Writing a Cover Letter that Stands Out

Cover letters are often a client’s first introduction to an employer, and should always be included with a job application. Like the resume, tailor the cover letter to the position announcement. The goal of a cover letter is to entice an employer to review the client’s resume and to secure an interview.

Here are five tips on how to structure and write a cover letter that will lead to an interview:

  1. Start off on the right step

The header on the cover letter should be a replica of that on the resume. A matching header gives the two documents an added professional look. These two documents should be submitted together. Be sure to include the date, candidate’s name and contact information.

  1. The greeting

Avoid nameless salutations such as, dear sir. It might take a little research but finding the actual name of the position’s hiring manager will score major brownie points. Never start a cover letter with, ‘to whom it may concern,’

  1. The structure and body of the letter

Limit the letter to one page. Try to keep the cover letter to a maximum of three paragraphs. Keep it simple and clean, not cluttered. Structure your letter so that each part achieves a particular goal. Try not to use the same wording that is on the resume.

  • Paragraph 1: Have a strong opening statement that make it clear why the applicant wants the job and why he is right for it. Include the job title and how the candidate learned about the opening (e.g., company’s website, an employee referral, job search site).
  • Paragraph 2: Describe the candidate’s qualifications. A cover letter should show what she could bring to the company and the position. Give the job listing a careful read and see where the candidate’s experience best matches up. Then, reveal why the applicant is a perfect and unique match for the position. Explain why she has chosen the employer or job. Briefly summarize the applicant’s talents, experience, and achievements. Use specifics. For example:
    • Office manager cover letter: I currently serve as office manager for a busy financial services firm, (XYZ Company), where I supervise a team of 12 employees and coordinate all office functions. My strengths in improving office systems and building a top-performing clerical team have earned repeat commendations and formal recognition from the company CEO.
    • Chef: Classically trained at the renowned XYZ Institute, I earned an AOS in culinary arts and mentored under celebrity chef Bill Jones as a sous chef for 3 years. Following this experience, I held executive chef positions within 4-star restaurants for a leading hospitality group and spent the past two years as a chef on luxury yachts.
    • IT: Key strengths include: High-volume ticket management. In my current position as helpdesk support specialist for XYZ Co, I handle 1,725+ tickets per month, fully resolving and documenting issues for future reference.
  • Paragraph 3: Follow up information. Mention that the resume is enclosed and indicate a desire to meet with the employer. Thank the employer for their consideration.
  1. Want an error-free and perfectly written cover letter? Then you must edit!

Make sure the letter has no spelling, typing, or grammatical errors. Job applicants are frequently passed over because of such mistakes. Take some time away from the document and return with fresh eyes, ready to edit. It’s always better to have a second person proofread the text as well.

Bonus Tip: Save both the resume and cover letter in the following format [last name, first name document title] for example [Redford, Nicole Resume]. Hiring managers like to be able to quickly find and access documents as they often receive dozens to hundreds of resume for any open position.

Need a template for a cover letter? Start with this one from CareerOneStop!

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Fraudulent Phone Call Alert

There have been a variety of phone call scams over time that target newcomers.  These fraudulent calls are aimed at scamming people to steal their identity or gain access to their finances. As resettlement staff, we have a responsibility to warn our clients about these phone call scams so they do not get tricked into revealing personal information.

Our contacts at the Department of Labor recently alerted Higher to a new scam: within the past few weeks, there have been reports of phone calls made from a Department of Labor phone number (202-693-2700) soliciting personal information or promising funds to those receiving the calls.

Higher is reporting that the Department of Labor has not authorized any of these calls. Please let your clients know that the Department of Labor does not and will not solicit personally identifiable information, such as Social Security numbers, over the phone.

Tell your clients that if they receive a call from anyone they do not know requesting personal information, they should consider it a spam call and hang up. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers helpful information about protecting yourself against fraud of all types; for more information, please visit their Scam Watch.

The FTC tracks and investigates fraud cases that are perpetuated by telephone. Anyone who has been targeted by the recent telephone scam should file a complaint with the FTC.The online complaint form is available in English and Spanish.

