Reader Question: What if the Job is a Scam?

Christopher Rhodes

Chris has a MPA from USC, served in the US Peace Corps in Georgia and taught ESL at ORT College before joining IRIS in January, 2013.

As employment professionals, what is our ultimate responsibility when clients accept a job that proves to be a scam?

If a client asks for advice before accepting a job offer, what can we tell them?  Are there techniques you have tried to verify the legitimacy of an employer, on-line opportunity or job offer with an unfamiliar company?

Christopher Rhodes is a Job Developer for the Refugee Employment Program (REP) and Cultural Orientation Coordinator in the R&P Program with Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Service (IRIS) in Los Angeles.  He often faces this situation and wants advice from others in the field.

Here’s a bit of context.  A high percentage of the refugee client base in LA are family reunifications from Iran and Iraq.  Strong family and community networks offer trusted job search advice and computer access.    Many clients live with their families throughout the LA area and public transportation can be difficult.  As a result, independent job search is common and Chris is seeking guidance and information on how to know whether an employer can be trusted.

If you are willing to share your agency’s approach and your experience verifying job offers and advising clients accordingly, please put it in a comment on this post or send it to  Thanks.






Reader Question: How Do You Gather Client Feedback?

REC LogoThe Refugee Employment Coalition in Seattle, WA is considering ways to gather client feedback and would like to know what other agencies do to evaluate their services from the client perspective.

Stephen Johnson, WR Seattle says, “some ideas at our meeting were to have regularly scheduled exit interviews, forms/dropbox for program participants to use, and using randomized survey instruments. Each method had various challenges and benefits, so we would like to have other examples from around the country”.

If you are willing to share your agency’s approach and your experience gathering client feedback, please put it in a comment on this post or send it to  Thanks.



Cross Cultural Competence: Fundamental to Our Work

An iceberg is a common metaphor used in cross-cultural studies. What cultural factors could be “beneath” the behaviors we can observe?

Cross-cultural competence was suggested as a future eLearning training topic at the Seattle workshop.  That’s a great idea to improve our effectiveness with each other and with clients.

Stay tuned for more about this topic in a soon to be released Higher eLearning training on Employability Assessment.

One definition of cross-cultural competence refers to your ability to understand people from different cultures and engage with them effectively.

We all think immediately of how this affects our work with clients. Also think about other cross-cultural interactions you have on a regular basis.  They may include colleagues from a refugee background and even native-born citizen colleagues whose identies may be shaped by different factors than your own.

Meanwhile, be mindful of these three core inter-cultural competencies:

1.  Be aware of how your own culture shapes your behaviors, beliefs and biases

2.  Treat others as THEY would like to be treated (sometimes different than what YOU might like).

3.  Learn about the cultures you encounter in your work and think about how they may be shaping the behaviors you observe and experience.

These 12 strategies could help you to become more effective in your work with clients and colleagues from other cultures.

(Look for a series of posts over the next couple of weeks sharing highlights and key takeaways from Higher’s March 3-4 Employment Workshop in Seattle, Washington.)





Free Photographs to Enhance Employer Communication and Outreach

Photographs are important when you’re putting together employer marketing brochures, success stories, social media posts or other types of communication.

Keep that in mind when you visit employers and clients at their workplaces.  It’s much easier to collect photos in the moment than scrambling at the last minute.  For digital images, a smart phone delivers great quality and can also work for print media if you have a steady hand.

PicMonkey Collage

Remember to ask permission (in advance, if possible).  Be sensitive to cultural norms around photography.  Follow any photo release policy your agency might have.

Higher has found a couple of great free resources for generating images for all kinds of communication purposes and wanted to share them with you.

You have definitely seen examples of the results of using both of these sites – and our own photographs – in Higher social media communications.  The image that accompanies this post is a collage of free images we’ve created or found on the sites listed in the link.



Response to a Reader About Retention Rate Statistics

Matt Gruel PhotoA post on October 9 provided a list of questions to help you generate new employer ideas, including this one:

 “What are unemployment and retention rates in key industries in your area?”

Matt Gruel, Employment Coordinator with World Relief Tri Cities in Richland, WA (pictured at left) is the first reader to ask a question about a blog post.  Matt asked,

 “How do I go about finding out the unemployment and (especially) retention rates in key industries in my area?  I’m hesitant to ask one of my employers directly since I think it’s something they wouldn’t want outsiders to know.”

