Updated last year

Preparing for a job interview is a nerve wracking experience and when you add a different country into the mix there can be all sorts of unexpected hurdles along the way. Many expats learn as they go or seek advice from fellow expats living in their country, but to speed the process up a bit, here are some useful tips to get the most out of any UK job opportunity.

C.V and cover letter

C.Vs and cover letters differ in each country, and so it is wise to do your research about what is expected in a C.V and cover letter and how to adapt your current documents to the UK standard.


In general, there are a lot less rules for C.V.’s in the UK than in other countries. The main aim is to be clear and concise and make sure your relevant experience for the applicable job shines through. The basic guidelines are:

  • Find a professional and clear UK C.V. template and fill it in with your experience.
  • Put your personal details at the top of the page (full name, age, UK address, driving license, email, and phone number).
  • Speak about your previous 3-4 jobs. No employer wants to see every single job you’ve done in your lifetime, the most recent and relevant are best.
  • Explain what you did in each job in a concise and clear way. Bullet points are always a good way to get the message across.
  • If you haven’t had a lot of jobs, speak about any work experience, charity work, clubs you are part of – anything that can show your relevance for a job.
  • Look up the British or international version of any qualifications or previous job roles. It’s really important to localise your C.V and to never assume an employer will understand your wording or referencing from your country.

Cover letter

A cover letter acts as a descriptive introduction to your C.V. A cover letter can sometimes seem very daunting for non-native English speakers. However, there are a few tricks that you can use to help you write a good quality cover letter. Firstly, there are many good examples of cover letters online that you can use as a starting point and then build up and align to your C.V – this includes the layout and the wording. In addition, in the U.K there is a free national careers service that can help you find a job. They will also look at your C.V and cover letter to show you where you can improve.

Here are some top tips when writing your cover letter:

  • Find a cover letter template and work from the template.
  • Put your personal details on the top right hand side of the letter, in the same format as your C.V.
  • Your first paragraph is the most important so make sure that it introduces and encapsulates your cover letter.
  • Keep your C.V to one page and make sure that the most important information is always in the first quarter of the page to ensure that even if someone hasn’t read it all, they have read the essential.
  • Do not just repeat your C.V – your cover letter should be an introduction and summary that helps the reader focus on what you want to highlight in your C.V. Pick out your best experience and explain why this is relevant to the job you are applying for, suggesting that you are the best candidate.
  • Avoid waffling at all costs! Spend many edits trying to condense your writing down to key information. Remember it is about quality and not quantity.
  • Find a native Anglophone to proofread your English if you are a non-native speaker. You can also seek help from your local careers service.

How to apply for a job in the UK

Sending an email is probably the most accepted and normal way of applying for a job. In industries such as the hospitality industry it’s also normal to physically hand in your C.V and cover letter at the restaurant, bar or hotel. If you are trying to ascertain if a company is recruiting, you can also ring and enquire, which often provides a quicker and more engaged response than by email.

When you send a job application email, make sure that you include an introduction in the email, i.e. who you are, why you are contacting them and why you think you are relevant for the job. You can use your cover letter to find snippets and create a small paragraph. This ensures that even if the employer doesn’t read your cover letter, they have read your email and understand your experience and relevance before even opening your C.V. Also, don’t forget to think about your email subject and clearly state your intention – it is the first thing the employer sees and so very important.

Preparing for you interview in the UK

In the UK, interview styles range, however it is quite normal to have a 45-minute interview where 1-3 people will ask a series of questions about your profile and the job. Many companies have interview stages, so you may be asked to come back for a second and third interview. Some top tips for preparing for your interview are:

  • Research the company and the role: Spend some time looking up the company on their website or on reviews and press releases, and carefully study the information that they give you about the role to understand what they are looking for an adapt your responses accordingly. Ensure when the opportunity arises in the interview to show your knowledge about their company and the role.
  • Practice some generic answers: All employers generally ask the same question but word them differently. If you practice speaking about your experience, what you could bring to the role, the company, and what your attributes are, then you will be able to adapt this to the interview questions. There are also many practice questions online that you can prepare for before an interview. But don’t spend too much time on them as sometimes it can distract you and make you nervous about your memorising skills.
  • Practice your English: It is always a good idea to practice your English if you are a non-native English speaker. You can practice English in all walks of life by listening to music, films and the radio, or meeting up with friends or going to social events where you can speak English. Practicing your English pre-interview will help you feel more confident and ensure your spoken English isn’t letting down your interview technique.
  • Stay calm: Answer the questions in your own time – it is not a race to the finish line, it is a conversation, so there's no reason to feel like you are standing on trial. Be kind to yourself, and remember that you got the interview because your C.V is good enough for the role.
  • Repeat back the question: If you aren’t sure if you understood the question, repeat back how you understood it instead of assuming you did and taking the risk to give an irrelevant answer. For example, an employer asks ‘Do you have experience in this domain?’ If you are not sure which domain, instead of saying you don’t understand, ask the question differently ‘By domain, do you mean technical translations?’, they will either agree or reword their question to be more specific. It is an especially great shielding tool for non-native English speakers.
  • Let your personality show: Employers don’t just want a perfect C.V they want to see if you will fit in your future team, so remember to smile and to add a little personality to your answers which will help to single you out from the other candidates.
  • Always ask a question: At the end of an interview the employer will ask you if you have a question. It's important to always provide one! It shows you care about the position and are engaging. A good tip is to prepare some questions beforehand while you are researching the company or the role as a back-up in case you think of no questions during the interview. It is also great for you to be able to reflect on what you want out of the role and understand what you need from that job.
  • Speak about the wage carefully: Ensure it is never the first question you ask, as it can make you seem money oriented. But do mention it if didn’t come up, and it isn’t clear what the remuneration is.

Ask for feedback

After your interview, it is considered polite and professional to send an email thanking your interviewer for giving you the opportunity to discuss your C.V. It is also a great way to keep your profile in their mind and encourage them to contact you again. Send the thank you email either on the same day or if you haven’t heard anything from the company for more than five days, and you wish to know the status of your application.

If you don’t get the job, do not despair! Try and look at each interview as an opportunity to improve and don’t be scared to ask for feedback, which is a very normal thing to ask for in the UK. Receiving critical feedback is key to helping you concentrate on areas of improvement, so you are much more likely to get your next job opportunity.

You can also receive free and professional feedback on both your C.V and your cover letter from local career services representatives as well as online.

Happy Job Hunting!

Share any job stories or interview experiences below, we would be interested to hear your views!

 Useful Links

Free C.V template : www.monster.co.uk
Free Cover Letter Template : www.reed.co.uk
Free online C.V review : www.cvknowhow.com
National Careers Service : nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk
UK Job Search : www.gov.uk/jobsearch
Find an Apprenticeship : www.gov.uk/apply-apprenticeship
10 most frequently asked interview questions : www.jobsite.co.uk
Tips on practicing English : www.fluentu.com

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.