If you have multiple clients receiving calls from the DOL number, you should report the situation by calling the U.S. Department of Labor at 1-855-522-6748.

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Data-Driven Job Upgrade Programs: 2 Questions to Ask when Measuring Changes in Client Income

Higher is excited to bring you a guest post from META, ORR’s technical assistance provider for monitoring and evaluation.

If you’re a refugee employment specialist, you’re probably tracking your clients’ income. But of all the data you could collect, why measure this? And how exactly should you do it? The answers will depend on your project, but when measuring income as part of a data-driven job upgrade program, META proposes asking yourself two questions:

  1. What do we want to learn, and why?

In a job upgrade program, measuring income may seem like a given. But too often we collect data without a clear plan for its use. All measurement should be purposeful: if we spend the time to think through the what and the why before focusing on the how, we help ensure we get the information we need (and we don’t burden staff and clients with unnecessary data collection). So carefully consider what you want to learn and how you’ll use the information once you have it! For example:

We need to learn… In order to…
Do clients have employment income that exceeds their basic needs by the end of the job upgrade program period? Help understand if our program is effective
Are there differences between male and female clients in the average time it takes to move beyond the survival job? Help understand if our program is gender-responsive
Are employers satisfied with the clients they hire? Do more satisfied employers offer our clients more opportunities for career growth? Help build productive relationships with new partners and strengthen existing partnerships

Keep in mind that the question “Do clients have employment income that exceeds their basic needs by the end of the program period?” relates to an outcome that is quite different from, and more meaningful than, “Do clients earn more income in Job B than they previously earned in Job A?” Figuring out what outcomes we want to achieve and what we need to know (or the story we want to tell) will directly inform our measurement plan.

  1. What data will help us learn this, and where can we get it?

Now we can consider indicators, the variables we use to measure change. At this point, it pays to be specific. Ask yourself: What do we mean by “employment income,” “basic needs,” and “program period”? Will we disaggregate by gender? Where will we actually get this data (is it realistically measurable given our human and financial resources)? An indicator matrix is a useful tool to map out this and more. See the partial example below:

Question Indicator Calculation Disaggregation Source of Data (Means of Verification)
Do clients have employment income that exceeds their basic needs by the end of the job upgrade program period? % of clients whose income exceeds their basic expenses within six months of enrollment Numerator

# of clients whose income is greater than their basic expenses (sum of all employment income minus sum of all basic expenses) within six months of enrollment



Total # of clients served

Disaggregate by client gender Numerator Source

Household budget form completed with the client at the end of program period (six months or earlier)


Denominator Source

Job upgrade program enrollment spreadsheet

Note that this isn’t the only way to answer this question! For example, your needs may lead you to measure income on the household level, rather than the individual. Or your question may be better answered by tracking all sources of income, not just employment income. To sum up, how you measure changes should correspond directly to why you measure: what do you plan to do with this data?

META can help!

Let’s work together to define the information you need to learn, choose indicators, and create useful data collection tools for your programs! Email META@Rescue.org for free technical assistance, or check out the resources below:

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Employment Brochures

No matter how your agency is structured or how you handle job development, marketing brochures can be a useful tool for promoting your employment programs to potential employers. A leave-behind, such as a brochure that summarizes refugee employment information and the services your agency provides, is helpful for those who are new to the idea of hiring your clients. Brochures can be distributed by volunteers or any resettlement staff member to point new businesses to your job development staff.                        

 Who Should Develop Your Marketing Piece? 

Brochures can be intimidating to develop but do not have to be produced by an expensive consultant in order to be effective. In fact, some non-profit communications and development personnel caution that developing something too glossy can make your agency appear as if it is not using financial resources wisely. 

Not many agencies have access to communications departments, but you probably have access to volunteers with marketing and communications expertise who can help create your brochure. If you can’t find someone in your current volunteer pool, consider recruiting a new volunteer to assist with the project; or, your employment team may be interested in tackling this project themselves. Pass drafts around the office for feedback, and think of a trusted employer partner who might also review a final draft.

What Information Should You Include?

