How to find a UK IT job – your essential job search guide
Your essential guide to finding an IT job in the UK
In this blog post, we answer our most frequently asked questions on how to find a UK IT job. We will cover:-
- Current demand for IT jobs in the UK – and is it worth coming during Brexit uncertainties?
- Where is the best place in the UK to find work?
- What kind of UK work visas are available?
- Can you find work before you arrive in the UK?
- How easy is it to find work? – including an overview of the UK job search process
- Where to look for jobs
- Contracting vs. permanent – which is best for you?
What is the demand for IT jobs in the UK right now?
Don’t let the uncertainties surrounding Brexit put you off coming to the UK right now – there’s plenty of great work opportunities available.
The UK’s employment rate continues to stay at its highest level since records began and many organisations are struggling to fill roles, particularly in areas such as IT. This is amplified by the fact that companies will always need to invest in IT infrastructure as technology continues to advance at an ever-increasing pace.
As reported in the press, IT Engineers are the fastest growing jobs in the UK. They outstrip every other profession with over 33% more roles than the previous year. Demand is soaring for IT professionals with the following skills: Developers (all types), Cyber Security, Computer Systems Analysts, Data Scientists, Cloud Engineers, VR Developers, Database Administrators, Business Intelligence Analysts, and DevOps Engineers.
Where is the best place to find IT jobs in the UK?
For the best opportunities, most people choose to find work in London or the South East as most blue-chip companies, media organisations and financial institutions have their headquarters within the Greater London area. London is also a great place to get some really valuable experience on your CV. However, competition is fierce and it can be expensive to live there – although your pay will usually offset this.
But if London is not your thing, there is high demand for many IT roles (particularly in Software Development) in other vibrant UK cities such as Bristol, Birmingham and Manchester.
What kind of visa do I need to work in the UK?
There are several visa options for working in the UK.
UK Working Holiday Visa
Many Kiwis, Aussies and Canadians take advantage of the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa. It’s also available to citizens of Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, Korea and Taiwan.
Eligible to anyone under 31, this one time visa lets you work in any job anywhere in the UK, for up to 2 years. This is ideal if you’re wanting to make the most of your OE and combine work with travel.
Although some people choose casual temp jobs, IT professionals can earn great money contracting, and advance their careers in the process. Contracts are typically 3-6 months but often get extended. If you fancy giving contracting a go, we can help you get set up and find work quickly.
UK Ancestry Visa
If one of your grandparents was born in the UK, you are eligible to work in the UK for 5 years. After which, you may be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. This is therefore ideal if you wish to make a longer term commitment to living in the UK.
UK Tier 2 Sponsorship Visa
If you are a skilled IT professional who is over 30, or you have already completed your Tier 5 visa, you may consider finding a company to sponsor you. Generally, you need at least 4 years’ experience in a specific area that an employer cannot fill with people from the UK/ EU.
For a company to sponsor you, they will need to have a government issued sponsorship licence. This can be costly and lengthy to set up, so sometimes they will employ you via an intermediary who has a licence.
UK IT Careers works with companies who hold a Tier 2 sponsorship licence and we are currently seeking Software Developers. Please see our sponsorship page if you’d like to know more.
EU Passport Holders
As of September 2019, you can still arrive and work legally in the UK on an EU passport. As the 31st October Brexit deadline looms, we expect there are many European IT professionals contemplating their fates. Like everyone else, we can’t predict what’s going to happen. However, given the high demand for skilled IT professionals, it’s likely a reasonable solution will be created quickly so that skilled Europeans can continue to immigrate to the UK.
Can I find work before I arrive?
In theory, yes you can. Particularly if you are applying for a permanent, and highly specialised hard-to-fill role. However, be mindful that there is often a lot of competition for UK jobs. Employers will usually prefer to fill roles by local candidates who they can meet and get in to interview quickly. Many companies use recruiters who will often have a list of preferred candidates to put forward.
If applying for a contract job, it is almost impossible to secure a role before you arrive as employers often want someone who can start immediately. Also, the best roles are very rarely advertised as they get snapped up by those already known to the recruiter or those actively job hunting in the UK. It’s best to find work when you arrive with the help of a contract specialist such as ourselves who can steer you in the right direction and find the best roles.
How easy is it to find an IT job in the UK?
