Diversity Insight, Hiring & Recruiting

Hiring Refugees Makes Good Sense

The HR Daily Advisor would like to welcome Gideon Maltz, executive director of Tent—an organization dedicated to aiding the men, women, and children of the world who have been forcibly displaced from their home countries. Tent recently released a guide to hiring refugees in the United States.

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HR Daily Advisor: You recently released a guide to hiring refugees for U.S. employers. We have a lot of specific questions we’d like to ask you, but before we get started, can you tell us in broad terms why hiring refugees is so important?

Maltz: We’re excited to get into the specifics, but here are two broad reasons: first, it’s a profoundly decent thing to do—refugees have been through hell, and employers give them a chance to rebuild their lives; and second, it makes good business sense—refugees are highly motivated employees and stay longer in their jobs; companies that hire refugees also strengthen their brand by living their values, and earn more customer loyalty.

HR Daily Advisor: How do refugees differ from other immigrants?

Maltz: The one-line answer is that “nobody chooses to be a refugee.” Immigrants leave their home countries of their own volition and choose to resettle in another country; refugees are compelled to leave their home countries because they face persecution.

The United States—and the international community—have long understood that refugees are uniquely vulnerable and in need of assistance.

HR Daily Advisor: Refugees come from all over the world, particularly from nations in crisis. We have all heard about the Syrian refugee crisis, for example. Is that where most of the refugees that settle in the United States come from?

Maltz: No—in fact, only 10% of refugees admitted to the United States between 2015 and 2017 are Syrian. The greatest numbers of refugees come from Burma (Myanmar), the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, and Somalia—all places with significant violence and persecution.

HR Daily Advisor: Where do the majority of refugees end up within the United States?

Maltz: The U.S. government, in close consultation with nine national nonprofit resettlement agencies, places refugees in locations across the country, based on a variety of factors—such as resources available in local communities and whether refugees have family members already in the United States. The top 10 metro areas for refugee placement are (1) San Diego, CA; (2) Dallas-Fort Worth, TX; (3) Atlanta, GA; (4) Phoenix, AZ; (5) Los Angeles, CA; (6) Houston, TX; (7) Chicago, IL; (8) Detroit, MI; (9) Seattle, WA; and (10) Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN. It should be noted that while refugees might initially be resettled in one city, they are allowed to move freely about the country and often will for a variety of reasons, including employment opportunities.

HR Daily Advisor: What makes refugees a good source of labor?

Maltz: Refugees have lost everything—they are desperate to start new lives and provide for their families. They are highly resilient, hardworking, and motivated employees. U.S. employers also tell us that refugees feel a strong sense of loyalty to companies that invest in them and stay with them for longer on average than typical employees—that’s a significant dividend for employers facing the high costs of employee turnover. In certain sectors, refugees can also bring helpful language skills—a recent report found that the number of job postings requiring Arabic skills in the United States rose 160%. This is also the most common language of refugees arriving in the United States.

In tomorrow’s Advisor, we’ll look at the rest of Maltz’s answers, including how to handle some of the more common issues when hiring refugees.