Learn how to to support refugees to create their CV and apply for jobs
The refugees you support will need help to understand the job-hunting process in the UK. This is the case despite previous work experience since hiring practices vary by country. You should bear in mind the concept of an online application or CV and cover letter could be new to them, and you may need to introduce what these are and the purpose and standard format of these.
Exploring the experience, skills and qualifications of refugees
Preparing a CV will require the person you support to recount their previous education and experience. Going through this information can be particularly challenging if the events were many years ago, but you can help by asking probing questions. It is very likely the person you support won’t be used to describing their previous work in the level of detail required for a CV. If that’s the case, try asking open questions that will help the person you support describe what they used to do and where their strengths lie.
For some refugees, keep in mind that revisiting previous periods in their life can be reminders of traumatic experiences. You should always take your lead from them and be prepared to adjust your approach.
If the person you support has no formal employment history, perhaps because of cultural expectations in their home country, they may have experience through their family and community life. Some refugee women, for example, may have not previously worked but nonetheless have significant experience in the voluntary work or childcare, offering support to those in the community or many other areas. You can support them in mapping the skills they gained through these activities and value of those in other work contexts.
Keep in mind refugees have additional skills which are beneficial to employers. Common attributes include resilience, adapting to change, multiple languages and cultural perspective.
There are now many websites offering free CV templates and you may already have one that you use yourself. How you format the CV is certainly less important than making sure you have the right content and the skills and work experience are well documented. If you haven’t found a template that works then Totaljobs offer a number you can use.
Explaining gaps in work or education history
Those who have been forced to flee their homes and wait, sometimes for years, to be resettled will likely have gaps in their employment or education history. Do explore any voluntary work or other activities (including childcare) that they may have carried out during this period. Phrases such as ‘relocated to the UK’ can also be helpful to explain this time. The person you are supporting should not be pressured into sharing more of their story than they need or wish to. A potential employer does not need to know why you fled your country, and finding the way in which gaps appear in a CV can be explained will be highly individual.
Many Groups find that the experience of volunteering is effective in providing the opportunity for refugees to move toward employment, but it may be a new concept that requires explanation. Volunteering helps overcome a common employment barrier for refugees: the absence of UK work experience and references. It also provides an opportunity for them to develop valuable skills.
More information on volunteering can be found in our ‘accessing volunteering opportunities’ resource.
Applying for jobs
It is important that the refugees you are working with develop their knowledge of the UK job market and how applications are made. Doing so will enable them to make informed choices and decisions about work. Some key points to go over with them will be:
- Help the person you support understand that the first job they apply for won’t be the job they hold for the rest of their life. Support in mapping out a pathway to the job they ultimately want to do will be really helpful.
- Explain where and how to look for work. This would depend on your location but may include searching online, visiting local businesses, or tapping into social networks. Some online UK-wide job search platforms: Indeed UK, Reed.co.uk, Google for Jobs and Do-it.org (for volunteering opportunities) – don’t forget that your local Job Centre will be able to assist
- Help them to go through the job advertisement and explain any vocabulary which is unfamiliar
- Support them to think through if a role is suitable. Considerations will include the hours especially if they have study or childcare commitments, commute (feasibility/time/cost), experience required including English language skills, the pay and any impact on benefits this will have
- Go over how to apply for a job and what is required. It can be helpful to start by asking about hiring processes they’ve gone through in the past and draw comparisons.
- Provide guidance on how they can present their skills and experience. Concepts such as ‘tailoring your CV to a specific role’, transferable skills or cover letter may all be unfamiliar to some refugees. You may have to guide them through these approaches and encourage them to give examples of their skills and experience.
You should be aiming to develop the job-seeking knowledge and skills of the refugees you are supporting. The process can take time and you may find yourself providing much more help at the beginning. The level of support should be incrementally removed when no longer required to ensure they can independently apply for jobs in the future. Be mindful throughout that you are not the one writing the job application, you are supporting someone to do this themselves.
Holistic employment support
You can tailor other aspects of the support you offer individuals to working toward employment.
You may wish to consider, for example, work or sector oriented English language sessions to help improve specific terminology or vocabulary relating to employment. In terms of social welfare benefits, make sure you help individuals to understand the impact working will have on their monthly income. The Welcome to the UK booklet might help to form a basis for this discussion.
Making a successful job application can take time. Some of the factors will be beyond anyone’s control like the state of the economy and the availability of jobs. It is important that both you and the person you support are realistic in terms of employment expectations. You can help maintain good spirits by focusing on the progress they have made and the learning gained along the way.
You may be supporting a family member who finds a job or volunteering opportunity with an organisation who has not yet worked with someone with refugee status. It’s important that if you are approached or offer support to an employer or volunteer involving organisation that you are clear in what you will and will not do for that family member. Your Group may have decided that you will not give references, as you will not be aware of employment history, or you may offer to attend a first volunteer session to provide support to the family member. Make sure any offers of help or support are time limited and clear. The employer/volunteer organisation should develop their relationship directly with the person they work with and not your Group.
- Experts by Experience: accessing volunteering opportunities
- Accessing employment and volunteering opportunities
- Refugee Employment Network
- Refugee Council Employment projects