Here are answers from a number of sources:

Employer Advice

First, we checked with a few employers who have hired refugees and partnered with refugee employment programs.   Erica Wolff, Director of Human Resources, Training, Safety & Security at the Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin hotel says,

 “I don’t think it is a problem at all to ask for turnover information if it is used as a measuring tool for placement services.” 

Other employers agree and add that this is very common information to track for management purposes.  If an employer has dedicated HR staff, they are most likely to have the information.  It might be broken out by a few key positions or by hourly/salaried staff.   Even if specific figures are unavailable, asking an employer directly might yield other valuable information or other sources for the data.

Higher’s Webinar Archive

In May 2013, we hosted a webinar about how to use statistics and data in job development.  It includes specific instructions for using Occupational Employment Statistics to target growth industries.  You can review slides on our website.

Where Else to Look for Information:

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Opening and Labor Turnover Survey.
  • Trade associations or other industry groups.  (e.g. Hotel HR Associations, Unions, Chambers of Commerce)
  • County, City and State Government.  (e.g. Workforce Development Offices, Research and Planning Departments, Business Support Units trying to attract industry and investment)
  • Business Journals and Newspapers.

It’s great to get proof that Higher’s blog is being read.  We want to avoid spouting advice that isn’t useful, just for the sake of making a blog post.  So, thanks, Matt, for reading and for keeping us honest.


More on Drug Tests and “False Positives” from a Reader

Homer-Simpson-wingnuts-dohI’m so excited that someone wrote a comment on a post – and it’s a very useful one with more tips and specifics from the experience of Brian Bollinger, ED of Friends of Refugees and former Director of Employment Services at World Relief, both in Atlanta, GA.  THANKS BRIAN!:

A-tripla, the main medication Refugees with HIV are prescribed as a retroviral, very often shows up positive as THC.  Thousands of drug testing sites do not have that on their list of prescriptions, often because it would be illegal for the drug testing manufacturer to force an HIV positive person to self identify.  Self identification almost invariably results in rejection if the job relates to the food industry.  That is illegal discrimination, but it  is nearly impossible to prove that was the reason for rejection. Incidentally, it’s a big legal gray area that is a Catch-22, either voluntarily violate your right to privacy or voluntarily forfeit the opportunity to ever get a job (either because you have HIV or because they presume you use drugs).

Ever since the travel ban on HIV-positive Refugees was lifted, we have seen more and more of this happen, and that isn’t likely to change. Getting out in front of it is critical and can include such techniques as bringing in printed articles listing the medication from well-reputed medical resources, or being ready and able to go the long distance with immediate paperwork, follow-up blood tests and such when they fail the first test.

And, just because it makes me laugh, the graphic for a little comic relief!

5 Creative Ways to Help Clients Master Job Interview Skills

It’s easy to get bored with a topic you repeat so many times, like teaching newly arriving refugees about interview skills for the U.S. workplace.  However, it is an important topic for every client and there’s always room to improve (this applies to everyone, not just refugees).  Clients get bored with it too.  Here are some ideas you can consider to keep it fresh.

  1. Engage Volunteers:  You might not always be able to spend the time that’s needed on individual interview practice with each client.  Interview practice is a fun and stand-alone task that is perfect for volunteers.
    1. Add Quick Practice Into Job Readiness Class:  As basic interview concepts are being presented, include a few rounds of individual practice.  Have everyone stand up one by one, shake hands with you and introduce themselves.  You can take the same approach to answering and asking common interview questions.  For example, begin every client meeting with a handshake and greeting.
    2. Deepen Relationships with Key Employers:  Offer employer contacts the chance to get more involved.  Schedule a convenient time for employers and clients to conduct a few mock interviews.  Employers often express how much they enjoy these kinds of experiences.  And engaging them more will strengthen the relationship for future hires. Clients will benefit, too!
    3. Assign “Homework” for the Next Scheduled Appointment:  Sometimes clients need more time to think of answers or feel ready to express their thoughts in English.  Give them specific interview questions and encourage them to practice their answers before the next appointment.  This also helps encourage individual responsibility for their own successful job search.
    4. Rethink On-line Screening Questionnaires:  Wait a second – don’t tune out.  Everyone hates them, but screening questionnaires (like at Walmart and Office Depot) can be good sources of questions you can use in interview practice. In fact, they are really the same as an on-line job interview and are becoming increasingly common in today’s job market.   If a client aspires to a customer service job and can’t navigate an online screening questionnaire, they might not be ready for that kind of job.

