Back to the Basics: Advice for Job Applicants & Job Developers

Jordan“The minute you get away from fundamentals – whether its proper technique, work ethic or mental preparation – the bottom can fall out of your game, your schoolwork, your job, whatever you’re doing.”                                                               -Michael Jordan

Without knocking innovation, sometimes the best way forward is to go back to the basics. A recent Lifehacker article made this point when they asked a couple dozen hiring managers to weigh in on how applicants can stand out from the crowd.

Here are their top 10 suggestions and how they apply specifically to refugee employment:

 1.  Be Prompt, but don’t arrive too early to your interview.

Many cultures have more flexible standards when it comes to punctuality than we do in the US. It’s a good idea to encourage clients to be early to appointments and interviews. But make sure to also discuss the importance of not being too early, as that can also make a negative impression.

2.  Don’t apply for a job unless you meet the qualifications. 

This can be a tricky one when working with refugees, many of whom may have limited English and all of whom lack US work experience when they first arrive. On the surface, it may seem like your clients do not meet the qualifications for many jobs. Don’t give up too easily though. Politely push employers to tell you exactly what competencies are necessary for the job at hand. If you think your clients are capable of performing the duties described, make the argument, and close the deal!

3. Research the company. 

The more you know about the company, the more you will be prepared to make the argument that your clients are a good fit for their needs. Whenever possible, share information about the company with your clients before taking them to an interview. They will perform better if they know who they’re talking to.

4. Make the right match. 

Don’t try to force opportunities that are clearly not a good fit. That will not result in long term partnerships. Making a good connection with an employer is the first step, but showing them that you understand their needs is what will keep them coming back.

5. Come prepared with questions. 

Make sure you are prepared with good questions for employers and coach your clients on good questions to ask before the interview. Part of this coaching also means helping them know what questions not to ask (e.g. Can you give me a different schedule so I can work with my brother?).

6. List all your (software) skills on your resume. 

This tip may apply to some higher skilled clients that have software skills but may not mention them. The basic point though is just to make sure you are using the resume to list any skills that demonstrate that you are motivated, reliable and dependable. So even if your clients don’t have formal work experience, find a way to highlight their skills.

7. If you lie, you’ll probably get caught. 

Pretty straightforward. Don’t lie. Don’t even exaggerate. Do, however, find a way to present your clients in the best light possible, demonstrating their skills, and highlighting the unique ways that they will add value to employers.

8. Say thank you. 

Sometimes you should be the one to say it. Sometime your client should be the one to say it. It might be a handwritten note. It might be an email. It might even be a text message to your employer connection saying “Thanks for your time today. I really appreciate your partnership.” There are many ways to say thank you. The point is that you should.

9. Don’t be pushy. 

Following up is part of the process. Either you or your clients should follow up after interviews. Just keep in mind that being persistent and being pushy are two different things. If your client is going to be the one to follow up, make sure to coach him/her on how to do this professionally.

10. Put yourself in the Hiring Manager’s shoes. 

Perhaps the most important tip on this list. You should always be asking yourself questions like “What does the employer want?”, “What would make their life easier?”, “What do my clients bring to the table that would really add value to this company?” If you do this consistently, employers will love working with you, and your clients will get jobs.

If you’d like to read the Lifehacker article in its entirety, you may do so here.

Happy New Year!!

Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year!

This year has been very challenging and stressful but as always employment staff remained resilient and rose to the challenge. We thank you for your service to you refugee and immigrant clients.If you need any employment assistance or just want to reach out, Higher is always here to support. Email information@higheradvantage.org

 

CareerDescriptions.org predicted the following top 5 careers by 2017. Do you agree?

Job Development Fundamentals from Someone Who Knows

Source: http://dialog.ua.edu

Source: http://dialog.ua.edu

What are the fundamentals of job development?

Higher Peer Advisor Carol Tucker from Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska in Omaha weighed in on this important question during a breakout session on job development at our Third Annual Refugee Employment Workshop in Denver.

