My next move: UK experience of diversity

I relocated from South Africa to the UK about 18 months ago and I have sent CV after CV into the market, but I am yet to be invited for an interview. I have worked in retail, investment banking, one of the big four management consultancies and one of the two biggest oil companies in the world. Most of these roles were at strategic level with board interaction. Most of my experience is in diversity – I was involved in the crafting of South Africa’s Employment Equity Act. But while many UK companies grapple with diversity issues, the feedback I get is that my experience would be irrelevant. How can I convince potential employers of the contribution I could make?

We see a number of candidates from South Africa, Australia and New Zealand who are highly qualified but have no UK experience. Employers are understandably fussy about local experience, particularly when it comes to UK employment law, which is their main concern. Don’t be disheartened – firms are just as stringent with UK employees.

There must be an organisation that could benefit from your experience. Consider doing the following:

  • Ensure you tailor your CV so that your experience in diversity is most prominent. Make sure the terms you use are familiar in the UK (for example, diversity is sometimes known as ’employment equity’ in other countries).
  • Include a couple of lines of profile at the head of your CV, introducing yourself as a diversity specialist involved in crafting South Africa’s Employment Equity Act, before listing your work experience.
  • Focus on applying for diversity-related roles rather than HR generalist roles. You would be ideal for a diversity policy role or a diversity resourcing role.
  • Sign up for a course on UK employment law or diversity legislation – the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development offers programmes in these areas.
  • Target companies you’ve worked for in South Africa that have offices in the UK, if you haven’t already.
  • Join HR networking groups to build up your own contacts so you’re not reliant on recruitment agencies.
  • If you can manage it financially, volunteer for work experience in a relevant organisation to get some UK work experience on your CV. This will gain you some valuable exposure to the UK employment market.

Mark Carriban
Managing director,
HR Recruitment Business

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