Tuesday, June 14, 2011

From Homeless Client to Job Candidate: Deloitte volunteers spend a day at our shelter preparing for the job interview

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James Avery knows a job is the key to breaking out of his homelessness. A high school dropout at the 10th grade, he’s battled addiction and a criminal past. He knows how hard it can be to hire someone with that kind of past. But he’s been clean for months and he knows with the right opportunity, he can be a great hire in the construction business.

But how to get through the interview? When should he raise his criminal history? What should his resume list for a current address?

These were the kinds of questions, plus many more, that more than 40 volunteers from Deloitte helped answer last Friday, June 10, during their annual Impact Day. Impact Day is a unifying day at Deloitte, when all of their offices worldwide close for a day of volunteering in local communities.

At our 801 East Shelter, volunteers conducted several workshops in the morning focusing on personal finance and budgeting, self-improvement and soft-skills for the workplace – such as conversation, dress and punctuality. In the afternoon, shelter residents had the chance to interview for one of four jobs (based on real job listings) during a mock interview and receive feedback from the hiring manager.

“A lot of the things they have been talking about, I know it’s what you are supposed to do already. But it is good to be reminded and to have someone guiding you and rooting for you,” James said, who agreed to let me sit in on his interview.

James was interviewed by Natalie, a Deloitte volunteer. After shaking hands, James begins by handing over his resume, typed (with a few pen edits). He talks fast and eagerly, smiles big and maintains eye contact. Natalie asks questions of his past work. After they finish, Natalie walks him through his strengths and areas for improvement.

Strengths? Good eye contact and projected confidence in his body language. Areas to improve? Keep his answers shorter and more to the point. Also, slow down his speech so that the interviewer understands him clearly.

They also discussed the appropriate time to present the resume to the interviewer and how he should end the interview.

Afterward, James smiled broadly and had an air of excitement. “I feel real good right now,” he said. “I know I can make this happen.”

For three years running, Deloitte has partnered with Catholic Charities as a site for its Impact Day locally. Projects have included work at our Anchor Mental Health facility, a new playground last year at our Kennedy School and beautification at several group homes for adults with developmental disabilities.

Last year, the group expanded to work at 801 East men’s shelter with a series of workshops, working with both men and women. This year, seeking to better use Deloitte professionals’ unique skill sets, the work was expanded to include the mock interviews.

“Throughout the year, our clients refer back to the Impact Day with Deloitte,” said Paul Amara, Director of Men’s Shelters at Catholic Charities. “In addition to the knowledge and coaching, the simple opportunity to be treated and viewed as an equal means so much to our folks.”

With Deloitte’s help, we’re praying that more and more of our neighbors who are homeless will be asked, “When can you start?”

Learn more here about our 19 programs for the homeless. Donate here.