Here is what she had to say:

1. Always be ready to talk, meet people and have conversations that represent your organization and clients. Have a “philosophy of friendliness.” Always carry your business cards, and always be looking for opportunities to network. Think of it as sewing seeds – things will not always work out immediately, but with time some of those seeds will grow into wonderful employer partnerships.

2. Build trust. Take your cues from the employer and respond accordingly. Share your process, but respect theirs and adjust when necessary. Your goal is to become their “go-to” person. You’ll also build trust by providing ongoing support. Check in regularly and provide helpful materials such as an employer FAQ sheet, cultural backgrounders, or information about the the legal status, documentation and rights that refugees and asylees possess. Be responsive and ready to take action if they call upon you with a problem or need.

3. Leverage all your resources. Think creatively about ways to increase your capacity and connections. Be intentional about partnering with your development department, with faith communities, and with community volunteers.

4. Help employers become partners. Provide opportunities for your employer partners to share their values through involvement – career mentoring, coat drives, world refugee day, family mentoring, or charitable giving. This will help employers not only value your services but be invested in welcoming refugees to the community.

5. Overwhelm them with your passion, love and faith in refugees. Passion is contagious. People know when you are genuine and when you are sold on your product.

For more tips from Carol, check out this video interview!

Have more job development fundamentals to share? Leave a comment below, or share your thoughts with us at information@higheradvantage.org.

Strengthening Employer Relationships Through Effective Follow-Up

phone-cartoonConsultative Selling for Refugees, Part 4: Follow-up

During the optional day at our Second Annual Refugee Employment Workshop last November, international job development consultant Allen Anderson gave 70+ refugee employment professionals a crash course on a model of Job Development known as Consultative Selling.

We’ve already shared a birds-eye-view of what Allen presented, but now we want to zoom in and talk about the model in more detail.

This is the final post of our 4-part series on Consultative Selling that looks at the basics of the model, as well as adaptations from refugee employment programs who have begun using it.

The “4-Step Road Map”

There are many facets to this model but the basic framework can be found in what Allen Anderson calls “The 4-Step Road Map.” These four steps include: Prospecting, Needs Analysis, Selling and Follow-up—in other words, the process of finding, developing and maintaining employer relationships.

Four-step Roadmap

In part one of this series we looked at Prospecting Strategies for identifying new employment opportunities. Prospecting can include making cold calls, visiting prospective employers or other types of initial outreach to local employers.

In part two, we discussed the Needs Analysis – the meeting where you sit down with an employer and ask them a series of questions in order to discover their important needs. You then use that information to identify clients that will meet a given employer’s needs.

Part three outlined strategies for Selling your solutions to employers.

In this post we’ll look at the final step in the model, Follow-up.

What is Follow-up?

Follow-up is the final stage of the Consultative Selling process. You’ve prospected and found the job opportunity. You’ve conducted a Needs Analysis to find out exactly what the employer needs and wants. You’ve sold them on your services and clients as the right solution. Now it’s time to deliver.

Follow-up is follow-through.

When most refugee employment professionals think of “follow-up”, they think of the job retention requirements of their respective employment programs. For example, following-up with employers and clients at 90 days to see if the client is still working is a common requirement and measure of employment retention.

These traditional follow-up procedures are helpful, but it’s easy to get in the rut of simply “checking the box”, and not think strategically about the intersection between post-employment follow-up and employer engagement.

The Consultative Selling model expands on the traditional approach to follow-up, focusing not just on meeting a requirement, but rather on cultivating long-term relationships with employers.

In Consultative Selling, Follow-up starts with delivering on what you promised (connecting an employer with a candidate who meets their needs and providing ongoing support as needed) and also includes ongoing efforts to keep employers engaged, thus creating opportunities for future business.