Higher recently collected three good examples that can be used as models when creating your brochure:

  1. Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas
  2. Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries
  3. Refugee Employment Services

Identify the information you want to include ahead of time to organize the layout correctly. Look for agency pictures and graphics available for inclusion. If you already have a brochure, think about how it could be improved or updated with fresh photos, more recent data or a new success story.

Here are some basic tips to keep in mind:

  • Use business language and avoid nonprofit jargon: Be succinct, direct, and brief. Be sure to speak your audience’s language.
  • What will be beneficial for employers?A brochure is not the place to give a detailed, in-depth explanation of refugee resettlement or paragraphs about every service your agency offers. Considering including information that will be important to employers—that refugees are work authorized and pre-screened, job retention rates of your clients, post-employment supportive services that your agency provides, etc.
  • Use numbers and statistics: Provide concrete and quantifiable information from existing donor reports or performance data. Consider job retention rates, a pie chart of industries where refugees are already working, the number of employees placed, or the number of employers who hire refugees from your agency.
  • Utilize your network of employer relationships: Give a list of area employers, with permission, who already hire your clients. Include a testimonial quote from a supportive employer, preferably someone influential and in a leadership role.
  • Make the layout visually pleasing: Utilize graphics, whitespace, and pictures of refugees at work. A success story or quote from a refugee who has been promoted, won an award at work, or owns their own business, can make your brochure stand out.
  • Remember the 5-second rule: Hiring managers/employers are busy. The decision whether to consider your pitch is made in just five seconds. If they can’t immediately see what you have to offer and why they should listen, they won’t spend time trying to figure it out. Wordy, cumbersome brochures typically end up in the trash.
  • Don’t forget to provide contact information:Staple a business card or place your employment team’s contact info prominently on each brochure so employers can easily contact you. Consider creating a dedicated generic email address that won’t be affected by staff turnover—for example jobs@agencyname.org.
  • Spread the word: Once the brochures are ready, feel free to leave it everywhere you go. Leave them with new employers or on a visit to the mall. Do an electronic version so you can attach it to emails. Load it on your website. 

Does your ageny have a beautiful brochure you can share with your peers? Please email us at information@higheradvantage.org!

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Please Welcome Higher’s New Hire

Finally the day is here! Higher is excited to welcome our new Network Engagement Specialist, Katie Jipson. She has significant experience in refugee employment, including 5 years at Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley in Dayton, Ohio. Katie worked in state employment programs coordinating volunteers, working with refugee youth, and developing employer partnerships.

As part of the Higher team, Katie will focus on our network engagement platforms like the blog, website, and online learning management system.

You can reach Katie at information@higheradvantage.org to request assistance in meeting your challenges or to share successes.

Please join us in welcoming Katie to the Higher team!

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Three Ways CORE Certification Courses Can Benefit Refugee Employment Services

Cultural Orientation Resource Exchange (CORE) has developed a series of certification courses[i] to support refugee resettlement staff and volunteers who cover cultural orientation (CO) topics in their day-to-day roles. While lessons have a CO focus, several courses contain information and concepts helpful to employment volunteers and staff. Each self-paced lesson, which can be completed in approximately 20-30 minutes, covers key concepts through an interactive audiovisual interface, and includes links to online resources for further reading. Here are three ways your employment team can benefit from this free resource:


  1. Volunteer Training: Incoming volunteers can gain an overview of the refugee resettlement process in the first CORE lesson. The Refugee Resettlement Journey covers topics such as the differences between refugee and asylee status, durable solutions to address the needs of refugees, and the vetting process. Understanding the basics of refugee resettlement is crucial for volunteers working with clients on job readiness and job placement, and with potential employers of refugees.
  2. Working with Interpreters: Staff working with interpreters on a regular basis to complete employment plans, teach job readiness class, or foster conversations between employers and clients should consider the Working Effectively with Interpreters lesson. Concepts – such as why family members should not be used as interpreters, ensuring cultural sensitivity, and the importance of meeting with your interpreter ahead of time – promote more effective, respectful communication with clients.
  3. Job Readiness Facilitation: The first of several adult learning strategy courses is now available. Knowles’ Six Principles covers unique characteristics of adult learners, such as being internally motivated and self-directed. This lesson includes “expert insights” from seasoned adult education trainers. The next course will cover the difference between teacher-centered and student-centered approaches.

