Building a Story Bank to Support Your Program’s Success

Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today. –Robert McKee

The recent U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Workforce GPS webinar, Using Storytelling to Share Your Program Success, provided some great ideas for collecting stories that can inspire our clients, encourage employers, and inform the community.

Why are personal stories important? Research indicates that people remember information better when it’s delivered through a story. Potential employers learning about refugee employment services may be more likely to connect with you by hearing a story about a client overcoming barriers to reach their career goals rather than hearing just the facts about your team’s outstanding placement numbers and retention rates. Most importantly, make sure you obtain every client’s consent on a document that they sign. Without a client’s consent their story cannot be shared.

Sharing stories requires having them available. Presenters Lenora Thompson and John Rakis of Coffey Consulting LLC shared these tips for building and maintaining a story bank:

  • Have a variety of stories ready to meet a variety of audiences. Save your stories by theme or by audience for ease in locating the right one.
  • Ensure your materials are high-quality, whether the story is delivered verbally, in written format, through photographs or by video.
  • Protect your client’s identity as needed by using a completely different first name.
  • Have accompanying media releases on hand.
  • Keep your story bank up to date so that it’s relevant to any current issues occurring in the news.
  • Enlist volunteers to build your story bank – journalism students, retirees or videographers would make great candidates!
  • Share the stories far and wide in your agency’s newsletters, website and social media pages, as well as in community presentations, job readiness classes and in one-on-one conversations with employers and clients.

Interested in learning more about crafting an effective story? Check out the complete power point presentation and a downloadable list of additional storytelling resources on the DOL’s Workforce GPS website. You can also visit the National Storytelling Network’s website to find story collections, additional resources, and for information on small grants that could be used to help build your agency’s story bank.

Do you have an example of an effective employer or client story? We’d love to share it! Email us at information@higheradvantage.org.

Head, Heart, Hands: A Strategy for Employer Conversations

When I was a rookie job developer just starting out I came up with a little strategy that I would use when approaching employers. I called it Head, Heart, Hands, and it represented 3 simple messages that I wanted to communicate to employers:

  1. Head: It makes good business sense to hire refugees- it will be a good investment.
  2. Heart: I’m doing something positive by hiring refugees- I’m helping someone rebuild their life.
  3. Hands: It will make my life easier to work with this job developer and hire refugees.

Original Sketch, Daniel Wilkinson, Circa 2011

While I had initially thought of the elements of Head, Heart and Hands as the three points on my employer pitch outline, what I began to realize was that it wasn’t as important to hit all three points, but rather to identify which of the elements was the driving motivation for the employer.

Some employers’ primary concerns may be business issues such as high turnover, frequent employee absences, lazy workers, or issues affecting their bottom line. For these employers you take the “Head” approach and emphasize how your clients will meet the employers’ need where past employees have fallen short. You might highlight client retention rates, strong work ethic or the Work Opportunity Tax Credit incentive.

Other employers just need workers fast. They’re looking for an easy solution to their current labor shortage. For those employers, you take the “Hands” approach, and emphasize how you can solve that problem by getting them work-authorized, motivated and dependable employees quickly.

Finally, there are employers out there who get really excited about the “Heart” aspect. Some may be immigrants or descendants of immigrants and identify with the struggle from that perspective. Others may just have a strong motivation to help others. Although the “business case” is typically much more effective than the “charity pitch,” if you can tell that an employer is really excited to help refugees from more of a humanitarian perspective, then run with it!

Do you have a go-to strategy that you use when walking into a meeting with an employer? Let us know at information@higheradvantage.org or in the comments section below!

5 Mapping Strategies for Employer Outreach

Aside from language, literacy, and cultural adjustment issues, transportation is one of the most significant barriers to employment that our clients face. While not always possible, finding employment that is easily accessible by foot, bike, or public transportation is ideal. Here are a few mapping strategies that you can use to help your clients overcome this employment barrier:

1. Explore the area immediately surrounding your client’s home. Type your client’s address into Google Maps and zoom in and out to look for grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, factories, etc. that would be easily accessible for clients. After familiarizing yourself with a neighborhood through Google maps, it’s a good idea to visit the neighborhood, since there are things you will notice in person that you wouldn’t see just by looking at a map on a computer screen.

