Does learning languages boost your resume?
The scope of foreign languages the world over is full of employment opportunities, and a bilingual or multilingual person is perceived to be globally savvy, possessing an international perspective, a global traveller and a professional who can work in different cultures; attributes many employers prefer to see in their senior managers! Thus language learning undoubtedly catapults learners on a fast track towards a brighter, successful future. Several multinationals have an indomitable presence all around the world with regional offices in geography other than their own. Their deeper and stronger penetration in global markets helps them enlist themselves with prospering economies, spreading operations worldwide. Learning a new language can offer many incentives and truly make you a more competitive candidate in the international job market with bilingual/multilingual fluency spiking to your resumé, together with your primary qualification.
“One language sets you in a corridor for life,” psycholinguist Frank Smith once said. Every door along the way is opened in two languages.”
If you want your resume to open doors and get you that job, you should definitely include a language section.
As the world job markets continue to grow, the demand for bilingual employees continues to grow alongside. Unfortunately, the number of job seekers who are fluent in multiple languages is not keeping up with the demand. There aren’t very many students who take up language classes, and even lesser who remain proficient in languages that they learned in the classrooms once upon a time. This adds up to a huge opportunity for bilingual speakers to seize, which must not be ignored or missed.
Let's now see how learning languages boost your resume!
Learning a foreign language empowers a learner to remain a step ahead of other applicants in all prospective and critical jobs fields. Assuming you are working for one of the multinationals in the country of your origin, your ability to speak a foreign language will put you in a much stronger position as compared to the rest of the company staff. A few also hint that an MBA armed with a foreign language, makes it an extremely luscious combination for an employee, as you are likely to be rewarded a much better remuneration.
Language learning also enables you to have an improved understanding and experience of your company’s clients, their working ethics, culture, beliefs, way of life, business practices, etiquette and philosophy. For higher positions in a company, postings overseas, foreign internships or in job interviews, you are certain to make yourself a preferred candidate, who clearly stands out of the crowd, with his/her bi/multilingual capabilities, clearly proving to possess the potential of being a valuable asset for the company over other monolingual candidates, being considered for the same.
As a result of the cultural knowledge one acquires while learning a language, it makes it easier to gauge and respond appropriately to customers’, clients’ reactions or expressions. This further helps you act timely, change proposals, or introduce new freebies/ offers, to be able to clinch deals, build, improve, develop and broaden your personal and professional relationships, grow trust among professional acquaintances, clients and foreign associates, build networks that are the pivot to converting business opportunities.
As an example, Germans are very punctual and hate delays. Learning the German language will also introduce you to many such facts. Or that it is considered rude to pour a drink for oneself in Japan. Instead as a gesture of hospitality, your drinking partner will pour your drink and you reciprocate by pouring theirs. If you are attending a gathering or banquet, do not drink until everyone has a glass and raises it in a collective “kampai” (cheers!)
That was not so difficult. Let’s now see what to avoid offending a Spaniard
Never eat with one hand under the table, don’t think the Spanish are angry all the time, don’t put your bread on your plate in Spain, don’t wear your swimsuit off the beach, don’t ask people what job they do when you’re at a party, don’t say “Adios”, don’t get drunk in the afternoon, don’t tip too much.
LOL, now those are quite a few things to bear in mind..aren’t they? 🙂
Learning language, therefore, helps you understand people from another part of the world and what they perceive as right and wrong. It also helps you avoid all mistakes that may offend them!
Learning a foreign language is an excellent choice, especially if you are aiming to steer your career ahead in a global company, using your language skills in addition to your pre-existing qualifications, such as management, legal or an engineering degree to name a few. Multinational companies from Europe, and the USA are actively hiring foreign language experts to fill different positions in their workplaces around the world, prioritizing them over other candidates. Thus a combination of Foreign language, with relevant experience and educational qualifications stands to offer a much better opportunity, to an applicant, along with a bright intellect and business acumen, that help the applicant turned employees to make an impact at every business meeting/ interaction. Given that business connections play a vital role in a competitive business environment, an employee can literally steal the show, if he/ she knows the language of the business’s clientele.
There are several programs available nowadays that connect teachers and students globally offering dual-language programs, management, engineering, science and research, technology, travel and hospitality programs, and more teachers to help create a bilingual workforce.
Employers not only look for fluency in a language, but they also look forward to working with individuals with greater cultural awareness, open-mindedness, collaboration,
and competence. Bilingual skills are actually resulting in a massive effect on future prospects of the global marketplace. Employers are looking to hire those with multilingual skills because bilingual employees are viewed as having excellent communication and problem-solving skills as a result of their experience in developing a second language while maintaining command of their native tongue.
Several students pass out of numerous graduate schools each year. And with employers insisting to hire graduates fluent in foreign languages such as French, Spanish, Mandarin. German, Arabic and many more, it becomes a challenge for these schools to find good placements for their students.
