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.

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Cover Letters: Yes? No? When?

Source: www.resumegenius.com

Source: resumegenius.com

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 www.greatresumesfast.com.

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