2. Use a map of your city’s public transportation system to inform your employer outreach efforts. Start by looking at a paper map or maps that may be available on your city’s public transportation website. Then go to Google Maps, and find transportation lines near where your clients live and follow them to see what businesses are along these routes. Another fun thing to do is to drive public transportation routes as you are doing employer outreach. Sometimes you will see businesses that may not be listed on Google Maps.

A sample of results for Google Maps search: “manufacturing near Chicago”

3. Search for target industries or major employers in the neighborhood, city or region where your clients live. For example you could search for “manufacturing near Pittsburgh, PA” or “Hotels in New Orleans.” Research the largest employers are in your area to see how accessible these employers are for your clients. Where Are the Jobs? is a very helpful website that you can use to obtain labor market information for your area.

4. Start with areas of the city your clients are already familiar with. Take a look at a map with your client or just have a conversation to find out which areas of the city they travel to on a regular basis. If a job opportunity were to open up in an area they are already familiar with and comfortable traveling to, chances are they will be positive about that job and will be likely to be successful there.

5. Use maps to advocate for your clients. Maps can come in handy as visuals in conversations with employers or with your R&P (Reception and Placement) department. With employers, you can use maps to prove that transportation will not be a problem, pointing out the exact transportation lines that your clients will use, and that the transportation schedule will coordinate with the work schedule. With your R&P colleagues, you can use maps to show which neighborhoods are best situated for easy access to employment opportunities. Employment departments and R&P departments may want to consider doing strategy 1 (above) together as a strategy for increasing collaboration on housing and employment.

One rule of thumb for public transportation: Try to keep commute times to an hour or less and avoid having clients take more than two modes of transportation (e.g. switching buses). When the commute is longer than an hour and clients have to take more than 2 modes of transportation, it is almost inevitable that they will struggle to make it to work on time or that they will end up quitting their jobs because the commute is just too overwhelming.

Hopefully, these tips will help you find jobs closer to home for your clients, as well as improve job satisfaction and retention. Let us know if you have other innovative mapping strategies at information@higheradvantage.org!

Body Language Tips for Job Developers – Infographic

In most cases, as a Job Developer, you essentially do the first interview for your clients. If you make a good impression, that employer will want to meet your clients. If not, it’s game over.

We often focus on content rather than form, preparing our clients for job interview questions or preparing our “elevator pitch” for employers, but we sometimes forget that most communication is actually non-verbal (about 80% according to this Businesstopia article).

So the next time you focus on interview prep in job readiness class or get ready to walk into an appointment with an employer, keep these 27 body language tips in mind:

body-language-tricks-to-be-instantly-likeable-infographic-2

Want to see a couple more cool info-graphics related to body language for job interviews and business interactions? Check out The Basics of Business Body Language and 7 Body Language Interview Mistakes.

We’d love to highlight your success story about a recent exchange you’ve had with an employer. Get in touch at information@higheradvantage.org.

 

Consultative Selling Resource Pack

In the past couple years Higher has introduced our network to a job development model known as Consultative Selling. In addition to providing training on Consultative Selling at various Higher training events, we also published a four-part blog series and facilitated a 1-year online Community of Practice (CoP) group focused on adapting this model for refugee employment.

In order to continue helping our network learn and practice this approach to job development, we put together this resource pack, including our intitial Consultative Selling blog series and recordings of all 3 CoP calls.