Most graduate school students nowadays, are already conversant in two or three languages, owing to most International graduate schools encouraging, and sometimes insisting on working knowledge of a foreign language. Simultaneously, fewer students are enrolling in language classes and maintaining proficiency into adulthood. All of this adds up to a fantastic opportunity for those who are willing and skilled enough to learn a second language. By coming forward to learn a new language. prospective employees have immersed themselves in a new culture and have clearly overcome the challenges associated with that showing that they aren’t afraid anymore to compete with the recently acquired skill to their benefit. It is indeed a major sign of competency for employers. By becoming bilingual or multilingual students gain desirable skills that help them stay ahead of their competition in the global marketplace.
Bilingual skills are in demand for high-wage, high-prestige positions. One of the most notable points from the report is that the rise in demand for bilingual skills spans the whole of the global job market, rather than being restricted to a specific sector. By applying a “prestige” score to all the job listings in the study, the report shows the sectors with the highest growth in demand for bilingual workers. The need for such bilingual/ multilingual candidates is even greater in the medical, legal, and financial services sector, especially investment banks, with clients and operations scattered across the globe.
Nothing drives a point home better than the ‘we are hiring’ pages on the websites of companies such as Infosys or Tata Consultancy Services.
Therefore, if you are considering majors such as International Business, Global Finance or Global Management in your MBA program, you must seriously consider learning a second language. While foreign languages are yet to get full-fledged acceptance and recognition as required skills along with other necessary skills, education and experience, it is a pleasure to know that skill surveys show progressive results that are sealing the deal with 45 per cent of people acknowledging foreign language skills pertinent to business (while not deeming them a necessary recruitment requirement), about 36 per cent recognizing language skills, helpful in building business relationships with overseas suppliers, customers and other contacts, and yet another 26 per cent considering language skills, an important consideration for overseas postings, or for lateral or vertical hiring within the organisation.
Bilingual employees are in high demand across a wide range of industries and employers. Language skills are more in demand than ever in a variety of industries and roles, some of which are among the most prestigious and high-paying in the country. The majority of them are roles that require a lot of human interaction, which is where those excellent communication skills come in, but job opportunities can be found anywhere. Surprisingly the report also revealed that foreign languages are most sought after in the international customer servicing industry such as KPOs and BPOs apart from sectors such as manufacturing, where there is a considerable contact with overseas suppliers, regional offices, customers etc and the need is still growing! This is spreading to prestigious, high-paying jobs around the world, which are increasingly looking for bilingual candidates to fill them. Being able to communicate in more than one language is becoming increasingly important in all sectors of the market, from janitor to lawyer. Given that the demand for these skills currently outnumbers the supply, bilingual job seekers have a significant advantage.
Bilingual workers fluent in Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic are in high demand. Spanish, Chinese, French, Arabic, and Korean are the five most in-demand languages in the US job market. All five have seen significant increases in demand since 2010, but Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic speakers have seen the most growth, which is great news for job seekers who are fluent in one (or more) of those languages. Demand for Chinese speakers alone increased by more than 200 per cent, while demand for Spanish and Arabic speakers increased by more than 160 per cent each. With over 450,000 job postings in 2015 alone, Spanish is by far the most in-demand language for US employers.
Now, you have all, the qualification the language skills and the relevant experience! What next?
The way you write about your language skills on your resume will demonstrate how much more valuable you are than the other candidates! And in order to do so, you must be able to describe and express your level of language proficiency using appropriate scales and frameworks.
Many people include their language skills and level of proficiency in their resume’s skills section. What was the end result? They vanish into thin air.
And you’ve put in the time and money to learn the language. Don’t make the hiring manager look for a needle in a haystack by highlighting your language skills appropriately.
To make yourself valuable, give your language skills its own section and add the language skills section after the core resume sections (heading, experience, skills, and education), listing languages with your level of proficiency using one single language framework! Start at the top with your most proficient language, then go in descending order from there. An easy first way to understand the classification could be:
Latin American Spanish—Conversational
You can also add a regional variant of each language (if one exists). Though the language is the same, the variation may be useful for the hiring manager to know.
The following alternatives can be used for proficiency phrasing in the resume:
- Advanced: native, fluent, proficient, advanced, mother tongue, upper-intermediate to,
- Mid-range: intermediate, conversational, competent, professional to,
- Beginner: elementary, beginner, basic, pre-intermediate, limited working proficiency.
And while these alternatives aren’t exactly the same; let’s explain how!
For instance, fluent versus conversational. Technically, you can be a native speaker who is fluent in your mother tongue but not proficient in another language (so you speak smoothly, but your vocabulary is somewhat limited.)
Being bilingual is a resume superpower, not just a resume skill or a resume strength.
Mention it, especially since the demand for bilingual workers has more than doubled in recent years. Aside from the language skills section, mention your bilingualism in your resume heading statement or introduction.
Bilingual medical receptionist with 5+ years of experience working in an international setting, for example…
However, there is one issue with those language fluency levels: the term “native proficiency” may be easy for an employer to understand.
Now how would you explain what it means to be proficient in a language? or what’s the difference between proficient vs fluent?
