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Relocating to the UK as a Software Developer

Hello, I’m Adam, I run IDinLondon / ABrecruit I’ve recruited software developers since 2005, and in that time have dealt with many people who (for one reason or another) have decided to relocate to London and find a new tech job.

One of the things that lots of people tell me is that they can find plenty of articles about relocating to London, but none that are really focused on relocating if you are a software developer, so I thought I’d put together some thoughts to help you, broken down into easy sections.

Money

So, first and foremost it is important to save some money up before coming here to London – many people will look to rent a room in a shared house when they first arrive (websites such as Rightmove or Primelocation are valuable here) and you’ll need to sign some form of lease for the 1st few months and pay some money up front. Depending on which part of London you would like to live in you are likely looking at somewhere in the region of £100-£200 per week for the room. When you factor in things such as food and travel you will need to ensure that you have plenty of money saved up. In the UK most companies will pay you (as a permanent employee) on a monthly basis, and you’ll need to work at least a few weeks before you get paid into your bank account (another thing that you will need to arrange!). For instance if you start working in a company on January 1st you likely won’t receive any pay until January 31st.

CV / Resume

We call it a CV, some people call it a resume. Whatever you call it, you are likely going to need to tailor it for the UK market. You can see the details from a recent talk that I gave here to assist people in tailoring their CVs to the UK market.

What is required here in the UK is something that really sells you as an individual and shows the potential recruiter and/or client the skills you have, and how that will fit into their organization. I’ve found that in many countries you don’t necessarily write a CV that sells you – instead someone will know that you worked for ‘X Company’ and you were a software developer, so you must be good. No. We don’t work that way here in the UK, you need to sell your skills and talk about the type of technical skills you have not only used, but also would like to be working with in the future.

A major difference that you will likely notice from the UK market to your home market is that London is very ‘recruiter’ focused (see www.abrecruit.com for instance). I’ve heard that in Brazil for instance it is quite normal to only receive around 5 calls to get a job – in London just because you have had 50+ phone calls does not necessarily equate to getting close to a job. When speaking with the recruiters you must state exactly the technical role you are looking for because quite often we work vertical markets – for instance, I hire for C# developers.

Interview Process

The interview process in the UK is somewhat of a minefield. It is tough to explain as every company is different and will administer their own tests, but you should expect something along the lines of:

1. CV screen (with either a recruiter or HR manager)

During this stage they will be getting to know you and find out things such as salary levels required and what your availability is. This will be carried out on the telephone.

2. Telephone Technical Test

At this stage you will be speaking with the line manager for the role, and will be asked a number of technical (sometimes easy, often tricky!) questions which are deigned to understand what your level of ability is.

3. Practical Technical Test

This will be either delivered via an email where you complete the test in your own time, or you will be invited to the office to carry the test out. This is a further stage in investigating your technical skills.

4. Face to Face interview

During this part of the process you will actually meet the line manager(s) and team members that you are to be working with. You get a chance to ask them about their development processes and the types of tools that you will use. It’s highly likely that they will set you up with some form of ‘paired programming’ exercise where you will talk with another developer whilst carrying out the coding exercise.

5. 2nd Face to Face interview

Sometimes there may be further people that you need to speak with (IT Manager / CTO / Director), in which case a further interview will be carried out.

6. Offer stage

You will receive a call or email from the company (or recruiter) to offer you the position. Most often positions are not held open for a few weeks for you to decide – by the time you have been through the above interview process you should know if this is the job for you or not.

Salary Levels

Make sure that you know your salary levels. A great starting point is www.itjobswatch.com, where you can see the type of salary that jobs with your skills are being advertised at over the last 3 months. I’d advise that you cross-check these salary levels with adverts on www.monster.co.uk or www.jobsite.co.uk as they have a lot of the IT jobs in the market at the current time.

I specialize in recruiting for .Net developers, and you can break the levels down quite easily:

  • 0 – 2 yrs experience – £20k-£30k
  • 2-4 yrs experience – £30k-£40k
  • 4-6 yrs experience – £40k-£50k
  • 6+ yrs experience – £50k+

The working day

So, from my conversations with a few developers who have relocated here (particularly the ones from Brazil!) the working day here is very different, especially when you consider hours worked and lunch breaks. In the UK there once was a tradition for people to work ‘9 to 5’ but in the tech scene that really isn’t the case any longer – most employers are happy to offer either ‘flexi’ or ‘semi-flexi’ time in order to attract great talent. If you’re a morning person and want to work 7-4 then why not? If you want to work 10-7 then that can also be accommodated.

Lunch breaks are the other thing to bear in mind. Here it is quite unusual to have a company where all staff stop working at 12pm and go to lunch for 1 hour. You are generally free to take your lunch at any time between 11.30-2.30, some people go to the gym, some go out to lunch, others just eat at their desks and don’t really take a break at all.

For developers you must also bear in mind that a lot of the time you will be responsible for the company website (especially in eCommerce) so working sometimes out of hours to deploy updates during quite periods is quite normal.

Finding a job whilst abroad

Whilst it does happen, I would advise that trying to secure a job before moving here to the UK is extremely difficult – if you’re dead set on moving to the UK then I’d highly advise that you save up, book a ticket, say your farewells and jump on a plane.

 

*Disclaimer – everything in this article is purely based on my personal thoughts, please do not take everything written here as exact facts (such as salary levels), the idea is to give lots of ideas for you if you would like to relocate.

8 Comments

  1. Rodrigo Laranjo 3 years ago

    I don’t know if it fits on your article, but talking to some developers I noticed also that London is more ‘front-end based’ than ‘back-end’. The positions are in general related to B2C products, like websites, eCommerce and phone apps. Of course there are SQL Server or Oracle roles and other back-end/in-company focused roles, but usually these people have more problems to find a job here.

  2. Tullio 3 years ago

    Great article.
    I must stress that the interview process is very different from the Italian one. The technical interview is not just a soft talk, it’s a continuous flow of questions set to understand exactly how technical you are. Another thing that is often evaluated is your involvement with the community. Read books, get involved in open source projects, go to meetups…
    I must disagree with the previous comment, there are a lot of back end positions, especially in the Java world. There is actually a shortage of good developers.
    Least but not last… there is a lot of money in IT. As Adam said, it’s not uncommon to get 50k+… but don’t think that you will be rich :) London is damn expensive!!!

  3. Mieczyslaw 3 years ago

    Another important thing when moving to London is setting a bank account – it may be quite tricky if the company does not have a deal with a branch – banks want some proof of address and as long as many room rent contracts are oral only and include all the bills, you won’t have any real proof of living at the given address.

  4. Pedro 3 years ago

    Nice article. My biggest hurdle was opening a bank account. Getting a NIN took a few weeks as well.

  5. Manuel 3 years ago

    I would just add I simple suggestion.
    Prepare your hypothetical interview in English, don’t let your lack in English skill to affect your tech skill.
    Consider that before going for an interview, try to interview your self in the best way possible and each time you have doubt about the language go and clarify it and make it your!
    A misunderstanding could lead you to a correct answer but for a different question, and that could be read as a way to avoid replying something you don’t know.

  6. Author
    Adam Bolton 2 years ago

    Appreciate all of the comments; looks like this is the most read article on our website.

    – Adam.

    • György 2 years ago

      It’s a great post with exactly the type of culture related background info that I was hoping to find. Thank you Adam!

  7. Narasiman Ramachandran 11 months ago

    Have read many blogs in the net but have never come across such a well written blog. Good work keep it up.

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