Follow-up in this model is about much more than checking a box; it’s about making successful placements that meet retention and result in long-term employer partnerships and ultimately, more job opportunities for our clients.

effective-follow-up

Delivering on What You Promised

Let’s be honest. As intimidating as job development can be, convincing an employer to hire a refugee is in some ways the easy part- or at least the part you have the most control over. Connecting the right client to the right job and trouble-shooting the challenges that often arise after clients begin working is often much harder.

Getting a job is one thing; keeping it is another.

With all of the challenges that our clients face in adjusting to a brand new culture we will never be able to guarantee that every placement will work out. Our long-time employer partners tend to understand that and have worked with enough refugees that have been amazing employees that an occasional hire who doesn’t work out won’t phase them.

But it’s a different ball-game when you’re working with an employer who is hiring a refugee for the first time. We all know that we need to do everything in our power to make that first placement a success, or that that employer may lose interest in working with us very quickly.

So what can you do to increase the chances of success, both for your clients and for your relationships with employers?

Here’s a few tips:

  • Be careful not to over-promise and under-deliver. During the selling stage (before follow-up) emphasize the breadth of skills that your clients can offer and your supportive services, but don’t sell the employer on specific clients until you are sure that the opportunity will work for the client(s) you have in mind.
  • Once the employer has committed to considering your client(s), ask for a little time to talk to the client(s) that you have in mind and to ensure that you are making the best match– but let the employer set the time frame. You’ve got to use your emotional intelligence to read the situation and know how much time to ask for. Maybe it’s the end of the day, by the next day, or by the end of the week, but the point is you buy yourself some time to double-check all the factors- that the client is able and willing to do the job, that their is a realistic plan for transportation (don’t forget to think about the shift client will be working), and that the job will provide the income required to meet the client’s needs. Taking this little bit of extra time is in the best interest of everyone involved.
  • Encourage the employer to interview a few different clients for the position(s), since they are the best judge of what they need. This will also help the employer be invested in hiring decision, and will minimize the possibility of all the blame being put on you if things don’t work out.
  • Use strategies such as mock interviews and skills tests (formal or otherwise) to predict client performance in interviews or on the job. For example, the Catholic Charities refugee employment program in Cleveland, OH works with some assembly factories, and some employers provide basic materials so that the employment program can identify promising candidates by testing clients on aptitude and speed in assembling materials.
  • When possible, arrange in-person tours of the work area for potential candidates so that clients understand what the job is and what will be required of them (before agreeing to accept the job).
  • Provide easy reference materials for employers that outline the supportive services that you provide and what to do when challenges arise or interpretation is needed. Don’t forget to include all the contact information for your employment program so that they will have your information at their fingertips next time they are ready to hire (and also so that the employer has more than one way to contact your team so that staff turn-over doesn’t result in lost employer connections).

Creating Opportunities for Future Business

Congratulations! You found the job, got to know the employer’s needs, sold them on your solutions, and delivered on what you promised! This is the beginning of a beautiful relationship…hopefully.

What can you do to build on that first placement and keep employers engaged so that next time they need to hire, they think of you?

Yes, you should still do those regular follow-ups! A quick follow-up (within the first week or two) with both employer and client after the initial hire is always a good idea just to quickly catch any problematic issues that may have come to light before they become big problems. And of course the traditional 30, 60, 90 day follow-ups are necessary and good.

But beyond the typical check-ins, here are some strategies that refugee employment programs around the country are using to stay connected to established employer partners while also creating opportunities for new connections:

