I live outside of the UK but will be moving there soon. Can I apply for jobs from abroad?

23 May 2016

Moving overseas and working in the UK

Though most job applications are submitted online nowadays, you may find that not all of the recruitment process is digitised. In theory, staff could be hired from overseas without a physical meeting taking place. Vacancies can be advertised on websites, applications can be received by email, and interviews can take place over the telephone or via Skype. While this may be possible, it doesn’t mean that this is the preferred method of recruiting for many companies. As a general rule, it is fine to apply from abroad, but you should expect most employers to ask you to attend an interview in person, in the UK.


Face-to-face interviews and practical tests


Despite the incredible technology we now have at our fingertips, there is a lot to be said for the age-old selection method of just meeting someone in person. People can act differently when talking on the phone, or to a screen with a camera, so even Skyping doesn’t quite match up to a face-to-face chat. As we haven’t yet invented teleporters (shame), the technology you’ll need to employ for securing a great job may instead be your flight-booking app, as most companies will insist on meeting you in person before they offer you a job, whether you’re from the UK, EU, or elsewhere.

If you’re a world-famous clinical expert already, you’ll probably be able to skip these formalities, but anyone else looking for a clinical role is highly likely to be asked to visit the clinic they are applying to, and perhaps perform a trade test. Remember that if you have been working overseas, clinic owners in the UK may not be familiar with the clinics you worked at previously, so they may want to check that you can work using their methods, and deal with their clientele appropriately.

Similarly, if you are applying for any other customer-facing roles, employers are likely to want to meet you face-to-face, as that’s how you will be dealing with their clients. Being willing and able to travel to an interview also helps to confirm your genuine intention to move to the UK permanently, and your interest in that role.


Move first, or arrange a visit


As it is common for notice periods to be one month, many employers will be looking for a new staff member who can start quite soon after an offer has been made. Though it may mean moving without guaranteed work, if you can support yourself in the interim, it is usually far easier to find employment if you are already living in that country. Logistically, it will be easier for you to travel to interviews, and it will often be advantageous to be available to start work immediately.

If you have commitments that mean you can’t bring your moving date forward, or you don’t want to risk moving without a job offer in hand, then think about arranging a visit to the UK before you move. If you can arrange a trip long enough to make yourself available for interviews, then you’ll have a better chance of finding work.


Clarify your intentions and set plans


When applying for jobs online, you may not get all the guidance you need from adverts or responses to applications. Job adverts rarely explain what the recruitment process for that company involves, and so may not state whether they are willing to conduct interviews by Skype, or how many interview stages there will be. You may simply be told that your application has been unsuccessful, with no reason given.

If your application only consists of your CV, sent from an address in another country, and it is next to a number of decent applications from people based locally, then it probably won’t get past a first glance. It is of utmost importance to write a covering letter to explain, succinctly, why you are applying and what plans you have made to make interviews and starting a new role in the UK possible.

Employers will feel more secure offering someone a role if they are already resident in the UK, and have a permanent address. An overseas applicant without a UK address or confirmed travel dates may not be the safest choice, simply on the basis that there is no evidence that they have committed to moving, or will definitely be able to commence that role on the preferred start date.

If you haven’t yet moved, then think about what plans you can make concrete, so you have a bit more stability to bolster your applications. Having exact travel dates, a home address, and a good reason for moving, will help. If you have family or friends here, or you just have your heart set on a career in London, then stating that will help potential employers understand your intentions. You don’t need to tell them anything personal, but you should reassure an employer that you’re moving to the UK to live and work, not just to travel and have a bit of fun before you move onto the next location.

If all you can say is ‘I’d like to be there at some point soon’, then you’re unlikely to get very far with your applications. Employers can’t offer you a job if you have no idea whether you can start next week or in six months’ time!


Be practical and plan your move properly


When making your plans to move to the UK, be realistic about how long everything may take, and what you need to do to get yourself settled and ready for work. There are many things to consider before you apply for a job. Are you a doctor or nurse who will need to be registered with the GMC or NMC to practise? If English isn’t your first language, have you checked that your CV is translated well enough for UK employers? Will you need a work visa? Do you have somewhere to live, if only temporary? Have you researched potential employers and job roles in the area you want to move to? Doing a fair bit of preparation before you start applying for jobs will make the process far easier.

If you’re a talented professional who is keen to work in the UK, then take the time to plan your move properly, and get your timing right when it comes to applications and subsequent interviews. Employers and recruiters won’t just reject applicants on the basis that they’re not British nationals or that they have been living and working overseas; they will reject applicants who don’t have the ability to start working on given dates, or applicants who don’t demonstrate that they are committed to living and working in the UK long-term.


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