A Placement Officer's Checklist for International Students

A Guest Blog from Student Circus

We loved meeting the guys from Student Circus at our National Conference so much that we invited Tripti to write a guest blog. Student Circus is an online portal advertising jobs and internships from employers willing to sponsor the UK Tier 2 visa.


Hello and welcome to the inter-tangled weave of jobs, visa, work placements and work restrictions- faced by international students. Our job here, is to help you- placement officers- untangle this web, so that when an anxious international student comes knocking on the door you’re the one offering them a calming cup of tea- instead of needing one.

First things first, how are things looking?

While there is no sugar-coating the truth in this post-Brexit world, there’s no need for alarm just yet. Nearly four-fifths of the UK’s top graduate employers are offering paid work experience programmes for students and recent graduates during the 2017-2018 academic year- providing a total of 12,849 places (Fliers, 2018).

The biggest growth in vacancies is expected at accounting & professional services firms, public sector organisations and engineering & industrial companies which together intend to recruit over 750 extra graduates in 2018 (ibid).

However, these do not distinguish between international and national students, and the differing challenges they face. Thus, at Student Circus we filter these opportunities from firms who are not only licensed, but willing to hire international students. The articles below help illustrate exactly how this millennial-conscientious makes its’ mark- and hits the target.

Top tips & tricks

-          The ‘right’ employer

There are close to 30,000 employers in the UK who can sponsor the Tier-2 work visa in the UK. This list is available here ( but before you see this – it could be misleading as the company might have got a license to sponsor at the CXO level not graduates. As an advisor, you must see that students focus on quality and not quantity- especially when employers are so selective.

Some employers have clearly told us that placements are their pipeline to hire for full time positions – so it’s better if intl’ students apply to the relevant employers. It’s in the interest of employer to hire them.

-          What are they bringing to the table?

This niche segment made it to another country to study, pat on the back as this is really an achievement. Other than the degree, they have certain soft skills they must highlight like adaptability, multi-lingual, self-motivated! You can read more about why employers should hire intl’ students here (

-          Take advantage of the ‘home network’

All these companies are looking to expand in the competitive market- intl’ candidates can provide the employer with the knowledge of an international business market through experience and contacts. Simply put they can identify and develop a new global market opportunity for them – it’s a tempting pitch!

-          Educate the employer

“I would love to hire an intl’ students but I need to do the Resident Labour Market Test :/” – NO, you don’t have to! This is the most common myth among employers & there are many more.

The rules are overwhelming for employers too and let’s be honest, after 2012 they are still transitioning. Your job is to make their life easier by giving them the right information or re-directing them to the right source. The simpler you make it, the higher are chances.

-          Time is a ticking bomb

Being on a constant time crunch of the student visa can be stressful. The best way to avoid this is by basic understanding of visa options from the very start which you can find here ( Start as soon as they are in the UK!

Lastly, they must not give up! It is very much possible to get a job in the UK – you just have to apply to the right employers. In 2016, more than 6000 were able to transfer to a work visa and the numbers are only going up. We at Student Circus are trying to make it simpler and it’s not impossible to get a work visa.


Tripti Maheshwari is a co-founder of Student Circus and recent Masters graduate of CASS Business School. Having been an intern for HSBC and Dropit Shopping she now brings her personal experience to international students looking for work in the UK.


Gender Inequality

Guest Blog post from Kathryn Foot

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few months, you’ll have noticed that the gender pay gap has been in the spotlight.  Gender Pay Gap Reporting is now mandatory for firms employing more than 250 people, the deadline has now passed and the results were not good.  Just over 10,000 companies submitted their findings ahead of the deadline and of those it was revealed that 78% pay men more than women, 14% pay women more and 8% said they had no gender pay gap, based on the median measure.  The median pay gap among all companies that have reported is 9.7%.  Some companied faired worse than others, but I am not here to name and shame, I want to start a discussion and look at solutions.

Now I know that these figures are not based on like-for-like jobs, and I know there has been much debate around this.  I am aware that the reason for the disparity is because there are more men in higher paid roles.  For example, the airlines that reported their findings stated it was because they had more male pilots, and of course pilots are paid more than cabin crew or those in office-based roles (where there are more females).  But ask yourself, is that OK? There are reasons for this.  Why is the industry NOT attracting more females?  How can this be addressed?

Let’s look at this in more detail, according to the equality charity Chwarae Teg, in Wales just 6% of CEOs in Wales’ top 100 firms are female and a survey by Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and XpertHR in 2017 revealed that women are more likely to fill junior management roles than men, (66% versus 34% of men), while 74% of director-level roles are occupied by men. However, even when women are in director-level positions they earn less on average, with men taking home £175,673, while women take home £141,529.   

