Resumes and Cover Letters – Infographic

One of our most requested resources is for resources to assist with creating resumes for clients. We’ve searched far and wide for resources to share, and here’s what we’ve come up with so far.

Although the below infographic uses the term CV  (curriculum vitae), the preferred European term, the advice applies to the U.S. term resume, as well.  Here are a few more tips that you might find helpful. Be sure to check out the original articles too – we pulled out the most relevant tips for working with our clients, but the articles are full of valuable content.

Youth Mainstream Resource for Resumes and Cover Letters

Choose verbs that mean something. “Assisted,” “Worked on,” “Contributed to” and so on don’t convey much to a prospective employer. Instead, say what you did: “Wrote,” “Designed,” or “Managed.” The more specific, the better, according to this Harvard Business Review Article

Share accomplishments, not responsibilities. This Harvard Business Review Article also includes a helpful “Do” and “Don’t” list, as well as links to sample resumes.

Resources for Cover Letters: This Harvard Business Review Article includes a helpful “Do” and “Don’t” list.

The 11 Most Common CV Writing Questions Answered Infographic
Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics


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Cover Letters: Yes? No? When?



There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there about whether or not to include a cover letter with job applications.

One perspective: A cover letter customized for the company and position is a best practice. A well crafted cover letter can give you an edge, and just might be what separates you from the crowd.

Another perspective: Cover letters are a waste of time. They are rarely read. If it’s not a standout, it’s just one more thing the employer won’t open. At worst, a cover letter may hurt your chances, especially if it’s boring.

What’s the right way to look at it for us?

We work with a wide variety of clients and employers, so to write or not to write a cover letter is probably a decision you’ll make on a case-by-case basis. There will certainly be a range of employer expectations depending on which industry or job you are targeting for your clients.

That being said, here are a few tips to keep in mind when considering whether or not to write a cover letter with or for your clients:

DO NOT include a cover letter if…

  • the instructions say not to do so. If instructions aren’t followed, the application will likely go into the “circular file”.
  • it will be easy for the employer to tell that the applicant did not write the letter themselves. If a client cannot write a cover letter for themselves, don’t misrepresent them by giving the employer the impression that they are fully literate and fluent in English. Employers don’t like surprises.
  • a cover letter won’t be considered or isn’t appropriate for the job or application process. Many online application systems do not include space for a cover letter for hourly positions, for example.

DO include a cover letter if…

  • the application is for a more professional job. If you have a client who is qualified for professional positions, make sure to involve them in the cover letter writing process so that they can learn this important job application skill.
  • there is an instruction or option (e.g. sometimes it’s optional on online applications) to include a cover letter. Take advantage of any opportunity to help your client stand out.
  • there is a need to explain gaps in employment or minimal employment (as is often the case with refugees).

Two additional ideas to consider:

  • In cases where the employer does not require or want a cover letter but you feel like some explanation is necessary to highlight your client’s skills, consider adding a “Summary of Skills” list or Background section to their resume where you can point out what isn’t as obvious from the simple resume.
  • Some employer partners may prefer a simple email from you which gives them basic information on your client instead of a cover letter. Sometimes referred to as a “candidate profile”, this note would summarize skills, work history, and language ability.

For more on cover letters check out this post from

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Looking for Arabic Language Job Readiness Resources?



In case you didn’t know, YOU are our greatest resource! After receiving several requests for Arabic language resources, we put out a call for resources earlier this month, and sure enough, our network responded.

Our friends Ali Abid and Brittani Mcleod from Catholic Community Services of Utah submitted a helpful English/Arabic version of the Walmart job interview, and Carol Tucker from Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska provided us with several other Arabic/English Job Readiness materials.

Visit our Downloadable Resources section to check out these great resources! You may also want to check out a post we published in 2014 that links to picture vocabulary guides in several languages, including Arabic.

As we continue to serve Iraqi refugees and SIV recipients and anticipate increasing numbers of Syrian arrivals, these resources will continue to be a “must have” for your Cultural Orientation and Job Readiness tool box. If you have other Arabic language resources that you would like to share please email us at

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Arabic Language Job Readiness Resources

Here is a list of helpful Job Readiness Resources in Arabic that we have collected from our network:

Many thanks to Ali Abid and Brittani Mcleod at Catholic Community Services of Utah and Carol Tucker at Lutheran Family Services, Nebraska. If you have other Arabic language resources that you would like to share please email us at

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Finally! Personality Assessments Explained

personality assessments

Photo credit: Alberto G./Flickr

“The questions are twisty and these small circles are no good.”

A client told me this after a painfully long and less than perfect explanation.  I agree.

Online personality assessments are a nightmare.

Until now, I’ve never found anything that really helped me figure out how to explain them (or even get them “right”, myself).

Confession time.  A colleague had to make me a cheat sheet because I couldn’t help my clients pass the online Walmart questionnaire.

A recent article in goes into the psychology behind seven common personality assessment questions, including this one:

“I’d rather do things quickly than perfectly.”

The article explains why the “right answer” to this question might be different depending on the job in question and explains the relationship between the questions and common soft skills valued in the U.S. workplace.

Use of personality assessments is increasing. Clients will face these questions throughout their working lives.  Helping them begin to understand them is a fundamental in job readiness preparation.

