Job Hunting in the UK vs. USA
One of the aspects of US to UK immigration I’m asked about most frequently is the differences in recruiting and hiring. Overall, I think most Americans will find the process similar to hiring in the United States. That said there are a few key differences that you should be aware of.
Hiring in the UK takes longer
Americans move fast. It’s just a cultural truth. We can also be impatient, which isn’t surprising! We live in a country where shops are open sometimes 24 hours a day, the 9 to 5 is a long-dead myth, and where the customer is always right. As a result, we expect things to happen quickly and on our terms, but the UK moves a little slower, and hiring is no exception.
There are a couple of reasons why the hiring process in the UK takes longer. One is what I mentioned above about the overall difference in pace, but the more significant reason is that workers have more rights in the UK.
Worker rights in the US vary from state to state, but generally speaking, when comparing the termination process, it’s much easier to fire an employee in the US than it is in the UK. So it only makes sense that employers want to thoroughly interview and vet a potential hire before extending an offer, rather than the buy-it-then-try-it approach that US employers sometimes take.
Furthermore, notice periods tend to be a bit longer in the UK than in the US. In most of my US jobs, I typically gave between two weeks and one month’s notice to employers, mostly as a courtesy. In my employment contracts here in the UK, notice periods are specified and range from one to three months. So from an employer's perspective, they may have plenty of time to find a replacement for a departing team member.
Finally, if your company runs background checks as a part of their hiring process, as an immigrant, you can expect that yours will take longer. Your employer or their vendor will likely have to run additional checks on you based on your time in the US. In my previous job, I was asked to provide additional information nearly a month after I started!
Networking vs. Certifications
It is oft-touted by American college career counselors that: “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” As a people-pleasing extrovert who got every job for 10 years via networking, it was a shock to me to learn that approach doesn’t really apply here in the UK.
I’m not saying networking in the UK is useless. In my experience, it’s still a valuable pursuit (perhaps even more so for immigrants trying to build a new professional network from scratch) that can open doors, but it’s not going to weigh as much on the outcome of securing an offer.
Interviewing well is just as important in the UK as it is in the US, but you will notice more of an emphasis on having formal certifications to back up your skills. In my opinion, US employers can be swayed by the amount of self-reported skills that you have developed from on-the-job experience, while UK employers want to see more evidence and are likely to offer a role to a candidate that has less experience but also has a certification from an accredited body to back that experience up. I have quite literally crammed for certifications and received job offers despite having no formal work experience utilizing that skill!
Resume vs. CV
It may sound a bit daunting to adapt your American-style resume to the more commonly used CV for a UK job market, but immigrants from the US can rest assured that the documents themselves are nearly identical in format.
What the Brits call a CV is basically the same format and concept as a resume. Where the confusion comes in is because a CV in the United States is a long-form resume typically only used in academic circles. Rather than highlighting a snapshot of tailored experience, an academic CV covers the entirety of an academic’s career.
There are only a handful of changes you need to make to your resume to make it more appealing to a UK employer:
- Write your CV with British spellings and grammar
Though a handful of UK companies may write in American English, most will expect you to write using British spelling rules. Sending a CV written in American English is likely to land you straight into the “rejected” pile.
If you’ve made your original resume in Microsoft Word, there’s an easy way to change your spellings from American English to British English. On the Review tab, click Language, then click on Set Proofing Language and change it from English (United States) to English (United Kingdom). From there, just review the suggested changes.
Want to read more about spelling differences between American and British English? Here’s a nice introductory article about some key ones.
2. Change your opening statement or “objective” to a “personal statement”
There isn’t really a difference between your objective and the personal statement that UK employers expect to see on your CV.
The purpose is the same and it usually comes at the top of your CV to give employers a brief overview of you and your professional goals.
3. Do not mention your nationality or visa status
I used to think this point was quite obvious, but I get asked about it all the time! Do not put anything on your CV about your nationality or visa status!
The goal here is not to deceive a potential employer. In fact, hiring managers are smart enough to note that you attended a US college or have significant work experience in the US. The point is you don’t want to go out of your way to draw attention to it.
Your intent may be to exhibit transparency or to be upfront with a potential employer, but given the hoops that employers have to jump through to hire non-UK citizens, highlighting your nationality or visa status may cause an employer to rule you out despite your qualifications.
Larger employers whose websites have online applicant portals will likely ask questions about your status, but with any employer, I recommend you only bring it up when it becomes clear that an offer is likely.
I know people who have gone into employment discussions by immediately asking “will you sponsor my visa?” and are disappointed when that employer never calls them back. Think about it: it’s about as subtle as going on a first date and asking about engagement rings. Be smart. Dazzle the hiring team so much that if you require a visa, they’ll be glad to offer it to you.
I hope you found these tips helpful! If you have any other questions about differences in employment or immigration in the UK, please ask away!