Consultative Selling Blog Series

Click on the links below to read Higher’s 4-part blog series on the four primary aspects of the Consultative Selling model: Prospecting, Needs Analysis, Selling, and Follow-up:

Illustration by Gary Phelps / EMM Wichita

Part One:Hitting the Target: Prospecting Techniques That Work

Part Two:Understanding Employers’ Needs and Providing Solutions

Part Three:Providing and Selling Workforce Solutions

Part Four:Strengthening Employer Relationships Through Effective Follow-up


2016 Job Development Community of Practice (3 Presentations)

In 2016 Higher facilitated a Community of Practice (CoP) for refugee employment staff who had attended the one day training put on by Allen Anderson at our Second Annual Refugee Employment Workshop in November 2015 in Omaha, NE (to hear a little bit from Allen, check out the Innovations and Opportunities panel discussion from our Second Annual Refugee Employment Workshop page).

Over time the CoP expanded to include coworkers of the original members, and other refugee employment staff who received Consultative Selling training from Higher at separate events. You can access video recordings of these three online events below:

 

  

   

For more on Consultative Selling, click here.

If you are using this model, we would love to hear about your experience. Please email us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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.

Holiday Gift Guide – Any Recommendations?

Do you know of any businesses or products that should be featured in Higher’s annual holiday gift guide?  We have a great list started for this year’s guide, but it can always be better!  

Stay tuned for our annual holiday gift guide blog post. We’ll put all of your recommendations into one post to make your holiday shopping as easy as possible.  

Please submit your recommendations by commenting below or by contacting us.

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.

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

Providing and Selling Workforce Solutions

Source: www.thenest.com

Source: www.thenest.com

Consultative Selling for Refugees, Part 3: Selling

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 post is the third of a 4-part series that will share the basics of the model, as well as adaptations from refugee employment programs who have already been 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.

In this post we’ll look at Selling (step three), which for many is the hardest part of the process.

What is Selling?

In the selling step, you present the employer with the solution to their needs- your candidate(s). You want the employer to see the value of working with you and your clients, even if your clients don’t fit the typical mold of candidates the employer has hired in the past.

Some consultative selling advocates, including Allen Anderson, believe eliminating the interview process is the objective of Selling. This means that the employer is ready to hire a candidate purely on your recommendation. The consensus among refugee employment staff is that a formal job interview remains important for our clients and also for most employers.

As RSSP Coordinator Valerie Evans from Catholic Charities Onondaga County in Syracuse, NY says: “Do the formal interview, even if the employer is willing to skip it- the practice is good for our clients!”

For clients, our goal is to provide them with the strongest possible foundation for long term career success.  This means they must develop strong interview skills so they can become increasingly independent from refugee resettlement services.

For employers, our goal is for them to be “sold” on partnering with us, and “sold” on refugees as a strategic workforce solution.

When is the Optimal Time for Selling?

Typically, Selling will happen in a separate meeting after the Needs Analysis. That being said, as we noted in part two, if you feel that you understand an employer’s needs and have a solution to offer, by all means, make the sale at the end of the Needs Analysis meeting. After all– “You snooze, you lose.”

Be very careful, however, not to over-promise and under-deliver. There are a number of factors to consider in matching the right client to the right job. It’s better to take some time to make sure you can confidently recommend someone than to rush a situation that is unlikely to be successful.

4 Key Strategies for Selling

Most refugee employment professionals have not had the opportunity to receive training in sales techniques, so Consultative Selling has a lot to offer when it comes to being strategic in conversations with employers.

Here are four initial strategies to get you started:

Strategy #1: Focus on what all employers need most.

Allen Anderson identifies four employee characteristics that are most important to employers. Employers want to hire people who are reliable, dependable, available and capable. According to Anderson, if you can present candidates who have these characteristics, employers will often overlook other employment barriers.

When you’re presenting candidates to employers, you want to focus on these characteristics and also go back to the specific needs that the employer shared during the Needs Analysis.

Lisa_cropped“Always go back to the Needs Analysis. Show employers that you are listening and responding to their needs. Be confident. You have something employers need!” –Lisa McClure, Job Developer, ECDC/ACC Denver

When employers see that your clients have the foundational characteristics that they look for in all employees as well as some of the specific skills needed for a current opening, the chances that they will want to move forward to an interview are high.

Strategy #2: Highlight needs, features, and benefits.