Women are not getting to the top level jobs and earning those higher salaries (and when they do, there is clearly a gap).  Yet we all know that on average there are more females accessing higher education every year, and they are performing better than men. 



Women who go to university earn on average a higher wage than those women that don’t. So, what is happening after they leave education and enter employment?

Full Fact reveals some startling figures and is worth investigating.  It is interesting to see that the pay gap increases after 30 and for higher earners.  It is fair to assume that those higher earners will potentially be some of our graduates.

What impact have these findings had on female students?  I think it is important that we find out.  A recent survey by the career app Debut, proposes employers with the biggest pay gaps are seen as less attractive employers to graduates. And out of the 500 surveyed (granted it is a small pool) it found that a third of female graduates won’t apply to companies with high gender pay gaps and of those that do, over half are uncomfortable with their decision – some of those companies are the big grad recruiters that you work with. 

In my humble opinion the gender pay gap exists for many reasons, attitudes and perceptions stemmed from upbringing, poor career advice from a young age, access to education, social mobility to name but a few.  Which is why it is such a difficult subject to tackle, but it is being tackled and progress is being made, although not quick enough. 

Your students will look to you for advice, support and maybe inspiration, so give them that.  Let the women that you support know that they can achieve anything they want.

Working with students is a real privilege, I can say that having worked with them for over 14 years. You have the opportunity to shape the next generation of leaders. And you are so much more than a placement manager, or a careers adviser. You are a mentor and a role model, you are able to provide real opportunities that will push them, upskill them, shape them and set them on their future path.

As a careers educator I felt I had a responsibility to ensure that I prepared my students fully for their working life and to inspire them so they can truly be the best they can be.  We are with them for a short period compared to their time spent in school or work, but we can make a huge impact.

So what can we do?

·         When talking to graduate recruiters, start asking them about their equality and diversity policies, look at their stats – how many senior managers are male, how many are female?  What are they doing about the gap? Do they have family friendly policies such as shared parental leave?  We need to make sure we are representing students fairly and giving them the best chance.  We are all in this together and we have influence so let’s use it

·         Run events (face-to-face or online) focused around women in leadership and work with a varied pool of successful mums, CEOs, engineers, pilots, entrepreneurs so they have actual role models to look up to – do a little experiment, in your next one-to-ones, start asking your students who their female role models are – it’s a question many struggle to answer – yet women need powerful ‘sheroes’ to inspire success.

·         With that I mind, feature case studies of successful alumni from different backgrounds

·         Hold Q and As with on-campus recruiters that address these issues and can help alleviate fears

These are just a few ideas that I am sure many of you are already doing.  I would love to hear more so feel free to comment.

We are all in this together, males and females and we can really start to make a difference.


Kathryn Foot is a freelance career coach and trainer and a Learning Development Partner for the Welsh Equality Charity for Chwarae Teg. She is also a Non-Executive Director for the miFuture Foundation, a social enterprise on mission to help 100,000 young people in Wales prosper. Previously she was a trustee for Placenet, was Operations Director for Careercake and worked as a careers educator at Cardiff University for 14 years.


"Why haven't any students replied to my placement advert?"

Guest Post by Helyn Taylor

"Why haven't any students replied to my placement advert?", the employer asks. I sandwich the phone between my ear and shoulder and find the expired advert on our digital jobs board. Reading through, and continuing the conversation I try to avoid saying "because the advert wasn't very good" but sometimes it's the truth. 

There were only so many times I could have this same conversation before devising a pre-emptive strike. Here's what I now send to employers that aren't experienced in writing great adverts, to try to avoid the same situation happening in the future. 

"There’s nothing worse than writing an ad for a position you are hoping to fill, and then either not receiving any responses at all, or perhaps worse still, being inundated with applications from people who are completely unsuitable for the role.

"Writing a job ad is just like writing any advertisement; you need to know your target audience, address them in the language they understand, and offer them what they want. An effective job advert is not just a job description; it is a carefully crafted message, with the aim of attracting the best qualified candidates for your job.

"It can be helpful to think of your job ad like a funnel, where initially you are casting the net out wide to a broad audience. Then, as the readers make their way through your carefully crafted advertisement, they are either self-ejecting from the process, or they are mentally ticking all the boxes because they can actually picture themselves in the role.

Things to consider:

·         Keep it short and sweet; short sentences, bite-sized paragraphs, and bullet points work well when writing an advert. If it is too convoluted readers may lose interest.

