In a world with many cultures and countries connected to each other by commerce and communication networks, businesses are always on the look-out for employees who can speak, read, and write multiple languages. If you happen to be bilingual, you’re in luck!
Even if you’re not a translator or interpreter by trade, a summary of your language skills can help your resume stand out to HR staff, impress recruiters during interviews, and make you a valuable asset for businesses who interact with multilingual clients at home and abroad.
The self-promotion guidelines below will teach you:
How to evaluate your current level of bilingual proficiency
How to describe language proficiencies in your professional resume
How and when to mention language skills during job interviews
How to find opportunities to use bilingual skills in your workplace
Evaluating your current level of bilingual language proficiency
Maybe you grew up in a multilingual household, learning two languages as you grew up to communicate with family members who were born in other countries. Or maybe you learned your second language in school and continued to use it after graduation.
Whatever your reasons for learning, being bilingual can help you master different “soft” communication skills and make you an invaluable asset for all sorts of businesses.
According to this Preply Blog post, roughly 22% of United States residents speak a language besides English. Based on a survey of popular search engine keywords, US residents are most interested in learning Spanish, English, and Japanese as their second languages.
When promoting your bilingual skills in a job interview or at work, it’s important you honestly evaluate your current level of fluency. Read and listen to samples of your secondary language–articles, audio recordings, or even TV shows–and strike up conversations with native speakers if you can.
If your multilingual skills aren’t on the level of a professional translator or interpreter, that’s not the end of the line. Even the most basic language comprehension is a valuable transferable skill for employees who need help with language-specific tasks or want to check the accuracy of a translated text.
Describing bilingual skills in your professional resume
There are several ways you can describe your bilingual skills on your resume. First off, you can add a Language Section near the end of your resume, just after the Education Section. Here you can list every additional language you know and describe your grasp of said language using words such as “basic,” “intermediate,” “advanced,” or “fluent.”
Example: Resume Language Section Template
Language #1, [Fluency Level Here]
Language #2, [Fluency Level Here]
You can also describe your bilingual skills in your resume’s Summary section by including a reference to the work you do and the responsibilities you excel at regarding this ability. Finally, you can mention your linguistic proficiencies in your resume’s Skill list using keyword-scanning phrases like “Spanish-to-English Translation” or “French Interpreting.”
If you don’t have any foreign language college degrees to list on your resume, you can still demonstrate your multilingual skills by acquiring a language proficiency certificate. Some universities offer certification programs that non-students can sign up for, and there’s no shortage of training institutes, businesses, and websites with pay-to-enroll language courses and written exams. Before signing up to any of these programs, do some research and make sure they offer accredited certificates that businesses will recognize.
Mentioning language skills during job interviews
Ideally, job interviewers who notice the language proficiencies on your resume will ask you how you came to be bilingual. This gives you the perfect opening to talk about where and when you learned your second language(s), your specific strengths as a translator/interpreter, and how you’ve made use of your multilingual skills in past careers.
When preparing interview questions of your own, add some basic inquiries about the company’s international business operations and whether they need bilingual employees to facilitate communication.
If your job interviewer doesn’t ask about your language skills during the interview, don’t mention the topic out without context. Instead, bring up your language proficiencies while answering questions about your education, work history, and special accomplishments.
Describe how your bilingual skills helped you overcome certain challenges, then move on to the next topic if your interviewer doesn’t ask any follow-up questions about it.
Using bilingual skills to advance in your workplace
Even if your current position doesn’t require bilingual skills, keep an eye out for job openings in your company where you can make use of your language proficiencies.
When you learn about upcoming meetings with clients or business partners who speak your secondary language, ask your supervisor if they could use someone with your multilingual skills. Most of the time, managers will be happy to hear you can understand the primary language of people they’re collaborating with.
Even if your workplace doesn’t need your bilingual skills, you can still leverage your language proficiencies to create new networking opportunities and make yourself a more appealing candidate for promotion.
Statistically, employees who know multiple languages are able to process new information more efficiently and multi-task more effectively. Additionally, bilingual employees are better able to understand the cultural values of people whose language they share, letting them build rapport with a wider range of clients and colleagues.
Employers made aware of these two trends are more likely to trust you with new responsibilities and give you chances to represent the company in face-to-face interactions.
Offer to check translated documents and emails.
Request assignments or tasks that require a professional translator or interpreter unless you’re certified or you’ve had that specific role in a previous job.
Talk briefly in a client’s native language to break the ice and put them at ease.
Imply that your bilingual skills make you superior to everyone else in the workplace.
Ask your manager about opportunities to work abroad or work remotely with colleagues who are abroad.
Insist on speaking to clients in their primary language if they want to speak in the language of their current location.
Express interest in using your bilingual skills to promote the company online or bring in new clients.
Mention how learning your second language strengthened your analytical skills.
When describing your bilingual abilities, be honest about how skilled you are at reading, writing, or speaking an additional language.
List your bilingual skills in your resume’s Language Section OR in the Summary/Skill List.
During job interviews, describe how your multilingual skills helped you in past careers, then give honest answers to any follow-up questions the interviewer asks.
Mention your bilingual skills to managers and your interest in using said skills to help the company connect with new clients.
Only accept translation or interpreter assignments if you have the professional qualifications. (Fluency in a second language and eloquence in a second language are two separate skills.)