COVID-19’s impact on jobs for international students

These really are unusual times – even we are trying to navigate the unprecedented situation and predict what will happen with the facts that we have now.

But the truth is, we are still in the middle of the crisis.

No one can say for sure what will happen to the graduate job market in the UK. However, there are definitely trends we are already seeing.

Here are the top questions we have been asked most often over the past few weeks.

  1. Will there be any graduate jobs available in September?
  2. Are UK companies pausing all recruitment?
  3. What is going to happen to the job market and to the UK economy?
  4. Will it be even more difficult now to secure a Tier 2 visa?

Grad Careers Coach consists of an expert team of Graduate Recruiters who work across the Professional Services, Banking, Engineering and IT sectors.

Based on what our Coaching team is experiencing and the insights of experts such as the ISE (Institute of Student Employers), I’d like to share these findings with you, and provide answers to your questions.


  1. Will there be any Tier 2 graduate jobs available now?

There are lots of variables to consider when answering this question.

Some companies will be more affected by COVID-19 than others, which will have a direct impact on their recruitment.

Companies whose employees are able to work well remotely are continuing to operate as normal, and will take on new graduates in September as planned.

Current evidence shows that many large, international companies –– who are the biggest sponsors of the Tier 2 visa – are continuing to hire. These companies view COVID-19 as an inconvenience, rather than a threat to their existence.

Kate Croucher, who manages recruitment at FDM group, says “we typically hire about 1000 graduates a year and since the COVID-19 crisis hit the UK, we have had around 70 new starters into the business.”

They prepared to move their recruitment process online before lockdown, and so far it has been successful.

Large companies, like FDM Group, will have to alter their recruitment process slightly, but not significantly.

Already their first stages are online, for example, the application form, psychometric test and video interview.


Countries such as China and Singapore are seeing lower numbers of new cases, this could be a positive indication that the UK should be in a similar position by the next recruitment cycle.


2. Are UK companies pausing all recruitment?


The immediate effect we’ve seen is companies cancelling Spring and Summer internship placements, work experience, and other types of short time hires.

Despite this, we’ve seen many firms offering virtual internships instead.

In addition, we’ve seen an increase in micro-internships that enable students to complete bite size projects, and build relationships with employers.


Number of Jobs Available

One indicator is looking at the number of job postings.

Over the last 2-3 weeks there has been a 15% fall in the number of job posts, which is likely to continue.

Interestingly, even though London has the highest number of COVID cases in the UK, it’s less affected because it has a lot more professional employment that is more flexible and manageable.

In terms of graduate jobs, there are some companies who are pausing or deferring recruitment, but not all.


Large vs Small Employers

Larger companies who are operating as normal continue to recruit fresh graduate talent this year.

If employers know that they are going to continue to grow in the future, then they need a pipeline of talent.

Large, multinational companies are much more resilient, meaning they are better placed to recover quickly from this current crisis. They will not experience the same struggles as small businesses or SMEs.

Large companies have:

  • the technology in place to continue to operate. Many already have sophisticated online networks and in-house technological resources. Working from home is commonplace for these types of firms, and has been for some time.
  • the resources to continue recruitment. They already depend on technology and software to screen applications, and already use video interviews to assess candidates.

One area that has changed is the Assessment Centre. Instead of hosting an AC on site, these are moving online using software such as Zoom.

Smaller companies will have smaller cash flows and resources.

It is therefore more likely that it is SMEs, who have had to shut down large parts of their business, who will be pausing their recruitment.


Louise Farrar, PwC Director of Student Recruitment based in Leeds, talks about how they have onboarded new graduates, and successfully managed to move their process online.

3. What is going to happen to the job market and to the UK economy?

Predicting what will happen in the next few months or years is tricky. What is certain, is that the longer lockdown continues, the more the UK economy and the job market will be affected.

Some sectors will be more affected than others.

Naturally, the Retail and Hospitality sectors will be hit hardest, where there’s less of an opportunity to work from home and move operations online.

Professional Services, Technology and Healthcare are recruiting as normal, some companies are even increasing the number of job opportunities available.

For current international students, learning how to work in a remote environment could be hugely beneficial.

It’s predicted the trend of working remotely will continue.


The UK Economy: Predictions

Economists are talking about the economy following a V shape, there will be a deep dip followed by a sharp rise and recovery.

There is talk that we will recover much more quickly from COVID-19 than we did compared to the 2008 financial crisis.

The positive news is that the government response has been quick. Furlough schemes will hopefully go a long way to keep businesses going. Once lockdown lifts, these businesses should start to thrive again.

Duncan Brown, Senior Economist at Emsi UK, says:

The potential for a more V-shaped recovery this time compared to say the last recession is a lot better.”

“That was a very elongated recovery. Whereas with this one, yes there will be lots of unpleasantness, unemployment, and businesses that can’t make it, but in macroeconomic terms actually most of the fundamentals of the economy are recoverable.

4. Will it be even more difficult now to secure a Tier 2 visa?

It will be just as difficult to secure a Tier 2 visa in the UK.

The process of securing Tier 2 sponsorship BEFORE COVID-19 was not easy, and this is unlikely to change.

The good news is that there will be fewer job applications made as British students are worried about the current crisis and what it means for employment. Many will decide to apply next year instead. Many international students will want to return home as soon as the lockdown lifts, and some already have.

All of this means there is less competition for you. This is the right time for you to apply.

It’s important to remember that now more than ever, the skills and experiences of students like you will be crucial to the economy.

Our advice to international students like you is even more important than before.

You must have a clear job strategy.

Apply to the companies who actively hire international students and who are able to sponsor your Tier 2 visa. These large, multinational companies want to hire exceptional talent.

Getting a job at these top companies requires knowledge of the industry, the job role and the recruitment process.

This is where we can help you.


We believe every international student is different.

To find out your individual chances, take our FREE assessment now:

Free Assessment > What are your chances of securing a Tier 2 graduate job?


Written by Anika Awasthi, the founder of Grad Careers Coach.

Sources: ISE podcasts “COVID-19’s impact on Student Jobs” and “Moving Assessment Centres online.”

(Please note these are all predictions based on the current situation. In a few weeks and months we will have a much better idea of the future of graduate recruitment).

One response to “COVID-19’s Impact on Jobs for International Students”

  1. […] businesses especially have continued relying on the international graduate market according to recent insights, demonstrating the huge value of this talent […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *