Often Higher is asked for guidance on how to help clients prepare a more advanced resume. Outlined in the section below are some of the best rules and advice on how to build a professional U.S. style resume.
- 1-page rule: In the US, job seekers must stick to the one-page rule unless they have a master’s degree or higher; then a resume can be two pages.
- Get the order right: Move backward in time, starting with the most recent job in each section.
- 10-year rule: Never recount more than 10 years of employment history.
- Equal bullets rule: Under every position, there should be the same amount of bulleted information and job duties.
- Education: Spell out the degree so it will stand out. It is not necessary to include a GPA or GMAT score. Do not list courses. Do list any leadership roles and study abroad experiences.
- Font rule: Keep the entire document in the same font, and only the name should be in larger font. Use a standard font (Times New Roman, Arial, or Helvetica), so it reads the same on any computer or printer.
- Avoid the objective: Many people like to start their resume with an objective outlining their purpose. However, every applicant has a similar objective; as they are all seeking employment. Express the objective in a cover letter, and keep the resume for professional and educational history.
- Addressing Gaps: Use cover letters to briefly and directly address the gap in the career, particularly for refugees who have experienced long periods of time where they were unable to work. For example, “I am returning to the workforce after a period of raising children/living as a refugee.” Then address the strengths, qualifications, and goals. Emphasize the job seeker’s excitement and preparedness to re-enter the workforce now. If the gap is over 7 years or a refugee prefers not to address the time gap, it may be time to consider a skill based resume which will be tackled in a subsequent Higher blog.
- Creativity rule: Create a new version of a resume for every job opportunity. Similar to a cover letter, a resume should be tailored to a job description
- Finally, don’t forget to have a friend or colleague help edit and proofread. An outside perspective is most helpful in selecting what is most relevant to each job.
What are some rules or content guidelines that you use when writing advanced resumes? Share with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
- 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.
- 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,’
- 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.
- 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!
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.
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:
- Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas
- Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries
- 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 email@example.com.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org!
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 email@example.com to request assistance in meeting your challenges or to share successes.
Please join us in welcoming Katie to the Higher team!
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.