This depends on what kind of role you are looking for, and whether or not you want a role that advances your career or just a stop gap job before you go travelling. Most people want to make the most of their London experience, so putting in the effort to find a job can really pay off.
Given the high demand for IT staff, it’s probably not too hard to find work if you have the right experience. However, if you’re not familiar with the local job market, you may miss out on the best jobs. It’s also often tempting to take the first job you’re offered. But it pays to do your homework and find out what opportunities are out there and exactly how much you could earn. You stand a much better chance for success if you are well prepared.
You may find the UK IT job market much more competitive than you’re used to, especially if you’re coming from a smaller country such as New Zealand. The recruitment process is usually pretty formal with many hoops to go through (however less so for contract roles). Big firms will have HR teams to screen and interview candidates.
Be prepared for roles to be more specialised, especially if you’re applying to larger companies. This can offer some great opportunities to develop your career in a specific area. You’ll need to re-tune your CV for every role you apply for to make sure you highlight the most relevant skills for the job. Developing a good technical CV will help you stand out and present your experience in the best way to potential employers. We offer CV assistance to all our candidates.
When is the best time to find a UK IT job?
It’s possible to find work from mid January through to mid November.
January is a great time to get your ducks in a row by researching the IT job market and polishing your CV. Some employers may be looking for people to start early in the year, but things start warming up significantly in February and March.
Budgets generally get renewed in April making the few weeks that follow the busiest IT recruitment window. Things quieten a little in July and August as people take holidays but there are still some great opportunities around.
September and October are also peak months as employers want to recruit IT staff prior to Christmas and get projects underway to meet end of year deadlines.
Recruitment pretty much shuts down from mid November to mid January. We therefore don’t recommend arriving at this time if you need to find a UK IT job straight away. However it’s a perfect time to enjoy the UK’s festive culture in the run up to Christmas 🙂
Where is the best place to look for UK IT jobs?
Please see our previous post on How to Conquer The UK Job Market. This provides insight into the UK job search process, and how to get the most out of job sites and UK recruiters. You may not be aware that there are over 11,000 IT Recruiters in the UK and not one agency has any more than 1% market share. As a result you can often waste your time talking to people who can’t help you or who don’t have your best interests at heart. It’s a good idea to talk to people who can give advice on the best recruiters for your IT speciality.
Finding the right role often takes a lot of networking and for that, it’s best to be physically in the UK. The market is probably much different than in your home country, so it’s good to get a feel for what kinds of roles exist and where you might fit in. So if you can, arrive with at least 6 weeks to find a job (longer if looking for a permanent role) and be prepared to put in the hard work.
In terms of places to look, online job boards and LinkedIn are great online resources. But the majority of contracts (and normally the best ones) are not advertised. These will come from building relationship with the right people who are recruiting in your area. Our candidates tend to find work quickly through relationships we have built up over the past 20 years.
Contracting or permanent?
Permanent jobs are good if you’re looking to be part of a company culture and want security and long term career development. You’ll also get statutory benefits including a pension and paid leave, and potentially other benefits such as private healthcare.
However, some permanent roles might be harder to get if you’re on a two year Tier 5 working holiday visa. This is particularly prevalent with strategic and customer relationship roles because employers often prefer candidates who can make a longer term commitment. Some companies may be able to sponsor you to stay longer. However the sponsorship process is lengthy and costly for employers and not guaranteed.
Contracting is ideal if you want to combine work with travel, and want to earn good money quickly. Contractors are also often favourable to employers in uncertain times. You’ll need to be fairly adaptable and enjoy working independently as you’ll be working on diverse projects in a range of different working environments. If you have the right skills and attitudes, the rewards can be immense, and as you become established in the market contracts become easier to find.
In addition to the financial benefits, contracting is a great way to develop your skills and rapidly advance your career. As contractors are self-employed, career mentoring is often useful to help make the most of their UK work experience and achieve their career goals. You’ll also need to consider whether to set yourself up as a Limited Company and pay your own taxes, or use an Umbrella Company. As of April 2020, the government will be updating its IR35 tax legislation for contractors in the private sector. It’s worth getting advice from a contract specialist such as ourselves on what this could mean for you.
What opportunities would be right for me?
We can give you a free personalised career consultation over Skype or on the phone. We’d love to help so please get in touch.
Good luck with your job search!