Another helpful strategy that you can use is to structure your presentation to an employer around the following three areas: employer needs (which you discovered in the Needs Analysis), client features (their skills), and the benefits an employer will receive from hiring your clients (e.g. not needing to worry about criminal backgrounds or legal status issues) and working with your agency.

Think of it like running around a baseball diamond:

Note: Needs, Features Benefits strategy by Allen Anderson; Baseball Diamond analogy and illustration by Daniel Wilkinson

Note: Needs, Features Benefits strategy by Allen Anderson/DTG-EMP; Baseball diamond analogy and illustration by Daniel Wilkinson/Higher

Make sure to put special emphasis on the benefits that the employer will receive by working with you as people tend to make decisions based on benefits rather than features (for more on this see this YouTube video from KO Sales Coach).

For example, an employer is likely to get more excited about a candidate who wants to stay at a job for a long time (benefit = saves the employer from frequent hiring/training costs) than they will about a candidate who speaks 4 languages (a feature).

Strategy #3: Anticipate objections and bring them up before the employer does.

If you’ve been doing refugee job development for a while, you know what the most common objections to hiring refugees are. But have you developed a plan for responding to these objections?

By anticipating and planning for objections, you “beat the employer to the punch”- you bring up the objection before they do.

For example, you know a lot of employers are going to say that they are concerned that people with limited English proficiency may not be able to work safely in their facility. So instead of waiting for them to bring up this concern, you might say:

“I know that a lot of employers are afraid to work with English language learners because of safety concerns. Safety is also very important to us and we certainly would not want to place our clients or any of your other employees in danger. Let me tell you about a few other employers that we’ve worked with in your industry and how we’ve supported them with the English issue…”

Your goal in anticipating objections is to put the employer’s mind at ease and assure them that you have their best interest in mind. By bringing up the objections that you know they are likely to have, you show them that you understand their concerns, and are already have solutions!

Strategy #4: Always ask for a decision- but be smart about the way you do it.

The hardest part of any sales conversation is asking someone to make a decision. It’s so much easier to be passive, say “thank you for your time” and walk out of a decision maker’s office not really knowing which way things are going.

Be bold and ask the employer when you can bring a few clients in for an interview.

Valerie Evans“Always ask for a decision. If they are not willing to give you a decision, ask when you should follow-up. Be proactive.” –Valerie Evans, RSSP Coordinator, Catholic Charities Onondaga County, Syracuse, NY

 

The big idea here is that you should always ask for a decision, but every conversation is different, and your approach with employers will differ slightly, depending on how open and interested they are. Here are a few tips (paraphrased from a recent DTG-EMP webinar) for asking for action from employers with varying levels of interest:

When the employer seems very positive – If the employer seems very engaged and you notice a lot of positive body language (e.g. smiling, eye contact, head nodding, etc.) assume they are on board and start making plans. (e.g. “I know Ahmed is available on Monday. Would you like to interview him then?”)

When the employer is hard to read or seems neutral- Just be brave, and ask them directly if they’d like to move forward and put an interview on the calendar so you can bring them some qualified candidates.

When the employer seems unconvinced or hesitant- Ask them if there is any information they need that you have not yet shared with them. You might also ask them what concerns them most about working with refugees. Understanding the employer’s barriers to hiring refugees is the first step to removing them.

Finally, suggest the employer give a tour to refugee candidates and do a hands-on work-related activity so that they can identify refugee candidates with the right mix of skills and personality. 

Resources for Learning More

If you’re new to this work, or new to Higher, be sure to sign up for our Online Learning Institute and check out our “Communicating with Employers” eLearning module.

You may also enjoy these two video posts on selling:

  • Selling Yourself in a Job Interview – If you are successful at selling, the next step is for clients to sell themselves. In this video a Congolese refugee resettled in Georgia explains the importance of selling yourself in a job interview.

We’re always interested in your good ideas and feedback! What strategies do you use to help overcome employer objections and sell them on your services and clients? Let us know at information@higheradvantage.org.

Note: The content of this post combined insights from training and resources from Allen Anderson/DTG-EMP as well as Higher’s Job Development Community of Practice.