You can register to access the courses here and sign up here for the CORE newsletter to stay up to date on future certification course offerings as they are available. You can also check out the CORENAV resources for refugee self-learning on a variety of topics, including employment.

Written by Carrie Thiele.


These resources[i] were developed under an agreement financed by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, United States Department of State, but do not necessarily represent the policy of that agency and should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.

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Reader Question

After Higher blogged about the USCRI North Carolina’s job upgrade program last week, it received the following question from one of our dedicated blog subscribers:

I just read the most recent blog regarding job upgrades and certifications, and I’m wondering who has come up with the funds to put the clients through the commercial driving course at the office referenced in the article? Here in Fort Worth, we have many clients who have the goal of becoming truck drivers, but courses are estimated at $8,000 we have found. Any tips on how to overcome the financial hurdle would be much appreciated.

Do you have a job upgrade program that covers the cost of vocational courses or a creative partnership to cut down on course costs? Higher will be responding to the inquiry from Texas but, would like to add advice coming from the network. Please send your tips or information about how your program accesses these courses to information@higheradvantage.org.

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WeWork Pledges to Hire Refugees

WeWork is an American company which provides shared workspace, community, and services for entrepreneurs, freelancers, startups, and existing small and large businesses. Founded in 2010, it is headquartered in New York City with many other locations (here).   On Tuesday November 14, the Washington Post reported that WeWork will hire 1,500 refugees globally over the next 5 years. This could be a great opportunity for refugee clients. Check out the full article here.


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Introducing a New Higher Peer Advisor: Dan Peterson

Higher recruits a team of refugee employment professionals who serve as advisors to Higher and share their expertise in workforce development. The advisors are drawn from diverse audiences including national resettlement agencies and their affiliate offices, government programs, and others involved in workforce development. They promote our resources within their own social media networks, join Higher staff for trainings across the country, contribute to webinars and other virtual trainings, write guest blogs, and provide their insight and expertise to specific technical assistance requests throughout the year.

Recently, World Relief headquarters nominated Dan Peterson as a Higher Peer Advisor. Please welcome Dan! Don’t hesitate to reach out to him (dpeterson@wr.org).

Dan: Hello Higher community. My name is Dan Peterson and I am an Employment Specialist in Wheaton, Illinois with World Relief DuPage/Aurora. My primary role has been working with new arrivals, but recently I have been working with clients to secure their second jobs and to achieve career advancement opportunities. Before coming to World Relief, I was a graduate of cross-cultural studies from the Worldview Centre for Intercultural Studies in Tasmania, Australia.

I am excited for this opportunity to serve as a peer adviser and to learn alongside each one of you. I hope for this to be a collaborative opportunity with the goal of providing excellent employment services to our clients.

A few unrelated personal facts: I love lousy horror movies, I am an avid Yerba Mate tea drinker, and I love pretending to be an avid outdoorsman.

Dan Peterson

Early Employment Specialist, World Relief Dupage / Aurora


If you know someone who would make a great Peer Advisor for Higher, please write to us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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Paid Writing Opportunity for Refugees

Here’s an opportunity for your clients to boost their resumes, make some money, and share their perspective with others. The Refugee Center Online is looking for refugee and immigrant authors to write Refugee Voices articles on a variety of topics.  You can see more details and the upcoming monthly themes here.

While you’re visiting the Refugee Center Online’s website, check out Dyan’s inspirational story and consider sharing it in your job readiness class.  Dyan came to the U.S. as a refugee from Burma and has worked as the Karen Cultural Specialist at the St. Paul Public Schools district headquarters. He was recently selected as a Bush Fellow and will use the $100,000 grant to pursue a Doctor of Education degree in leadership   and enhance his network to better help immigrants and refugees become well-educated, prosperous members of their new community.

Post written by guest blogger Carrie Thiele

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