According to Preply, an online platform for matching language tutors with students, the three most requested foreign languages in job postings are:
2. Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin); and
3. French (including French Canadian).
If you are fluent in a foreign language (or at least proficient enough to conduct business), showcasing this skill during your job search can expand your pool of leads. Even if you’re not targeting a job where a second language is required, achieving a level of expertise, such as fluency in another language, is impressive generally. It speaks to your ability to master a subject and can make you a more memorable candidate. If the person reading your resume or interviewing you happens to share the same skill, it’s a way to build rapport.
Yet, too many job seekers bury special skills like second languages (or knowledge of computer systems, familiarity with research databases or other technical skills) that could catch the attention of employers and move your application to the interview stage. Here are four ways to ensure you showcase special skills, so employers take notice:
1 – Highlight the skill in all of your marketing and meetings
Putting special skills, such as language fluency, in the Skills section of your resume is just the minimum. You can also include it in your Summary right at the top, since recruiters skim resumes in just seconds. In addition, include special skills in your LinkedIn Summary (About section), cover letter and interview responses. Even if the skill isn’t the focus of your search, special expertise helps bolster your candidacy.
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2 – Clearly describe your level of proficiency
Sometimes I’ll see a resume where the job seeker puts how many classes they have taken in the language, how many years of study or a course or certification from a specific association. Don’t assume that the reader/ interviewer will be familiar with that course or will understand how well you speak based on how much you’ve studied. People learn at different speeds, so just listing your coursework or course hours doesn’t mean anything. Instead, put a level that is readily understandable – fluent, proficient, conversational or basic.
3 — Show, don’t just tell
If you really want to showcase how well you know something (whether it’s a foreign language, computer system or other technical skill), then include how you have used it in your day-to-day experience. Giving a concrete example of how you incorporated a skill into your work shows the prospective employer your level of ability, instead of just telling or promising them that theoretically you could do something. For example, if you used your second language to answer customer inquiries from that region or to translate documents or conduct research, then you give a clear sense of your capability in that skill.
4 – Be ready with tangible examples
If you say you’re fluent in another language or proficient enough to use it in the work environment, be prepared to interview in that language on the spot. I once worked for a media company that needed a bilingual Spanish/ English editorial assistant, and the first-round interview toggled between both languages. If you say you’re proficient in a specific coding language or software, be prepared to show lines of code or take a proficiency test. Before you showcase a special skill and make it part of your candidate brand, think about how you’ll provide proof on-the-spot. If that makes you uncomfortable, you probably don’t have a high enough level of proficiency in the skill to be showcasing it.
Ask friends to review your job search material and identify your special skills
If you’ve been drafting and redrafting your resume, LinkedIn profile and cover letters for a while now, you may not notice how they read to an outsider. You might think your special skills are front-and-center, but they’re buried or unclear. Have a friend or two look at your material with fresh eyes to ensure you’re giving your top qualities their due.