Share your tips and strategies for navigating personality assessments by commenting on this post or sending an email to




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Free and Easy Strategy to Identify Key Words and Skills


I tried this technique using Wordle and a warehouse logistics job description. Here’s my result.

Here’s a great idea for identifying key words in job descriptions.  Generate word clouds to help clients write job descriptions, get past robotic online application screens and identify a variet of hard and soft skills required for the job.

3 Easy Steps to Use This Idea in Your Work

1.  Google free word cloud applications.   Click here to find one list of options.

2.  Paste in a job description and click generate.

3.  See the words emphasized by the employer.  (The biggest words are used more frequently.)

You could print out your word cloud and use it in a client meeting. Taking the words out of a traditional paragraph format can really help you and clients identify the important characteristics and job requirements.  A great way to build English vocabulary, too.

This idea came from a blog post from the U.S. Peace Corps.  (Click here to read it).

Check out two previous blog posts (Click here and here) for more information about key words, on-line applications and other tools to use with clients.



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Start the New Year Right – With a Higher Webinar!

Youre-InvitedLearn how to advocate for client rights, make employer lives easier and expedite client passage of work authorization verification.

Join keynote presenters from the Department of Justice Office of Special Counsel to learn all of this and more.  Even if you’re experienced in our work, you’ll learn some new detail to help clients get to work faster.

Please join us Wednesday, January 28th at 3pm EST.  Register for the webinar here.


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50 Niche Job Boards

Niche Job Board List via higheradvantage.orgWOW!  Part-time and telecommuting, Healthcare, Internships, Trucking, Manufacturing, Finance/Accounting….

There are tons of options on this  job board list (click here) from and  even more sites in the comment section at the end.

How to Use Them?

1.  Identify new leads for job development and job openings to pursue right now.  Especially helpful for rare client skills that don’t match your go-to employment partner positions.

2.  Share one or two with highly-skilled clients to support their independent job search.  (Be sure they know the limitations of over-reliance on online applications.)

3.  Ask a volunteer or intern to explore the list, select the best ones and then share with the network via Higher’s blog.

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Preparing Clients to Provide Employment References

Thumbs up ImageFor most of our clients, the issue with providing employment references is that they don’t have any appropriate in the US workforce context.

References are important, especially for newcomers with unfamiliar or minimal work histories.  In fact, HR professionals see an increased reliance on quality references to separate effective social media self-promotion from real qualifications and experience.

Initially, clients can use resettlement agency staff as references – case managers, job developers, ESL instructors or employment specialists.  Be sure clients know this and that they are prepared with the correct contact information to provide when references are requested.

Here are some additional talking points and tips you can use to explain the concept and help clients get started building references.

Help your colleagues provide effective references.  Make sure they agree to play this role.  Provide them with talking points.  For example, the client has:

  • been on-time to all meetings and appointments.  They will come to work on time, too.
  • attended all orientation, work readiness and ESL classes.  They are ready and able to learn.
  • complied with all agency policies and eligibility requirements.  They follow the rules.
  • asked many questions about work and jobs in the US.  They are ready and eager to work.
  • a very supportive, stable family or living situation.  They will be a reliable employee.

Define the term and tell clients when to expect a reference request.    References are people who can talk about your ability to do the job and their experience with you as a reliable, trustworthy and qualified person.  Employers often request that you provide them with three references that they will call before they offer you a job.

Take the opportunity to reinforce the importance of keeping a job for at least six months.  Most people in the US use references from their previous jobs.  This is one more reason why it is important to keep a job for at least six months so you can get to know people well enough to ask them to be a reference.  Quitting without giving at least two weeks notice is a guaranteed way to get a negative reference.

Provide guidance for selecting references now and in the future.  References don’t have to be people you worked with.  They should be someone who knows you and can give examples of why you would be a great employee.

  • Your preacher, deacon, fellow volunteer or even a neighbor or community leader could be a good reference.
  • Don’t list relatives as references.  Everyone knows your family will only say good things about you.
  • Be sure your references speak fluent English and can be easily reached by a US phone number or via email.  Employers won’t spend the time or money to make an international phone call.

Finally, these steps for lining up great references could be useful for some of the most advanced clients – or maybe for you.




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Free Tool IDs Key Words

apply online red buttonOn-line applications equal frustration for clients and Employment professionals.

Nothing good ever comes from computer literate clients wasting time submitting imperfect on-line applications and never making it past automated key word screening. offers an on-line tool that may help.  (Click here).  Paste in a resume and job description to get key word matches and other tips.  For more background about how “bots” work with online applications, refer to this previous blog post.

How You Could Use it
  • Demonstrate with a client resume as you help them understand why they aren’t getting calls and need to do more than apply on-line.
  • Provide the URL to clients after the discussion.  Assign them the homework of using it on their own to 1dentify some words to add or change.
Customer Review

With my own resume, it recommended that I change the “Professional Experience” heading in my own resume to “Work Experience”, which is more common.

I also tried it with an on-line application by cutting and pasting job descriptions I had written for a client.

It took  more time to clip in job descriptions instead of an entire resume, but it gave me several obvious key words from the job announcement that were not included at all in my application.  In both of my trials, some of the words it picked up on were clearly based on frequency of use, not relevance to any kind of skill.

Bottom line

It takes a bit of thought to put the results to work.  On balance, I think it’s worth a try and would love to hear how it works for you.




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