  •  Job Fairs: Hosting job fairs can be a fantastic way to provide free access to great candidates for employers (the only cost is a couple hours of their time), and also provide an excellent opportunity for clients to build networking and interviewing skills in a safe space where they don’t have to compete with hundreds of other candidates.
  • Happy Hours: Who doesn’t love an invitation to a Happy Hour? IRC Baltimore put this strategy on our radar, and has found it to be a great way to connect with both new and established employer partners. Employers like it because it’s an easy way to stay connected to the IRC, but also a great opportunity to network with others in the community. To read more about this strategy, click here.
  • Employer Appreciation Events: We all like to be recognized. Help employers feel good about hiring refugees. Have an employer appreciation breakfast, lunch or dinner- whatever makes sense. Appreciating employers can be as simple as a thank you card with a Starbucks gift card or as elaborate as a plaque they receive at your annual fundraising banquet. For more employer appreciation ideas click here!
  • The “Candy bowl” Strategy: Provide a candy bowl for the reception area of employers you work with. They get candy. You get a regular excuse to visit them!
  • Get to Know Employer Hiring Trends: Many employer’s hiring seasons and hiring slow-downs are fairly predictable. Ask employers which months tend to be slow and which months they do a lot of hiring. Put notes on your calendar to set up meetings with employers right towards the end of the slow seasons, right before things are going to pick up again. This will show them that you are considerate of their time, and also positions you to be on their radar when it’s time to hire.
  • Go to their stuff! Look for opportunities to participate in community or networking events that your employment partners participate in. Volunteer with an employer partner. Speak at a professional association. Learn about their industry at events open to the public. Participate in your local Workforce Investment Board or Chamber of Commerce. And don’t forget your business cards!

As you can see from the above strategies, although follow-up (delivering on what you promised and creating opportunities for future business) may be the final step in the “4-Step Road Map” it may be more accurate to say that it is the final step in a cycle that resets the job development process, in which you return to prospecting (finding job opportunities) through strengthening relationships with established employer partners and working within those employer networks to make new connections.

What strategies do you use to deliver on what you promised and create opportunities for future business? Let us know at information@higheradvantage.org.

Thinking Strategically about Survival Jobs

Source: http://allstarluxury.com

Source: http://allstarluxury.com

It’s never too early to think about the long-term success of our clients. Although our job development efforts are often focused on initial survival jobs for our clients, it’s important to realize that these jobs don’t have to be dead-end jobs. In fact, some of the industries that we commonly place clients in are industries that are expected to experience serious labor shortages.

A recent Fast Company article titled “5 Jobs that Will Be the Hardest to Fill in 2025” summarized a 2016 report by The Conference Board which predicts that the following industries will have the hardest time finding workers in the coming decade:

Skilled Trades– Large numbers of workers are retiring, but fewer young people are choosing these professions. Electricians, machinists, plant and system operators, rail transportation workers and other skilled trades workers will be in high demand.

Health Care– Healthcare workers of all types will be in greater demand in the coming years. Occupational and physical therapy aides, health diagnosing and treating professionals and home health aides are a few of the professions that expect to experience worker shortages.

Manufacturing– U.S. manufacturing will face a shortage of 2 million workers by 2020 in areas ranging from engineering to production workers.

Sales– Everyone knows that sales is a tough gig. In a nation of consumers, companies rely on brilliant sales people, but they struggle to find them. This will continue to be an issue for companies, large and small, in the coming years.

Math-related fields– While STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields in general are not predicted to be at risk for shortages, jobs that require specialized mathematical skills are in danger of not finding enough talent. Some of these jobs include actuaries, statisticians, and mathematically-minded professionals to work in the big-data sector.

Perhaps with the exception of sales (which in most cases is not a good fit for newly arrived refugees), these fields have great potential as career pathways for refugee job seekers, whether low-skilled or high-skilled.

Healthcare and manufacturing are common industries that we place newly arrived refugees in, and not only offer entry-level jobs, but in many cases offer a career path as well.

Skilled trades are a bit harder to access, but there are some refugees who come with these skills, and opportunities such as on-the-job training and apprenticeships can be a helpful entry point for clients who have the skills and the English ability.

And finally, while it may be a smaller percentage of our clients, we’ve all met refugees who bring STEM skills, including mathematical skills, who are so impressive that it’s intimidating (let’s be honest!).

So next time you’re doing employer outreach why not focus on one of these industries? You may find a survival job that leads to a long-term career path or you may find an employer who desperately needs the skills that one of your clients just happens to have!

For more on using labor market information for job development, check out our post “Using Data to Drive Job Development.”

