Bilingual employees can earn up to 5-20 percent more per hour than their counterparts. Highlighting your language skills is a unique way to stand out in the workforce, but many job applicants don’t know how to effective make their languages skills “pop” on their resume. You improved your fluency, and you want employers to take notice. So, what’s the best way to present your language skills on your resume?
CERTIFICATION IS KEY FOR APPLYING TO BILINGUAL JOBS
With the increased popularity of recruitment websites such as LinkedIn and AfterCollege, the job application process has become digital. This has made reaching employers with your resume significantly easier, but it has also increased competition. Hiring managers are overwhelmed with applications, and certifying your languages skills could keep you from ending up in the “no” pile. Certification will help you stand out from other applicants and increase your resume visibility. In order to certify your language skills, you need to take a standardized language test.
CHOOSING A LANGUAGE CERTIFICATION
There are a number of standardized language tests available today. The most important thing to consider is each test’s academic credibility and reputation. If you take a low quality test, your skills will not be assessed correctly and it will weaken the quality of your resume. Therefore, you should only consider using tests developed by international organizations that have experience in the field, and the resources to hire assessment experts. Tests such as the DELF (French certification for non-native speakers) and TOEFL (English ability of non-native speakers), are examples of tests recognized by academic institutions and government agencies worldwide.
Although the prices of these certified tests vary, most cost upwards of 200 USD per session. While seemingly a lucrative business, not many people know the time and resources that goes into administering an exam.
LANGUAGE CERTIFICATION ON YOUR RESUME
Once you have certified your language skills, it is important to present your score in a way that is attractive and clear. Not all employers are familiar with the grading systems of these exams, so try and add a level descriptor (e.g. Upper Intermediate), along with the test name and your score.
Using this advice as guideline, the language skills section of your resume may look like this:
- English: EFSET 60 (Upper Intermediate)
- French: DELF B2 (Independent user)
- Japanese: JLPN4 (Ability to understand basic Japanese)
WHAT IF YOU DON’T HAVE A CERTIFICATION?
Unfortunately, you may not be able to afford to take a standardized test, or you may not have access to a testing center. Moreover, when testing languages other than English, it is usually difficult to find a free, high-quality assessment exam.
That being said, rather than simply writing “fluent” or “conversational” on your resume, consider doing a self-assessment of your language skills. By using a grading scale created by a governmental agency such as the CEFR, and self-assessment tools found online, you can determine your current language level to a reasonable degree of certainty.
While self-assessment is not as impressive or credible as a standardized language test, it will look more compelling than writing the generic terms that I mentioned above.
In addition to a certification, it is highly recommended that you add any language experience you may have acquired over time. For example:
- 8 years of experience working with French-speaking clients
- 2 year high school immersion in Spain
Experience does not need to be limited to the places you have worked; future employers love to see how you used a language in context.
WHEN NOT TO INCLUDE LANGUAGE SKILLS ON YOUR RESUME
Generally it does not make sense to highlight your language skills when at a beginner level. You’re not familiar with the intricacies of the language, and you most likely will not be able to apply what you’ve learned in the work place.
Consider adding that you enjoy learning languages to the “Personal Interests” or “Hobbies” section of your resume, rather than mentioning it amongst your skills.
Embellished skills and accomplishments are quite common on most resumes. People try and show their best side and often exaggerate their language skills in order to secure a sought after position. However, lying will only stand to hurt you because hiring managers will uncover the truth eventually, and you are unlikely to keep the job when they do.
If you are worried that your language skills are not good enough, consider investing in some language training or utilizing the free resources found online. Employers are often impressed by candidates who put effort into improving their skills.
About the Author
Thomas Olszewski is an online marketing analyst for the EFSET – Standard English Test, a free online assessment tool for learners of all English levels. As a Polish Canadian expat currently residing in London, Thomas has been exposed to a variety of languages and cultures from around the world. This has led to an interest in all things bilingual!