Collaborative Job Fair: Connecting Employers and Professional Refugees and Immigrants in Silicon Valley

Twenty-one employers and more than 140 job seekers attended the first Employer Meet and Greet hosted by the Refugee and Immigrant Forum of Santa Clara County in April 2017. It was such a success that a second fair is planned for November 9.

The 31 public, non-profit and individual members of the Refugee and Immigrant Forum of Santa Clara County noticed that refugees with professional experience start in entry-level jobs when they arrive to the U.S. and can get stuck there. Ellie Derakhshesh-Clelland, the Senior Director of Social Services at Pars Equality Center and the Chair of the Forum, has a passion for seeing professional refugees and immigrants attain better jobs, “We found a need to really pay attention to this group and not let them fall behind due to very few connections when they first arrive,” said Ellie.

The first job fair made quite an impression on the local refugee and immigrant community, as well as employers. “The excitement in the room was so amazing, from both sides,” said Ellie. Job seekers who attended told organizers they had never been to a job fair with such high-level employers, including Cisco, Airbnb, Bank of America, and Comerica.

Employers who previously never imagined they could find the talents and skills they need among newly-arrived refugees and immigrants are now signing up to join the second Employer Meet and Greet. When asked how the Forum was able to get commitments from so many employers for the pilot event, Ellie admitted, “It was hard!” She said it took the support of the entire Forum sub-committee—each member personally reached out to connections to secure commitments. The organizers emphasized that hiring a refugee is not just about doing a good deed, but that the invited employers have a lot to gain by having access to so many educated professionals.

The Forum sub-committee continues to learn from the successes and challenges of planning a collaborative job fair. The upcoming fair will add a resume workshop for job seekers who want additional feedback on how to best frame their education and experience for a job in the U.S. This event will be held at LinkedIn, which is also providing complimentary profile evaluations for the first 50 job seekers who arrive. Attendees will receive feedback on how their profile compares to others in Silicon Valley. Ellie says they hope to have 30 employers and increase the number of job seekers in attendance.

Although the meet and greet fair has proven invaluable in fostering connections and awareness, one challenge has been the difficulty in tracking how many people were hired from connections made at the fair, a data point the Forum hopes to report after future events.

You can learn more about the career pathways promotion efforts of the Refugee and Immigrant Forum of Santa Clara County here.

A Few Ways to Engage Volunteers in your Employment Program

With all the changes over the course of FY17, Higher has learned that many offices have seen a surge of interest from community volunteers.

Though it can be time consuming to bring on volunteers, when volunteers are involved in the resettlement process they can become powerful community advocates on behalf of refugees.

Here are a few specific ways you can use volunteers in key program areas.

Job Readiness

  • Filling out mock job applications with clients: Gather various job applications from employer websites or places of business. Have volunteers practice filling out applications with clients for the jobs that they are interested in. Focus on any English words that may be confusing or new to clients.
  • Assisting with Job Readiness training: Volunteers can help teach job readiness class or meet 1-on-1 with clients to review key concepts or help them to prepare for job interviews. Mock interviews with individuals or small groups is a great way to prepare for job interviews.
  • Assisting with Transportation: Volunteers can provide transportation for clients searching for jobs nearby or attending job interviews. Once a client accepts a position, volunteers can assist with learning routes to and from a job or assist with arranging transportation if the job requires work at times when public transportation may be inconsistent (e.g. Sundays or night shifts).
  • Financial Literacy: Volunteers can help teach financial literacy courses or provide one on one training to clients. This includes helping clients to open a bank account or complete personal budgets.

Job Development

  • Researching available jobs: With a client by their side, have volunteers research employment opportunities near bus lines or within walking distance of the client’s home.
  • Recruiting potential employers: Have volunteers tap into their networks – work, church, sports teams, family, etc. – to see if anyone they know is interested in hiring refugees.

Post-Placement Assistance

  • Helping clients maintain employment: Once a client is employed, ask a volunteer to sit down with him/her and review the importance of timeliness, not missing work, appropriate dress and proper work behavior.

How do you utilize volunteers in your programs? Write to us at information@higheradvantage.org to share your stories.

For more ideas on engaging volunteers, check out these previously published Higher blog posts:

An eLearning Resource: Interview Behavior Videos

Ever wanted to be able to show clients what a bad interview looks like? Well you are in luck, check out Higher’s Online Learning Institute. You can access the complete module right now with your username and password.  If you aren’t already taking advantage of our 13 eLearning courses, sign up here for instant access to these videos and the other eLearning courses.

Here are 4 things to know about this exciting new resource:

  1. There are two short videos with examples of good and bad interview behaviors.
  2. You can also get transcripts and suggestions for using the module with clients in the companion resource section.
  3. More than 20 resettlement programs across the country are using our eLearning courses in their job readiness activities.
  4.  The job seekers in the videos are refugees. Thanks to them and to African Community Center (ACC), Denver, CO for helping out.

