Settlement Guide

Helping migrants find work in Australia

Source: AAP/Dan Peled

A lack of language skills, Australian experience and cross-cultural misunderstandings can prove barriers for newly-arrived migrants and refugees in finding an appropriate job in Australia. Here are some helpful tips for finding a job.

Getting a foot in the Australian job market can be challenging, especially for those arriving as migrants and refugees.

A study by migrant and refugee settlement agency AMES Australia shows that migrants struggle to break into the labour market but can succeed if given early job-hunting support.

Key points

  • Migrants and refugees face language and cultural barriers in finding employment in Australia.
  • Having a tailored resume according to a specific job ad is an important first step.
  • There are government and community resources available to help newly-arrived migrants and refugees find employment in Australia.

The study’s lead author Monica O’Dwyer says that those who found jobs mostly worked on a casual basis.

This could be a long career gap due to the migration itself, needing to learn English and sometimes supporting the settlement of their families.

Ms O'Dwyer emphasises that many migrants who could find employment worked in low-level jobs not aligning with their qualifications or experience.

A good resume

Margaret Davis runs a program within AMES that provides settlement services, including education, training and employment to migrants and refugees.

She says many new arrivals don't understand the Australian job market.

Many come with a resume, but it may not be appropriate. And also they tend not to look at job ads or don´t read them carefully. And also people tend to apply for a job and ignore some of the must haves.

She says having a good resume is an important part of the job search.

Adapt each application for a specific position, using keywords and phrases from the job advertisement and keep the resume short and relevant to address the job requirements. Mentioning quantifiable achievements is very important.

Prepare a relevant cover letter and try to get the hiring manager's name, if possible and address it to them. Ask someone to check the application for spelling, grammar and relevance.

The barriers

Bob (30), a Tanzanian construction worker, came to Australia in 2014. He the biggest difficulty migrants like himself face in finding work is the language.

"The accent, the way of communicating; it's a little bit different from the ways when you apply [for a job] at home. But apart from that is the issue of culture as well," he says.

After many knock-backs from employers, Bob decided to join a job agency that provides employment opportunities.

Italian secondary-school teacher Alessandro Miccichè says he found resume writing a challenge.

"I had to write resumes in different ways. And as my profession was the profession of a teacher, I had to address every single criterion in a different way and write something which would be interesting to the people that were considering my application."

Preparing for a job interview

Margaret Davis says once a job seeker gets through the resume and telephone recruitment, it's important to prepare well for the face-to-face interview. She suggests doing research on the position, and talking to the recruiter is a good idea.

Practise responses to possible questions. Also, try not to write down sentences and remember them, but just have some points, so that you are talking more naturally.

The Federal Government’s Jobactive scheme connects job seekers and employers.

Victorian State Manager Adrian Jenkins says most job seekers come to them through Centrelink.

"When a job seeker comes to us, they will sit down with one of our consultants to do a Job Plan. And we will look at a whole range of possibilities to assist them. In some cases, that may be as simple as assisting them with their resumes, also educating people about how the labour market works at the moment."

Job seekers can also receive targeted training that includes writing resumes and preparing for interviews. Mr Jenkins says while there's a high proportion of part-time jobs and a high rate of casualisation, there are still opportunities available in some sectors.

"Food processing, for example, is one area there is some growth in employment. Obviously, the health care and community services sector is another growth industry. Aged care facilities, gardeners, maintenance people, so there are opportunities out there."


He says something that most job seekers are not considering is the importance of a wide network for job opportunities.

"Often, it is a friend of a friend of a friend who recommends someone to a job that's not advertised. The longer you are unemployed, one thing that happens is your network starts to diminish; it becomes almost a catch-22."

 Learn more about the jobactive program.