Have you ever come across a resume claiming fluency in multiple languages? As an HR professional, you know how valuable multilingual candidates can be: they facilitate communication between international business partners, enhance cross-cultural interactions, and enrich the diversity of the workplace. However, it’s not always easy to verify language proficiency: what do all those language levels, certifications, and accents really mean? In this article, we’ll explore some of the nuances of candidates’ multilingual claims, and share some tips on how to evaluate language skills.
The Implications of Exaggerated Language Skills
Let’s start with the obvious: why do candidates often feel compelled to overstate their language abilities? The answer lies in the competitive nature of the job market: when multiple candidates apply for the same position, emphasizing fluency in several languages is one way to stand out from the crowd. While some candidates may genuinely speak multiple languages, others might exaggerate their proficiency level, especially for languages that are in high demand.
Exaggerating language skills can have serious consequences, both for the candidate and the recruiter. For instance, if a bilingual candidate who claimed native-level fluency in Spanish ends up struggling to understand clients in a meeting, the credibility of the entire team might be compromised. Moreover, if a recruiter mistakenly hires a candidate who isn’t truly fluent in a particular language, the business might suffer from communication issues, losing clients or opportunities.
How to Evaluate Language Skills
Given the risks associated with false language claims, how can we evaluate a candidate’s multilingualism? Here are some factors to consider:
The CEFR Framework
The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is an international standard used to assess language proficiency. Recognized by many employers and educational institutions, the CEFR breaks down language levels into six categories, from A1 (beginner) to C2 (proficient). You can ask candidates to take a CEFR-aligned test, or evaluate their skills based on their self-assessment, such as “fluent” or “native speaker”.
Another way to confirm language proficiency is through certificates or diplomas. Language schools, universities, and non-profit organizations offer language exams such as the TOEFL, TOEIC, or DELF. These tests measure different aspects of language skills, such as reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Look for relevant certifications on the candidate’s resume, and verify their authenticity if necessary.
Accents and Dialects
While a candidate’s language skills might be impressive on paper, it’s crucial to evaluate their oral skills as well. Fluency in a language doesn’t necessarily mean having a native accent, but it does require clear pronunciation and correct intonation. Moreover, some languages have multiple dialects or regional variations, which might be unfamiliar to non-native speakers. Test the candidate’s conversational skills by asking open-ended questions and follow-up questions, and listen for hesitation, grammar mistakes, or misunderstandings.
The Benefits of Being Multilingual
Despite the challenges of evaluating multilingual candidates, it’s worth investing in their potential, as the benefits of being fluent in multiple languages are numerous. For instance:
- Improved communication: when employees can speak different languages, they can handle customer inquiries, negotiate with international partners, and collaborate with colleagues from diverse backgrounds more effectively.
- Enhanced cultural awareness: multilingualism allows individuals to better understand and appreciate different cultures, values, and customs.
- Expanded job opportunities: being fluent in a language can open up job opportunities in various sectors, such as translation, interpretation, international sales, or diplomatic relations.
Finding the Right Talent for Language-Specific Roles
Finally, how can recruiters ensure that they’re finding the right talent for language-specific positions? Here are some tips:
- Define language requirements clearly: before posting a job ad, decide which languages are essential for the job, and which are merely desirable. Specify the expected proficiency level, and explain how language skills will be evaluated.
- Test language skills during the interview: don’t hesitate to ask candidates to speak in different languages, or provide written samples or translations. You can also ask previous employers or colleagues to attest to the candidate’s language skills.
- Offer language training: some candidates might not have formal language credentials, or might lack specific vocabulary related to the industry, so consider offering language courses or coaching. This shows your commitment to the employee’s growth and development.
As multilingualism grows in importance in today’s globalized world, recruiters face the challenge of identifying candidates’ true language skills. By using a combination of CEFR levels, language certifications, oral tests, and accent assessments, recruiters can effectively verify language proficiency. Hiring multilingual candidates can bring numerous benefits to businesses, from improved communication to expanded job opportunities, but it’s essential to find the right talent for language-specific roles. By carefully evaluating candidates’ language skills during the recruitment process, and providing language training when necessary, recruiters can ensure a multilingual workforce that thrives in today’s multicultural environment.
- Exaggerating language skills on a resume can lead to serious consequences, such as credibility loss or communication issues.
- Evaluating language skills can be done through the CEFR framework, language certification, and accent tests.
- Multilingualism brings benefits such as better communication, cultural awareness, and job opportunities.
- Finding the right talent for language-specific roles requires clear language requirements, language testing during the interview, and offering language training if needed.
How can I verify a candidate’s language proficiency without using tests or certifications?
You can ask the candidate to provide written samples in the target language, such as a report or email, and check for grammar, vocabulary, and style. You can also ask the candidate to provide references who can attest to their language skills, such as previous employers, language teachers, or colleagues.
Can a non-native speaker be considered fluent in a language?
Yes, fluency doesn’t necessarily mean having a perfect native accent or knowing all the regional variations of a language. Fluency means being able to communicate effectively in a wide range of situations, using correct grammar, vocabulary, and intonation. A non-native speaker who has achieved a high level of proficiency through study, practice, or immersion can still be considered fluent.