How South Africans can find a job in the UK

The UK is one of the best places in the world to gain top-notch international work experience, according to Sable International immigration specialist, Leanne Shrosbree, who noted that finding a job in such a competitive job market can be tough if you don’t have the right know-how.

“If you’ve just moved to the UK and are looking to find work, these are the steps you’ll need to take to secure yourself a position in the UK job market,” she said.

National Insurance 

According to Shrosbree, the first step is obtaining a National Insurance number.

“It’s mandatory for everyone seeking UK employment to have a National Insurance (NI) number. Your NI number ensures that you’re not taxed more than you should be and that you’re paying the right amount of National Insurance contributions. If you don’t get your number before your first pay day, then any money you earn will be taxed at a very high rate,” she said.

“What’s more, most potential employers may not be willing to hire you without an NI number. So, it’s important that you apply for one as soon as you arrive in the UK.”

The DIY route vs seeking help

According to Shrosbree you can choose to apply for a job yourself by calling the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to arrange your Evidence of Identity interview with a local Jobcentre Plus.

You will also have to find out which documents you need and get them yourself, she said.

“At your interview, it is vitally important that you bring the correct documentation, otherwise you could end up having your application refused. This will mean that you will have to start the application process again.

“It can take anywhere between four to eight weeks from the date you appear for an interview before you receive your NI number. This means that if you’ve already started working, you will pay the higher tax rate while you wait to receive your number.”

Alternatively, you can opt to use a service that will do everything for you, said Shrosbree .

“This is especially useful if you’re a newcomer and don’t know your way around your new city. It will also save you a lot of time and money in the long run.

“When you apply for your NI number using our NI number service, we take care of all the admin and assist with any queries you may have. We will make all the calls, arrange for your interview and liaise with the DWP until you receive your number. With our service, you should expect to receive your NI number within four to six weeks.

“To ensure you have all you bases covered, we can also help you get a UK bank account. With our 1st Contact UK Relocation Package, you’ll also receive an international SIM card, a free wealth consultation, a free international money transfer and travel discounts, in addition to setting up a UK bank account for you.”

Get your CV ready

If you moved to the UK without an offer of employment, you’ll want to make sure that your CV is up-to-date and highlights the key skills that will make you stand out from the rest of the applicants, said Shrosbree .

“If your CV exists online, such as on your own personal website or on LinkedIn, it’s important these versions are updated too and consistent with the one you’ll be sending out.”

Below she outlined some things to consider when prepping your CV for the UK job market:

  • Make sure to include your contact details such as your full name, home address, contact number and email address;
  • Check that your CV is in the correct format;
  • List and date all your education in reverse chronological order;
  • List all your work experience in reverse chronological order and make sure you include experience that’s relevant for the industry you want to work in;
  • Mention any languages you may speak (other than English);
  • Make sure to mention that you’re eligible to work in the UK;
  • Your CV shouldn’t be longer than two A4 pages;
  • Make sure that there are no spelling errors.

Sending your CV to a recruitment agency

In the UK, most candidates apply for jobs via recruitment agencies, as opposed to directly applying to companies’ personnel departments, explained Shrosbree.

“So, if you don’t use a recruiter, it will be much harder to find employment, if not impossible.

“That being said, it doesn’t mean that if you’ve sent your CV to a recruitment agency you can expect to be flooded with interview requests. You’ll need to ensure that you send your CV to the relevant recruitment agencies and that your CV gets noticed.

“Generally, recruiters like to know that you are legally allowed to live and work in the UK. They may request that you provide them with proof of this.”

When you get a response from a recruiter, it’s a good idea to act on it quickly and arrange to meet them as soon as possible, she said.

She added that you can also take initiative and conduct your own job search. Below she outlined some of the most popular job websites right now:


The interview

Once you’ve landed an interview, Shrosbee said it was important to research the company and your role thoroughly.

“Check out their online profiles, learn about the company’s history and their services and offerings. The more you know about the company, the better you’ll be equipped to structure your answers favourably and impress your interviewer with your in-depth company knowledge,” she said.

She added that it important to have all your documents in order (including your passport and portfolio) and, if possible, research popular questions for your role and industry.

“Try to arrive at least 10 minutes early. Never, ever, be late. If you do run even just a few minutes late, always notify the person with a phone call,” she said.

“It’s always better to overdress than underdress. So, keep it professional, even if your industry has a more relaxed dress code.

“In the interview, speak clearly and answer questions honestly and give explanations. Use your experience, skills and personal traits to motivate why you are the stronger candidate for the position. Be confident and friendly.”

Read: The 3 most popular countries for South Africans to emigrate to – and how much a house costs

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How South Africans can find a job in the UK