·         Job titles - A job title is the shop window to an advert and the first chance to get people clicking, so keep it simple, and make it as appealing as possible, but also be clear and in no way mislead the reader.

·         Talk to the reader - avoid phrases like “the successful candidate” a great advert will have the reader imagining themselves doing the job so “you will be expected to …” can be much more effective.

And remember prospective employees aren’t just looking for monetary reimbursement, they are also looking for a great work life balance, job security, commitment to a cause, and to develop their skills in a dynamic and respectful work place - so don’t forget to include the many other benefits that your role can offer.

Helyn Taylor is an Employability Specialist at Swansea University, and a Co-opted Executive Board Member of ASET. 




A Game of Snakes and Ladders?

Last month, we were invited to pitch at SAP for our chance to be shortlisted for the ‘Most Improved Commitment to Employability’ category in the NUE Awards. Our pitch, as well as delivering the right statistics and information, needed to be both creative and engaging.

We decided to use the game Snakes and Ladders as a visual to illustrate how far we had come as a team and how much we have achieved, whilst also highlighting the challenges we had overcome. The game drew more parallels with placement activity than we had anticipated.

Snakes & Ladders is an ancient Indian board game, traditionally known as “Moksha Patam” and is associated with the Hindu philosophy of “Karma” (destiny) and “Kama” (desire). It teaches us to identify goals, keep our focus and no matter what happens that we must never give up. It also teaches us to accept the outcome and recognise that everything is temporary. This latter point is particularly true when in comes to the ever-changing world of careers.

The ladders represent success, achievement, satisfaction and commitment, whereas the snakes, failure and set back. I began to draw comparisons between this game and the Planned Happenstance career theory we use to underpin our work. The notion is that whilst the dice may be in your hand to play the game, the outcome does not always go as planned and whilst you may fail, you are still able to win the game with a little perseverance.

Our journey as a placement team so far has been one of both risk and reward. Historically, a very traditional research led Russell Group University, our focus lay elsewhere, however, over the last 3 years we have seen a major shift in both employability and the importance of placements.  During that time the placement team have managed to increase the number of students successfully securing placements by 242%. 

As we are a small team of four, we are constantly thinking of ways to solve problems and overcome challenges that will enable us to reach and support the increasing number of our students who are undertaking placements. These are just some of the ways we have played the game:

Getting along with others and taking turns.

We know we can’t do everything to reach our goals, and sometimes, we need to let others have their moment to shine. We strongly believe that collaboration with employers, students and academics to achieve targets is key to our success. This year we have co-delivered sessions with employers on modules we deliver, welcomed our returning students to create and deliver bespoke sessions for our central offer and presented with academic colleagues to highlight effective integration of placement activity in teaching and learning.

Acceptance that things may not always go your way.

This is about accepting what you are able to do and not getting too discouraged if you lack resources or are disadvantaged in some way. We recognise that as a northern university, it is not always possible for organisations based in the south to come and support all of our activity. This can create problems, especially when we are organising 312 mock interviews for our placement students across two days! As our numbers have grown, we have needed to accept that we are not going to place every student with a company of their choice in the Liverpool region. In response to this we invested in Sonru software. This meant that no matter where the company was located we could arrange for our students to engage with the organisation via video interviewing software. A game-changer for a university with a high proportion of Widening Participation students.


Resilience & persistence to keep going even when it looks like you can’t catch the competition.

In 2014/15 we launched Liverpool Interns, enabling 1st and 2nd year students to access weekly internship opportunities, bespoke workshops and 1-2-1 advice from the team. The aim was not only to provide support for students who are not on a formal placement module, but also to increase the competitiveness of our students when applying for 12-month placements in their second year. Currently we have 1628 students registered, and last year 68% of the students who we contacted from the project had found an internship. This increased engagement between our students and employers at an early stage has opened up relationships and opportunities with organisations we had previously never worked with.  

How to play the game.

It is also extremely important to understand the rules of the game and at the University of Liverpool we believe that training and sector knowledge is key to staying ahead. Professional bodies, such as PlaceNet and Aset provide excellent training, insights and conferences to up-skill teams in order to better support students. PlaceNet, even runs free masterclasses for those services with tight budgets.

No matter what the outcome of our NUE award nomination, we believe that our desire to support our students will always be at the centre of what we do and will keep us focused to achieve our goals, whatever destiny has in store.

Rachael Collins is Head of Placements at University of Liverpool, and a slave to her children. This article was first published in AGCAS' Phoenix Magazine