Employer Perspectives on Hiring Refugees in the U.S. and Europe

Successful Job Development and Customized Job Readiness Preparation Offer Business Solutions

Two recent articles illustrate proven strategies we know work, outline employer perspectives shared between U.S. and European industry and point to growing industry-led innovations to integrate refugees into the workforce.

Results from Best Practices in Our Work

An article in fastcoexist.com highlights successful IRC employer partnerships with Chipotle, Starwood Lodging and others. They describe customized job readiness preparation, effective applicant pre-screening and interview preparation similar to services many of you provide to employer partners.

According to a quote from the article, “refugees sent [to Chipotle] by the IRC are more than seven times more likely to be qualified and hired compared to someone in the company’s typical applicant pool.

Employer Partnerships and Corporate-led Solutions in the U.S. and Europe

Businesses..say that working with refugees isn’t charity, it’s good business, according to another quote from the fastcoexist.com article from Jennifer Patterson,quote-snip project director for the Partnership for Refugees, a new initiative the White House announced in June to work with the private sector.

recent article from businesstimes.com mentions on-line educational opportunities offered for refugees in Europe. Read a previous Higher blog post about a similar opportunity from Coursera for Refugees, part of the White House initiative.

Similar Employer Motivations and Initial Concerns about Hiring Refugees

The businesstimes.com article highlights early successes and the corporate perspective on hiring refugees in Germany. Prospective employers express concern about limits to initial productivity due to low language proficiency.

Refugee employment service providers know that employers who partner with us to hire refugees quickly see beyond initial worries about language, illustrated in this quote from the fastcoexist.com article.

“We do sometimes need to increase up-front training for our refugee recruits,” says Starwood’s associate director of community partnerships and global citizenship Kristin Meyer. “But the dedication and passion they bring to the job definitely outweighs that investment.”

Statistics about initial job placements for new arrivals in Germany also mirror our success placing refugees in starter jobs with strong hospitality and service sector employer partners.  Across the country, strong hotel employer partnerships yield supportive starter jobs and support for short-term vocational pre-employment training like pilot hospitality training programs developed by IRC and Starwood lodgings.

What We Might Learn from Germany About Registered Apprenticeship

Apprenticeship is already a widespread business strategy for on-boarding and training new hires in Germany.  Read more about the expansion of registered apprenticeship opportunities in the U.S in a previous Higher blog post from our mainstream resource series.

German employers see pre-apprenticeship bridge training as necessary to prepare refugees to succeed in apprenticeship programs. This mirrors successes many refugee employment programs have with contextualized ESL, in-house short-term vocational training programs as prerequisites to successful refugee access to other mainstream workforce resources.

Businesses in the U.S. and Europe share some of the same goals and needs when hiring refugees. The services we provide to employer partners offer solutions that could be replicated in Europe.  There many be lessons we can learn from bridge training in the context of registered apprenticeship in Germany.

 

 

 

Free Webinar on Employee Retention Strategies

redfWe recently discovered REDF’s SE4Jobs network.   SE4Jobs supports social enterprises that prepare people for long-term, competitive employment with transitional jobs that help remove barriers to career success and build marketable skills in their employees.

SE4Jobs is offering a free webinar titled  Employee Retention:  Support for Long-Term Success on Tuesday, 09/20  from 2:00 – 3:00 EST

The webinar will feature research on some of the proven best retention strategies and examples of how employers can either develop innovative HR models to provide these supports themselves or partnerships with community based organizations to provide them.

Job retention is an important measure of our success.  This webinar sounds likely to offer new ideas for how to support refugee success beyond 90 days in their first job.

 

 

How to Identify Employers That Value Diversity

diversity

 

What policies and practices create a refugee-friendly work culture?

How do you identify prospective refugee employers? A recent article in fastcompany.com outlining six ways to find LGBT-friendly employers offers important perspective we may not think about enough.  The recommendations focus on how to look beyond phrases like “equal opportunity employer” to evaluate specific policies and benefits that make an employer welcoming to diversity.

