Guide Offers Job-Hunting Tips for Latinos

Jennifer Ludden speaks with Mariela Dabbah, author of the Spanish-language Como Conseguir Trabajo en los Estados Unidos, Guia Especial para Latinos — or "How to Find a Job in the United States: A Special Guide for Latinos." From the logistical to the cultural, Dabbah gives advice to Latino immigrants looking for work in foreign terrain.

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JENNIFER LUDDEN, host:

The stereotype of Hispanic immigrants in this country is that they take the jobs native-born Americans won't. Mariela Dabbah is trying to make sure they don't take just anything that comes along. She's written a book; it's in Spanish, but the title translates as "How to Find a Job in the United States: A Special Guide for Latinos." Mariela Dabbah moved to the US from Argentina. She's based in New York and teaches there, and she joins us now from our New York bureau.

Mariela Dabbah, welcome.

Ms. MARIELA DABBAH (Author): Hi. How are you?

LUDDEN: Good, thanks.

Can you tell me, first, who are you writing this book for? I mean, is your target audience, you know, a more educated immigrant, or are you really writing for maybe that stereotypical low-wage worker?

Ms. DABBAH: I'm writing for every single Latino immigrant who was raised in Latin America, because no matter what their educational background is, all of them will be able to find something important and useful in this book.

LUDDEN: Well, there's certainly a lot of people in this country who maybe don't have documents; they're here illegally. You write about them, as well. What do you suggest?

Ms. DABBAH: People who don't have documents will find in this--I mean, I'm definitely not trying to get anybody to do anything illegal, but there are certain things people can do when they don't have papers that they may not know about. For example, people who don't have papers usually are better off trying to start their own business.

LUDDEN: What kind of business?

Ms. DABBAH: Things on the Internet, for example, where you're not required a Social Security. You're required other kinds of stuff, like you could have a bank account if you wanted to sell in any of the auction sites. You could set up a business to sell on an auction site.

LUDDEN: By writing about undocumented workers and basically giving them advice, I mean, are you worried about being accused of aiding and abetting in some way here?

Ms. DABBAH: I'm careful with what I say. What I do is I point out throughout the book what kind of documents they're going to ask when you go to different places. So people know they can read between lines. Like I say, if you go to the federal employment agencies, they'll give you all this training without asking for your Social Security, but when you're ready to interview, then you'll need to present a Social Security. So at least you can get skills on how to manage a computer, how to learn English, learn, you know, a job survey level, whatever, and then you need to go on your own.

LUDDEN: Now you have a chapter on interviewing. Tell me some of the cultural pitfalls a Latino might encounter in a job interview.

Ms. DABBAH: A lot of Latinos may not know what conservative dressing means. When you tell them, `Well, dress conservatively for an interview,' they may still come with very large jewelry or noisy jewelry or a lot of perfume because they think that will have a good impact or make a good impression.

LUDDEN: You also advise don't get too personal.

Ms. DABBAH: One of the typical questions that will get people into trouble is a very common question: `Talk to me about yourself. Tell me about yourself.' Latinos will go into a tirade of, `Well, I have two children. My husband works. I come from Mexico. My whole family's in Mexico.' And so they start giving a lot of context and a lot of background information that might just dock them out of a job. You know, someone would say, `Oh, they have children. They may not have anybody to take care of those children,' or `They may go back to their countries because they have very close ties to the countries.'

LUDDEN: And are those--is that the way a job interview might go in Latin America?

Ms. DABBAH: In Latin America, people talk about their families quite openly. But the truth is that when you are interviewing, less is more in this country.

LUDDEN: Mariela Dabbah is the author of the Spanish-language guide "How to Find a Job in the United States."

Thanks so much.

Ms. DABBAH: You're welcome. Thank you for having me.

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