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4 myths about hiring refugees: addressing the gap in building a dynamic workforce

myths about hiring refugees

Although many Australian businesses say they want to hire refugees, a lot of them don’t. Based on a recent study on Australian companies conducted by the University of Sydney Business School and Crescent Foundation, this is mainly because companies feel they lack the knowledge and resources to go about hiring refugees.

Migrants and refugees play a key role in addressing the skills shortage that Australia is currently facing. According to the Grattan Institute, one in three workers in Australia were born overseas and one in five workers currently hold either a temporary or permanent visa.

Lead author of the study, Professor Betina Szkudlarek says: “Each year Australia welcomes thousands of refugees, most of whom find it difficult to obtain work befitting their experience and expertise. They want to work, and employers say they are willing to hire them, but our research found a substantial gap between employer intentions and actions. There is an opportunity for employers to play a vital role in improving employment outcomes of people from a refugee background, while expanding their talent pool, and an opportunity for government to remove some of the more significant barriers.”

Addressing the lack of awareness and false assumptions is a small step towards building a more inclusive recruitment process. Below we debunk some of the myths that employers have about hiring refugees:

Myth 1: “We don’t have a strategy for it so it’s better not to”

There are many resources available for companies that wish to hire refugees or at least get started with a strategy. Non-profit organisations like Humans Like Us has an employer network that shares best practices. University based centres like Deakin CREATE and the University of Sydney Business School also have free published guides for businesses who are seeking to hire refugees. In a recent Moir Group webinar, guests from Deakin CREATE spoke to company leaders and HR professionals in attendance to help them reflect on current hiring processes and how that hinders access to quality livelihood for highly skilled refugees.’

Myth 2: “Their work experience doesn’t match our needs”

As recruiters, it is our job to communicate candidates’ work experience in an effective way – whether or not they are refugees. Resumes are written in different ways and conventions of job titles, qualifications and university degrees often get misinterpreted. Sometimes, a candidate will possess all the qualities and skills needed for a job but are overlooked because of unconscious bias alongside rigid and traditional hiring processes. Misrecognition of qualifications is a common barrier for any job seeker. As applicants continue to learn how to effectively communicate their work experience, companies can also broaden their understanding of international systems and different professional pathways.

Myth 3: “It will require additional resources and that’s expensive”

Initiating recruitment of refugees in a company doesn’t have to start big. Existing training programs, short term, part time or casual placements are good ways to start small and gain first hand knowledge of how your business can benefit from often overlooked talent. In the long term, the value of having a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce is significant, having a positive impact on revenue, retaining and attracting talent, corporate culture and innovation.

Myth 4: “Their lack of local experience is a barrier”

We often hear employers rule out foreign talent for this very reason. It’s an all too common experience for many people in Australia. It’s a circuitous problem, they don’t have local experience because local employers don’t hire them. Seeing someone’s experience as “not local” is an unconscious bias that prevents companies from gaining sought after international perspectives in an increasingly globalised society. Professor Betina Szkudlarek says that “Refugees bring fresh ways of thinking about problems that Australian employers may not consider.” 

Final thought

Oftentimes, what prevents employers from taking the first step is the thinking that proactive recruitment of refugees should be perfect from the start. The fear of getting it wrong when trying to do the right thing leads to inaction. As the corporate sector tries to navigate this complex landscape, know that there are organisations willing to collaborate and provide support and resources so that companies don’t have to go through it alone.

As a specialist finance, accounting and ESG recruitment and learning organisation; Moir Group can help your company with talent planning. We also run many events and webinars across the year for early and mid-career professionals. Stay updated on our upcoming events here.

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