Nearly two thirds of refugees were studying or working before they came to the UK, according to the Nuffield Foundation. That’s why it is surprising they often struggle to find employment. Especially since refugees are legally allowed to work and have in-demand skills that our economy sorely needs.
The good news is some barriers they face in the hiring process could be fixed with simple tweaks.
Working with refugees:
Ukraine crisis: how HR can help refugees
Refugee hires supported by new employer network
HR’s role in refugee integration
Here are some practical ways to become a refugee-friendly employer, courtesy of refugees themselves who work with City & Guilds Foundation partner The Launchpad Collective.
Job advert language
Ohood is a highly educated professional from Syria with over a decade of experience teaching Arabic.
Yet, she found it nearly impossible to understand job adverts when she was first looking for work in the UK.
“The language used in job adverts is very formal with lots of jargon,” Ohood says. “It makes it difficult to understand what the job is about.”
Her advice is to keep things basic. “It would be really helpful if you use simple, informal words. That way, you will be far more likely to attract people with refugee backgrounds who have so many skills that can help your company.”
Job application questions
Ohood also says companies exclude refugees unintentionally through application form questions.
For example, Ohood struggled with one common question when she was first looking for work after becoming a refugee: “Tell us about your work experience in the UK.”
But she didn’t have any work experience in the UK. “That meant I couldn’t answer that specific section, and my application would get rejected automatically,” Ohood says.
“But if the question said, ‘Tell us about your experience,’ I would have had lots to say.’”
You should also consider what qualifications are essential, says 26-year-old Erfan from Iran.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in social work before coming to the UK, but found his degree wasn’t enough.
“I learned the only way I would be allowed to practise social work in the UK is to be registered with Social Work England,” Erfan says.
That was difficult for two reasons: the membership cost hundreds of pounds, and it required physical proof of qualifications.
“Most refugees are leaving everything behind to save their lives, so certificates aren’t really a priority to carry with them,” Erfan says.
That’s why he suggests employers assess a refugee candidate’s knowledge during the interview process.
Then if the candidate has high potential, offer an entry-level or internship role so they can prove their skills. Additionally, you might consider subsidising required membership fees.
But it should not all be about the qualification. Competence, attitude and behaviours are just as important.
Make sure you advertise in a more diverse range of places
It might sound obvious, but refugees need to have seen your job advert to allow them to apply for the job.
Ensuring that your business uses a more diverse range of publications, websites, social media channels and organisations will allow a more diverse range of people to apply for jobs within your organisation.
Kirstie Donnelly is CEO of City & Guilds