So, how can a hiring manager assess whether an intermediate candidate will be able to perform customer service or not? or whether
a conversational level applicant can read and write?
These terms are all foreign to a hiring manager. Make it simpler for him and beneficial for yourself by adding the language proficiency scale.
So what is a proficiency language scale?
Proficiency language scale is, a framework developed by an organisation that assigns grade levels to people based on language accuracy, fluency, and other factors. It standardises scoring, ensuring that everyone is on the same page and less confusion.
The most popular proficiency frameworks are as follows:
- The Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) is a group of government agencies that meet to discuss language issues. The ILR proficiency scale, designed for the US government, has six language skill levels (0-5) and an additional “+” designation for those pesky in-betweens.
- Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)—A set of simple and widely accepted European guidelines. Basic users receive an A1 or A2, independent users receive a B1 or B2, and proficient users receive a C1 or C2.
- Another commonly used proficiency level language scale is that of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). Novice (Low, Mid, High), Intermediate (Low, Mid, High), Advanced (Low, Mid, High), Superior, and Distinguished are the language fluency levels.
- LinkedIn—The world’s most popular business network employs its own levels of language proficiency. The language proficiency levels on LinkedIn are essentially a carbon copy of the ILR language scale.
And here’s how the scores on the main language scales compare to one another:
Scales of Proficiency for Resume Language Skills
A resume skill section in a language is a great resume category section. If you have any certificates (more on that later), make sure to include them in the section for certifications and licences.
English—Level 5 (ILR)
Bengali—Level 4 (ILR)
Mandarin—Level 3 (ILR)
We simply added the ILR level next to each language in this example. We added “ILR” in parentheses to let the hiring manager know which language scale we’re using.
Combine the two from above to get a simple and straightforward Language Skill description as below:
American English—Native/Bilingual (ILR Level 5)
Canadian French—Native/Bilingual (ILR Level 5)
Russian—Full Professional Proficiency (ILR Level 4+)
Malay—Professional Working Proficiency (ILR Level 3)
So, what we did here is we gave the LinkedIn level of language proficiency because it’s more descriptive. However, though it’s based on ILR, it might still be open to interpretation, so we added the ILR language skills levels in parentheses, as well.
Here’s another way to add a scale using CEFR for a European resume:
This ideally explains that a learner has received an official certificate after clearing C2 level Italian, but self-assessed the Polish skills to a B2 level.
There’s no single right way to add your levels of language fluency.
There are some mistakes you can avoid, so be careful.
Things to avoid
- Avoid mentioning the number of years of language when describing proficiency, because a 3 year school degree is no match to a 3-year immersion learning.
- Avoid including languages in which you have limited fluency on your resume. These may be entertaining to discuss on a first date or at a party, but employers will believe you exaggerated or misrepresented your abilities—a step down from lying on a resume.
- Avoid mentioning your language skills as native, despite having language abilities as good as a native speaker’s, in case you aren’t a native speaker or bilingual. You can, however, use the phrase, ‘near-native skills’. You will not be lying, and your resume may even pass the automated scan (if being a native speaker is critical for the position.)
- Be consistent. Don’t mix and match language proficiency frameworks (telling them you are ILR 4+ in Chinese followed by saying you are C1 in Arabic).
- Avoid making grave mistakes, such as applying a CEFR scale on an application sent to the USA. Instead, use the most relevant system, the CEFR levels, if you are applying for a job in the EU, and the ILR scale if applying for the US.
- Don’t just speculate your resume skill levels regarding language.
- Avoid overestimating your abilities (which is almost lying)
- Also, avoid underestimating them (which does not allow you to sell yourself as well as you could.)
- Avoid a mention until you self-assess or obtain an official language certificate. And, if this second or third language is required for the job in ways other than daily communication (e.g., proofreading, copywriting), pay for a test to get an official score of your abilities.
- Avoid mentioning languages that aren’t widely used in conversations, such as Latin, unless its needed for a job you are applying for!
In all other cases, self-assessment should be fine as long as you grade yourself using official guidelines and documentation. The official website for the ILR scale provides several PDFs and guidelines to help you assess your own abilities. There are also questionnaires for self-assessment in reading, speaking, and listening. You can assess yourself using the CEFR scale’s official chart (PDF), which allows you to judge your skills in five areas: listening, reading, spoken interaction, spoken production, and writing. The ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines (PDF) are available on their website and are updated every few years. Their 10-level scale is also divided into reading, writing, and speaking. To figure out where you rank when adding languages to LinkedIn, use the ILR framework.
Keep in mind when adding language fluency levels to a resume skills section:
- Separate your levels of proficiency in languages into their own section.
- For fluency, use a language framework rather than your own words.
- Choose the best language scoring system for your job.
- Maintain consistency and relevance throughout the language section of your resume.
- Rather than estimating your competence, self-assess your skills.
It goes without saying that being proficient in multiple languages opens doors to new opportunities. However, these studies have proven the value of having bilingual skills when it comes to finding employment in global MNCs.