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; particularly if the position in question 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 which not only specifies your accurate language level, but also gives you credibility; especially if you have a good command of the language. Indicate your grades and the year this was taken, the more current the better, as some remain valid for two years only. If you are considering a language test, choose the one which is most appropriate to the context: TOEIC for the professional world and TOEFL, IELTS or Cambridge exams if your aim is to study abroad.
2. Avoid vague formulas
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away from using the term “grade level” which will highlight that your knowledge of the language is insufficient, or outdated.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.
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,” “mastery of the sector’s vocabulary” 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 the 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 are not able to get by in the language, it is needless to state 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 and official language competence that they can trust.