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Hiring Refugee Talent: 3 Tips for Nonprofits

Today, over 100 million people have been forcibly displaced as a result of conflict and crises in countries like Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Yemen. As refugees rebuild their lives in new communities, one of the most challenging, essential, and rewarding steps is finding employment.

“Refugees and other displaced people have had their entire lives upended,” says Ayaz Ahmed, Deputy Director of Programs at the International Rescue Committee (IRC). “An essential part of their becoming whole again is once again being able to provide for themselves and their families.”

For nonprofits, hiring refugees is an opportunity to welcome each person’s unique skills, talents, and perspectives into your organization.

“These new team members can be especially helpful in bringing unique linguistic and cultural skills and helping organizations build diverse, thriving teams,” Ayaz says.

Here are three tips Ayaz recommends for expanding opportunities to refugee job seekers:

1. Partner with other organizations that have ties to the refugee community 

Many refugees arrive in new communities with a wealth of professional experience, expertise, skills, and education — but starting one’s career over again in a new country can be a long process.

“Nonprofits interested in hiring refugees should reach out to local refugee and immigrant-serving organizations,” Ayaz recommends. “U.S.-based nonprofits can also consider reaching out to the local American Job Center to let them know that you have open positions and are especially interested in hiring refugees or others who may be entering the workforce for the first time. Additionally, consider sharing job postings and announcements with your region’s local refugee forum, city office of immigrant affairs, and other similar local partners.”

Since refugees often face unique challenges in re-entering the workforce, like a lack of proficiency in the local language or difficulty getting their skills and education recognized by local employers, Ayaz says it’s hugely valuable to partner with organizations that provide workforce development services and employment counseling to this community.

“These organizations are working to upskill and prepare these individuals so that they are ready to be hired by local employers,” he explains.

2. Review your job descriptions to ensure they’re accessible 

Your job descriptions are a gateway to roles at your nonprofit. To make your jobs more accessible to refugees, Ayaz recommends highlighting certain factors that job seekers will be looking for.

“What level of local language proficiency is needed to do the job well?” he asks. “Do you have preferences for specific language or cultural skills? Does your organization accept educational degrees earned abroad for positions that require a high school or university degree?”

3. Highlight any transportation, education, or childcare benefits you offer

Other barriers that can make it difficult for refugees to find meaningful work in their host country are a lack of affordable transportation and childcare options. Ayaz recommends highlighting any benefits your organization offers in these areas in your job descriptions and interview process.

“This can be a big help in ensuring that newly-arriving community members are well-positioned to thrive in their new jobs,” he says. “Also, if your nonprofit has any special programs to support further upskilling or education, that can be attractive to refugee candidates who may be keen to continue their education while they work.”

Hiring refugees is good for your nonprofit — and your community as a whole

Refugees bring a wealth of skills, talents, and ambitions to your organization. And by helping displaced people restart their careers, you can help your whole community to thrive.

“Taking the step to hire refugees means local businesses will benefit from their contributions,” Ayaz says, “and the displaced people will become able to contribute more impactfully and positively to the economy of their new community.”

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