Here’s a sneak peek at Interview Behavior Videos. 

Email Higher at information@higheradvantage.org to let us know what you think, how you’re using our latest eLearning resource and what else would be helpful.

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.

Job Readiness Activities for Adult Learners

Last week in Denver, attendees in the job readiness session participated in an activity to list the tools, resources and activities they currently use with clients.  Here’s the combined list.  If possible, a link to a version of the activity is included.  If you have a different version of any activity, or you have any resources to add, please contact us so we can update the list!

Interview Practice

Mock Interviews

Record Clients & Play Back for Client

Practice Interview Questions

Interactive Activities

Job Readiness Bingo

Body Language Activities

Flash Card Bowling

Welcome Circle: Begin Class by Asking Everyone Name, Origin, Languages and their First Job

First Day: Classroom Expectations – Importance of Classroom Success

Incorporating Certificates after Job Day Trainings

Resume Jeopardy

Skills

Identifying Skills that Refugees Have – Physical vs. Personal Skills

Explain How to Transfer Skills

Look at Job Listing Examples and ask, “Do you have the skills?”

Presentations

Picture Heavy PowerPoint

Visual Resources

Pictures

Describe Career Dreams Using Pictures

Videos

Videos to show the Work Done at Different Jobs

Quality Control Video – Quality, Quantity

Cards

Realia – Safety Gear

Higher Resources

Higher Advantage Modules

U.S. Job Cycle Visual (page 2)

Guided Practice

Mock Hotel Environment – Practice

Dishwasher Training at Location

Time Clock Practice

Time Clock for Attendance

Production Line Simulation

6-Day Training Spurts (short-term)

Applications & Resumes

Resume Preparation

Filling out Applications

Applications Planted at Businesses

In Class Resume Building (Skeleton Version)

Practice Application

Job Search

How to Find Jobs

Digital Literacy

Computer Lab

Mobile Computer Labs

Group Discussions

Small Group Discussion about Hygiene & Dress

Small Groups – Have clients create their own business & say what skills are needed for job

Specific Training Topics

Safety Classes: Use signs with Pictures, explain what signs mean. Explain the importance of reporting issues

Lessons on Trauma and the Impact of Trauma

Workplace Culture (i.e. handshakes & other non-verbal communication)

Job Security/Responsibility to Communicate with Supervisors (2 weeks notice)

Coworker relationships, manners, mannerisms

Hygiene, Grooming

Transportation – Teaching bus lines

English Instruction

Translated Materials

Mandatory ESL

Teach Job-Appropriate Vocabulary

Community Partnerships

Clothing Donations as Incentives

Local Library Partnerships

Adding Social Enterprises into your Curriculum

Financial Literacy

I-9 & W-2 (Tax & Pay)

Explain Payroll, Direct Deposit and Tax Forms

Assist with Opening Bank Account

Translators/Interpreters

Record Videos of Interpreters

Assessments

Go Over Pre-Employment Assessment (Reading Comprehension)

Mock Interview/Application Process as Assessment

Other

Self-Reflection

Tour at Companies

CORE

Childcare (Paid Employees)

One-on-One Pre-Employment Counseling

Wish List

More Tactile Activities

Child Care Resources – Toys for Kids

Notes

Factoring in Trauma when making Job Placements

Meat Packing isn’t good for People with Trauma

21 Job Interview Tips Infographic

Because there can never be enough interview preparation, right?

The basic points we all know refugee job seekers need to learn are included in this infographic from Company Folders, Inc.

The language and format is clear enough to use in job readiness class or even post in your lobby to reinforce skills you’re teaching in other activities.

It’s mobile optimized, too, so clients can study it on their cell phones!

Here’s a link to the infographic URL in an easy format for copying and sharing with clients.  (http://www.companyfolders.com/blog/media/2014/08/graphic-design-interview-tips1.jpg)

Graphic Design Interview Tips

Don’t Be Afraid to Reschedule a Client Job Interview

lateThere are so many things that can make you late when you’re taking clients to a job interview. The van won’t start. That one guy was really late. You wasted 10 minutes looking for the stack of resumes prepared for the employer.

I can picture several times when this happened to me. I suspect I’m not alone, right?

Reading a recent article in lifehacker.com made me realize that I should have handled these situations differently. It’s much better to call and ask to reschedule if you see that you’ll be late or arrive with frazzled and unfocused candidates. 

Everyone’s nervous anyway. A scramble to be on time or a frantic last minute group review en route can really mess up client confidence. Interviewers will usually honor a request to reschedule, especially if you make it clear that the reasons don’t reflect poorly on client timeliness or reliability.

