Purpose: Embedded in higher educational settings, work-integrated learning (WIL) is a key reflection to students’ perceived employability. The purpose of this study is to explore the antecedents of internal and external perceived employability. The research attempts to test a theoretical model examining the relationships among human capital, work values, career self-management, internal perceived employability and external perceived employability. Design/methodology/approach: Data were collected from 588 students who have internship experience from two self-financing higher education institutions in Hong Kong. We adopted structural equation modelling (SEM) to test the proposed research hypotheses. Findings: Results support the idea that human capital and intrinsic work values are significant antecedents of perceived employability. Furthermore, this relationship is fully mediated by career self-management. The implications of the findings for understanding the process through which psychological variables affect an individual’s perceived employability are discussed. Originality/value: Previous studies have extensively examined the effectiveness of WIL in increasing graduates’ employability. However, unclear focus has been given to examine psychological attributes, such as human capital, work values and career self-management in WIL. In addition, few researchers have empirically examined the linkages among human capital, work values, career self-management and employability through internships or WIL experiences. Therefore, to bridge these gaps, the present study examines the effect of human capital, work values and career self-management on students’ perceived employability when gaining internships or WIL experiences in a higher education setting.