, there are a multitude of opportunities available to prospective Londoners.

2. Start looking online

With the number of jobs available in London, it’s no surprise there’s a plethora of sites dedicated to housing listings. While big job sites like Monster, LinkedIn and Indeed list a ton of jobs, there’s also some smaller online destinations to help with your search.

  • Reed houses more than 80,000 listings across industries

  • London Jobs is geared towards non-locals looking to find jobs in the city

  • Gumtree lists all types of positions, including those in service, hospitality and retail

  • All types of positions are listed at The Guardian, though the majority are in media, marketing and PR

3. Build your network

Networking is one of the most important pieces of finding a job. More than 50% of corporate jobs go to someone inside the company or from an employee referral.

If you have the opportunity to go to London during your job search, you may want to plan your visit around some of the larger career fairs, like the London Job Show or Skills London. If you can’t make the timing work, try to participate in some professional events, many of which can be found online at sites like Eventbrite or Meetup.

4. Find an agent

While the Internet is an excellent resource, working with an agent can also help you find well suited jobs. These recruiting agencies are great for helping you get your foot in the door for an interview. If you’re considering working with an agency, the following options are all highly rated and industry specific. Don’t worry though, there’s plenty of cross-industry options as well.

  • If you’re looking to get your foot in the door, Attic specializes in placing candidates in PA and secretarial positions.

  • For those working in education, Capita Resourcing is well known for their excellence in placing teachers and administrators.

  • Client Server would be beneficial for techies, developers, data analysts, securities specialists and similar positions for  both browsing jobs online and working with an agent.

  • Roles in business transformation, legal, life sciences, technology, finance and energy are often best placed by agents at Hydrogen.

  • If none of those sound right for your role, check out agency central to search and browse a wide list of London’s recruitment agencies.

5. Put together a great CV

The job market in London is huge but so is the candidate pool. In order make sure you stand out you’re going to need to craft an excellent CV.

While CVs in London are a similar format to the ones used in the U.S., it can be helpful to use a London-based service to help tailor it to businesses in the city. There are many CV consultancies around London, and most of them will help with your resume online. Some well reviewed options include Career Consultants and The CV Centre.  

It’s important to note that in Britain it’s unusual to submit a “resume,” so titling your document “CV” tends to be a better idea. While at some point in history there was a difference between a CV and resume, today there’s really no differentiation. You can feel free to only adjust your document’s title.

6. Prepare for your interview

Interviewing in London may feel a lot like interviewing in the U.S. There aren’t significant differences in customs or cultural norms. Your interviewer will expect you to be on time and well prepared with plenty of background knowledge on the company, the role, and the industry as a whole.

One key difference, especially for women, is the dress code. While in the U.S. it’s fairly common to adopt a business-casual look in interviews, in London it’s more typical to dress in a business formal fashion. Like any interview practice, this isn’t universal. Don’t hesitate to ask your contact ahead of time about the dress code.

If you’re looking for more interview tips, dos and don'ts, etc., Reed has a wide array of articles covering all kinds of topics related to interviews, and is specifically tailored to the UK.

7. Apply for your visa

Getting a work visa in the UK is harder than it is in many countries, but still isn’t a huge hurdle in your quest to move to London. In order to obtain a visa there’re a few things you’ll need first:

  • A confirmed employment offer from a licensed employer in the UK; your employer acts as your sponsor

  • A Certificate of Sponsorship from your sponsoring employer

  • A passing grade on the points-based assessment for your specific visa type

There are four tiers of work visas you can get in London:

  • General, skilled worker visa

  • Intra-company transfer visa

  • Sportsperson visa

  • Minister of religion visa.

The vast majority of workers fall under the first category, “skilled worker.”

As mentioned above, your visa is contingent on passing the points-based assessment. Basic requirements are:

  • The ability to speak English

  • An appropriate salary offer

  • “Maintenance,” or having £800 in your bank account for at least 3 months prior to your application

  • A certificate of sponsorship that meets at least one of four requirements (to be met by your employer)

8. Get ready to move!

Finding a job in London can be tough, but sometimes assimilating to a new city can feel even tougher. With a plethora of expats living in London, there are plenty of expat communities that can help you feel at home when you arrive. Check out this London American Expat meetup group, or any of the gatherings and groups of expats listed on Internations.

TimeOut London also lists plenty of great tips, and is an excellent resource for finding places to go, and things to do around the city.

Once you have everything in order for your move to London, you’ll likely need to convert your money to or from British Pounds. If you plan to open a bank account in the United Kingdom or know someone with a bank account there, consider using TransferWise in order to get the most out of your money. Not only does TransferWise use the real mid-market exchange rate to convert your money, but your money is received and sent via local bank transfers in both your home country and in the UK. This process saves you even more money by eliminating international transfer fees.

Good luck!

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