From education to employment

Why International Graduates Are Not Getting Jobs in the UK

International graduates face an enormous challenge now in securing work after graduation. As of June 2022, only 7% of all international graduates have been hired by UK employers. Why are international graduates not getting jobs in the UK? The long and the short of it is that there are too many graduates for too few positions. To get out ahead you have to know why. Here are 10 common reasons.

Universities Aren’t Teaching You How to Get a Job

First thing’s first: universities are not in the business of helping you get a job. Sure, some careers require certain degrees, but universities don’t care. They’re centres of research and education. And while it has become an ongoing conviction that universities are a necessary step towards employment, they were never intended to act as career services.

Why is this critical? Because with rampant degree inflation most schools are expecting, and indeed shovelling, their students to get into higher education, and by the time they’re out and “job ready” they have never once been taught how to navigate the job market. Only 2% of international graduates got a job by using their university’s career services. Clearly, the current system isn’t working. Until universities provide greater careers advice, or the system introduces a new step, most graduates leave with no idea how to search, apply, and interview for work. And with 70% of major UK universities being international students, this is directly impacting their chances of employment in the UK.

The Job Market is Competitive

Most international graduates are at a disadvantage, compared to their domestic counterparts, given they are unfamiliar with the UK job market. Some UK students can lean on passive networks obtained through their friends and family. International students, for the most part, have none of these in the UK, meaning the entire process, from searching for postings, preparing applications, and participating in interviews, falls on them alone. That’s a daunting task for the best prepared, but with additional cultural and social gaps, it becomes even more challenging.

To add to this, there are 2.3 million graduates chasing every job.

Thankfully, there are services that can help. Companies like Graduate Coach, the UK’s leading international graduate coaching service, are dedicated to helping recent graduates navigate the UK job market.

CVs are Missing the Mark

Even most British graduates struggle constructing a CV to find work in the UK, so it’s only natural that international students would struggle even more. Too long. Poorly formatted. Disorganised. Not compliant with current applicant tracking systems (ATS). There are so many ways to miss the mark on a CV. And yet, it’s the first and most critical step in getting your foot in the door.

Interviewing is a Learned Skill No One Taught You

Assuming your CV landed you an interview, most graduates have never been trained in how to conduct themselves as an interviewee. There are specific protocols and techniques required to succeed in an interview. And it takes time to get good at these. Most adults consider interviewing a lifelong skill, one that you may never perfect.

You Can’t Sell Yourself if You Don’t Know Yourself

One of the trickiest aspects of interviews that new graduates often fail at is knowing how, and having the confidence, to sell themselves. A good career coach works holistically with their clients and confidence training is a crucial aspect of that. Many graduates don’t know what skills they have, or what skills they can demonstrate on a CV or in person in an interview. The successful interviewee is the one who knows how and when to advocate for their skills, to boast about their accomplishments, to make sure the hiring manager knows you want the job and can evidence why you’re fit for the role.

Preparation is the key. With the majority of applicants now spending less than 30 minutes on interview prep, help yourself to stand out by putting in the hours.

The Work Experience They Want That No One Has

Now, knowing the tools and techniques to make your job hunt and application stronger is only half the battle. And sadly, the easier half to fulfil. What no CV, application, or interview can help with is a lack of work experience. There are just too many needed skills that working gives you. With most international graduates now only having academic experience, there is little chance to compete.

The best advice is to seek out work during your degree or a strong internship.

Digital Skills are No Longer Optional

Another element most international graduates lack are credited digital skills. Having UK-based data analytics training is increasingly a crucial CV requirement. The solution, thankfully, is readily available, and that is to upskill your data capabilities. Data is now the driving force behind the UK’s economy. In a 2021 report from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport wrote that employers are now seeking professionals “skilled in the architecture, retrieval, and analysis of the vast wealth of data available”. The report predicts that data analysis will be the fastest growing skill requirement, increasing by 33% in the next 5 years.

Surveying 1,045 businesses, 5,000 workers, and 1,000 students in the UK in 2020, this report confirmed the enormous data skills gap the UK labour market faces. Nearly half (48%) of businesses are recruiting for roles that require data skills, in particular at the junior and entry-level positions. What’s more, almost half of all businesses (46%) were struggling to fill these roles. All of this makes clear the role upskilling will play for graduates to close this data gap. Those graduates who choose to jump in and learn these crucial skills will reap the reward of first-choice data-driven positions.

The Graduate Visa You Haven’t Heard About

Good news: in January 2022, the UK government introduced the Graduate Scheme visa. This allows recent international graduates to live and work freely in the UK for two years following their studies. This is especially good news given that it takes the average graduate 30 to 40 hours of interview practice before an offer and roughly 18 months before landing their preferred graduate role. Two years is just enough time.

The catch: many employers, certainly among smaller firms and businesses, are still unaware of the visa. Gone are the days when an international student’s CV was immediately rejected… but you do need to let your employer and recruiter know that you can be hired without the need for a visa.


International graduates trying to find jobs in the UK need help. But it’s no surprise most international graduates don’t know where to look for it – who would have told them? Career coaches are the best resource for international graduates and proactive students to navigate the UK job market. Working with one helps them overcome every challenge mentioned in this article. And finding the right coach is key. Graduate Coach is the UK’s leading firm by number of international graduates hired through their programme. Get in touch.

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  1. Very True! I’ve been saying the same thing for the past 2 months. I am a recent Msc graduate in Accounting and Finance from the University of Leicester, looking into Project Management roles within finance and operations.

    I have 8 years of experience, 4 years with PwC and 4 years in industry.
    I am a certified PMP (Project management professional) and hold two seperate diplomas in tax and the Arabic language.
    After months of applying I have only come to receive countless rejections and most of the time not even a reply back and frankly only 1 real interview.
    This is the same issue with many other of my batch mates and peers.
    International students seem to be pushed back constantly because of their Visa status and I can only apply for a PSW during December. The time-line is just pure horrible as we are either stuck doing minimim wage jobs to get by while we have two months to spare working on our dissertation.
    I would love to speak to the author in more detail.