Advice from a Career in Workforce Development

Harry Crawford retires as Employment Program Manager at Caritas of Austin today.  In his honor, we are reposting this summary of two pieces of his advice.  Harry Crawford

” I wanted to introduce you to Harry Crawford.  he’s the Employment Program Manager at Caritas of Austin – my boss.  He has more than 25 years of experience in workforce development. Lots of times in meetings with outside agencies, I  have to laugh because everyone ends up taking notes while Harry explains something we all need to understand.  Two pieces of his wisdom are counter-intuitive, but they always guide us through difficult aspects of working with clients, so I wanted to share them with you.

Some Clients Have to Hit the Wall: Sometimes, no mater what you do, clients have a hard time reconciling themselves to taking the first available, entry level job.  Sometimes we call it a survival or starter job.  When we’re feeling stress and worry about their family’s financial stability, Harry reminds us that some clients have to hit the wall before they can internalize the need to start in a job that they may feel is beneath them.  When they run out of options and money, they are forced to accept the realities of US work culture and that’s the best thing for them in the long term.

Finding a Job is a Numbers Game: We emphasize the importance of taking responsibility for their own success from our initial client intakes throughout all of our workshops and one-on-one coaching.  We try not to put more effort into a job search than the clients are giving themselves.  A lot of them get really frustrated by applying for lots of jobs and never even getting a response.  It builds their skills and, eventually, if they apply enough places, someone will call and they’ll find a job. ”


How to Use FREE Online Training and Education Resources

ToMortar Boardday, I found a great list of 20 free on-line educational resources through Higher’s FlipBoard magazine that includes some I’ve heard of and others that are new to me.   I wish I had time to investigate each one to evaluate the quality – which varies widely in on-line education and training offerings.  I can still think of several ways we could use these in our work with clients.

Addressing Language Skills:  If a client has already studies a subject in their native language, a basic course could help them learn vocabulary and terminology in English or help them understand what emphasis or application might be different in the US context.  At least one of the sites ( offers courses in Arabic language.  The MIT site offers courses translated into Spanish, Persian and several other languages.  There are likely other non-English language resources available from among the list.

Helping Clients Learn Basic (and more Advanced) Workplace Skills:  A couple of the sites offer courses on basic workplace skills and topics like project management, how to find a mentor, health and safety requirements and an overview of the manufacturing process.  These are likely not covered in job readiness class, but many clients could benefit from learning more about them.

Access basic US-style academic courses:  It can be frustrating for clients who yearn to attend college or University, but aren’t quite ready.  Many times, clients sign-up for on-line degrees and don’t understand the financial and time commitment or what it takes to succeed in on-line learning.  Helping clients identify relevant courses could satisfy their desire to learn while working full-time and help them understand the skills they need to succeed in any academic environment.  Some of the sites include standardized test preparation materials, as well.

Figuring out Technical Career Paths:  So many clients say they “know about computers”, but don’t know how those skills are segmented and applied in the job market.  Often, I struggled to figure out career paths and industry leads for technical skills that were completely unfamiliar to me.  With a little research, it seems like you could improve your understanding of these sectors and identify resources for clients to do so.

It would be great to hear from you about which sites you found useful and how you used them.  We’re all busy, but maybe if you can provide the list to clients, they can tell you what was useful for them.

And, stay tuned to begin using Higher’s new on-line training courses in the next month or so.  Our initial topics include  How to Communicate with Employers (for employment professionals) and Workplace Culture (for clients).  If you want to get involved in field testing to be among the first to use this great new resource designed just for us, get in touch at


Great Job Opportunity in a Great City and Agency

Higher is considering how we can help advertise refugee employment job opportunities.  Career growth in this field might mean moving to another agency or city.  For agencies, being able to cast a wider net for talent and experience can be costly.  Helping agencies and the refugee employment sector attract and retain people with skills, passion and experience is central to our mission.  We’ll be exploring how best to do that.  Feel free to tell us what you think about this or give us suggestions about other things we can do related to career development for refugee employment professionals.

For now, here’s a link to an exciting position open now – Employment Program Manager at Caritas of Austin, TX.  The position manages 10 people and oversees employment services to approximately 1,000 (primarily refugee) clients a year in the largest non-profit social service agency in the County.