Hmm.  Wish I’d thought of this myself a lot sooner.

 

Interview Preparation Infographic

A big part of job readiness activities includes providing clients with the skills they need to successfully interview for employment. We’ve covered this topic before (10 Interview Preparation Best Practices), but when we saw the infographic below, it just seemed too good to keep to ourselves.

To summarize, there are 5 things that you can help clients do to prepare for interviews:

  1. Get Organized – help clients plan routes and be sure they know to arrive 15 minutes early.
  2. Make a Good First Impression – be sure clients dress appropriately and smile.
  3. Demonstrate Energy and Enthusiasm – this includes making eye contact and having confidence.
  4. Research – both the company and the role.
  5. Demonstrate Attitude and Aptitude – help clients practice those infamous behavioral interview questions (check out Interview Behavior Videos to see more on this topic).

For more details and some fun facts, check out the infographic below.

Interview Preparation Infographic

Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

Job Interviews 101: Basic Components and Key Skills for All Clients

Preparing for Job Interview: Calendar and PlanThrowback Thursday: a classic Higher blog post about a fundamental of our work.

How many times have you helped clients land a job interview only to have them freeze and lose out on a job they would have rocked? There can never be too much interview preparation – for general skill building and specifically for a targeted position.

Job readiness training or other group classes can help convey the basics, but it takes repetition and individual practice to gain confidence in interviewing.  Even when you have the inside track based on employer relationships, poor interview skills can still cost clients jobs.

Most job interviews include three basic parts: 1) Establishing a Positive First Impression; 2) Demonstrating a Good Fit; and 3) Confirming Interest in the Position.  Keep this three-part framework in mind to help clients synthesize information from different sources (e.g. job readiness classes, one-on-one interview prep and real interview experience) and deepen their skills over time.

1.   Establishing a Positive First Impressions:  Confident Greetings and Introduction

For clients with very low English language skills, first impressions are especially important. Building their confidence is the key to helping all clients demonstrate their language skills English by introducing themselves (Hello, my name is…) with a great smile, firm handshake and good eye contact.  Appropriate attire, interview etiquette, posture and personal hygiene are also important parts of this basic preparation to succeed in interviews and the U.S. workforce in general.

2.   Demonstrating a Good Fit:  Learning about the Job and Talking about Yourself

After greetings, interviews can include questions, a tour of the facilities or explanations about the nature of the position and company.  You can help clients prepare to experience different approaches and understand that the purpose is the same – to see if they will be a good fit for the job.

Clients  are seldom comfortable with self-promotion, which can feel like boasting or bragging in the context of their home cultures.   Explain that employers look for qualities and characteristics as much as concrete skills and experience.

They may hear different questions, but their answers should emphasize the qualities and characteristics they offer, including relevant skills and experience.  Clients need to be able to convey a positive attitude and energy that shows why they will be a good employee.

Interview practice questions may include:

  • Why should I hire you (and not someone else) for this position?
  • Why do you want to work for our company?
  • What makes you the best person for this job?
  • What motivated you to apply for this position?

Some typical qualities employers look for include dependable, reliable, on-time, friendly or other customer service traits.

3.   Confirming Interest in the Position:  Asking Questions and Confirming Next Steps

Job interviews usually end with the opportunity for the candidate to ask a question. Not doing so can cost your client the job. Explaining the importance of taking the chance to demonstrate interest in the job, company or some aspect of the opportunity is the best lead in to practicing possible questions.

It’s also important to outline what questions they should NOT ask.  For example, emphasizing break and lunch times and compensation can create the impression that a candidate will not be a “good worker”.  Other questions that express worry about how to find the right bus stop or getting to work on time are better addressed outside of the interview.  Everyone wants to know if they got the job, but it’s helpful to explain that asking about “next steps in the process” is a more acceptable way to ask that question.

Your Top 10 Interview Prep Best Practices

10 Interview Preparation Best Practices10 Interview Preparation Best Practices is a visual collection of your tips, tricks, and best practices for providing clients with the skills they need to successfully interview for employment.

This is the second of five resource sheets from speed dating”, where 120 refugee employment service providers at our Second Annual Refugee Employment  split into small groups and spent 10 minutes discussing each of five topics.

Be sure to download the complete set of notes here. There’s so much great information it was hard to know where to start!

Looking for more interview preparation resources? Through Higher’s Online Learning Institute, we offer several free eLearning modules that you and your clients can access. Consider showing one in job readiness class or one-on-one with clients. Interview Behavior Videos or How to Answer Behavioral Interview Questions are great resources to check out.

We have several other resources in the works, so be sure to check back often. As always, please let us know your ideas for other resources to make your jobs easier.