When an employer is faced with a choice between you and another candidate, showing off your language skills in the best possible light will make the difference. highlight your language skills
A foreign language is an essential feature on your CV. Faced with a choice between you and an equally capable candidate, this can tip the scales in your favour. This is particularly relevant if the position is internationally orientated. Here are seven tips that will convince the interviewer of your language skills.
1. Prove your level with a language diploma
An official and recognised test result is a measure that not only specifies your accurate language level, but also gives you credibility. This is especially true if you have a good command of the language. To get the most of your diploma on your CV you should indicate your grades and the year this was taken. Some diplomas are only valid for two years, so the more current the better. If you are considering a taking language test, choose the one which is most appropriate to the context:
- TOEIC, the Test of English for International Communication is the best choice for the professional world as it's designed to test your abilities in English for the workplace.
- TOEFL, IELTS or Cambridge exams are the best choice if your aim is to study abroad. IELTS has a specific academic module, which you should select if your plan is to study in English.
2. Be clear about your ability
Listing “reading, speaking and writing” on your CV means nothing today, and would reflect a low level to an employer.
Stay away from using the term “grade level” which will highlight that your knowledge of the language is insufficient, or outdated. Be careful with using the word “bilingual” as this means you either have a foreign parent, or have lived abroad for a good many years.
3. Use the common European Framework of Reference for Languages
Show that you know the jargon. The framework grades range from A1 (basic) to C2 (proficient); whether you've passed a language test or not. This gives a more accurate estimate of your level, even if it's not sanctioned through an exam.
The Council of Europe has created self-assessment tools that help you to grade your ability in a wide range of European languages. You can find the tool on the Council of Europe website.
4. Be specific
If you have real skills in a particular area, don't hesitate to feature these. Examples of this could be “trade negotiations", “financial English" or “writing reports in English”.
5. Indicate your experiences, internships or language courses abroad
Provided they are consistent, your experiences abroad should be highlighted. Your two-week holiday in Greece will not be of interest to recruiters, but your six-month internship in the US will be of genuine advantage to you, demonstrating that you are capable of adapting to challenging new situations.
6. Be honest
You must be able to prove your level, so don't lie. During your interview (or most certainly at some point if you get the position) you may need to prove your knowledge. Cheating on your résumé will discredit all of your skills.
7. Select the languages you really speak.
If you studied Italian in high school but can't get by in the language, it is pointless including it on your CV unless you are applying to a position in Rome and want to show that you have some familiarity with the language.
Many candidates over- or underestimate their language skills, or do not know how to estimate their language level. As an example, having a French accent is not at all a handicap if you can make yourself understood. International employers will always value a prospective employee who has a documented an official language competence that they can trust.
Improve your English for work or study
At OISE we provide a range of intensive courses for professionals and students who wish to work or learn in the English speaking world. Designed around a tutorial format, these one-to-one or small group classes can help you to quickly master English. Our courses will help you to use the language confidently and effectively.
Find out more about OISE English language courses for professionals and students.
Get help with English exam preparation
Our intensive English language courses can help you to prepare for a range of English language diplomas. These include:
- University of Cambridge Examinations (FCE, CAE, CPE)