Don’t let the idea of struggling to find and interpret labor market data scare you. The article makes many concrete suggestions for how to use social media and easy-to-find information. Your experience in employer outreach and maintaining strong relationships with HR departments will be helpful, as well.

1. Look for signs of an already diverse workforce.  How does the company talks about itself on social media.  Here’s another way you can put your established LinkedIn presence to good use.  Observe the mix of employees when you’re in that initial needs analysis meeting or driving by while prospecting in an area that makes sense geographically.

2. Check employer’s recent history.  Research how the company is portrayed in the media. Google them. Look for articles in your community’s Business Journal or other trade publications. What kinds of community outreach or corporate social responsibility activities are they promoting on their website?

3. Seek out official employment and diversity policies.  Look for zero-tolerance policies for harassment or discrimination. Ask about diversity training for staff or any policies that accommodate special circumstances (like language and cultural differences).  Ask your HR contacts what types of policies they’d expect to see.

4. Consider the benefits on offer. What kinds of leave are specified in policies covering maternity, paternity of other family-related absences?  Are in-house training programs supportive of skill-building for internal advancement?  Does the company offer any subsidies or access to benefits like in-house childcare or discounted bus passes?

5. Ask about employee resource groups. If there is a precedent for any kind of peer support, it will be easier to discuss similar strategies as you develop the employer relationship. Does their approach to training include mentoring or job shadowing?  Do they offer structured chances for employees to socialize and learn together.

6. Showcase your own skills and qualifications.  This looks a little different for the LGBT focus of the original article.  The point is to emphasize the benefits of hiring a refugee candidate from the employer’s perspective.  No more explanation required for this basic of job development.

Hopefully, most of these ideas aren’t new to you and put job development into a policy framework.  Concrete diversity policies and practices make for better starter jobs and increase opportunities for future growth and upward mobility.

 

http://ow.ly/lWgs302ACm6

3 Fall Job Development Strategies

Photo Credit: Michael Nagle/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Michael Nagle/Getty Images

A surge in arrivals now means that you’ll need strong employer relationships and plenty of job openings this fall.  Hiring slows down over the holidays. Now’s the time to make the next four months count with lots of solid job placements.

Here are three ideas to consider from a previous Higher blog post:

1.  Turnover  in Student-related jobs:  There will be turnover in jobs filled by students as their schedules change for a  new semester.  Campus housing, maintenance and food service jobs will be widely available.  Watch for school district hiring fairs for kitchen and lunchroom monitor jobs.  Great for moms who need part time work around children’s schedules.

2.  Start of busy season for hotels:  Business travel.  Cooler weather. Hotels are gearing up for full occupancy now.  Get in touch with your hotel partners.  Approach a couple of new ones.  Consider organizing a special job readiness session focused on preparing for success in back of the house jobs.

3.  Special events staffing:  State fairs. Fall concerts. Football games. All kinds of special events recruit staff to set-up, serve, and clean up. These opportunities are great to build US work experience or as an interim job while you work on a permanent placement. Aramark and Sodexo are national contractors.  A quick google search or phone call should help you identify local contractors.

And why the turkey suit, you ask?  My favorite college job was delivering flowers in costume, including the Easter bunny and a Thanksgiving turkey!  

LinkedIn Profile Infographic

linkedfinalThanks to The Refugee Center Online for spotting this great infographic guide to creating a LinkedIn profile.

This would be a great resource for higher skilled refugees.  The information is clear and comprehensive. You could assign creating a profile as homework or recruit a volunteer to help.  linkedin

It’s a great resource for you, too, since LinkedIn is a fundamental job development strategy. The infographic includes photo sizes, tips to improve the visibility of your profile and even the best times to post (Tuesday and Thursday from 7 – 9 am).

Check out this Higher blog post to find out how your peers use LinkedIn for job development, a step-by-step guide for finding an employer contact via LinkedIn and how to connect to Higher’s LinkedIn page to instantly access peers and their employer contacts across the country!