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The best way to highlight bilingual skills on a resume

Tribune Content Agency logo Tribune Content Agency 12/29/2021 Kathleen Furore, Tribune Content Agency
Knowing a second language can positively impact your career. © Dreamstime/TNS Knowing a second language can positively impact your career.

DEAR READERS: A recent study from Preply revealed that learning a second language can positively impact professional opportunities and earning potential. According to that report, Spanish topped the list of most marketable languages, followed by Chinese, (Cantonese and Mandarin), and French (including French Canadian). Reading the study results made me wonder about the best way to highlight bilingual skills on a resume, and how fluent someone should be before adding that to a resume and LinkedIn profile.

According to Steven McConnell, managing director at Exceptional Resume Writers, where you list bilingual skills on your resume depends on the position you’re applying for.

“If bilingual skills are one of the preferred criteria for the job, put them at the forefront or the top-most part of your resume,” McConnell says. “If there is a preference for bilingual skills, stating it in the summary section allows the hiring manager to notice it right away, which may encourage them to read your resume further. Mention how you intend to use this expertise in your new role if selected. If there is no indication of the necessity for bilingual skills, include it in your skills section among your other relevant skills.”

a woman smiling for the camera: Kathleen Furore. © Provided by Tribune Content Agency Kathleen Furore.

If you’ve ever used your bilingual skills on the job, that’s even better — and it is definitely information to include in the experience section of your resume, McConnell adds.

“Showcase how you’ve employed said skills regularly and the results it produced for the companies you’ve previously worked for,” he explains.

And don’t forget about adding the information to your professional networks, including LinkedIn, stresses Chelsea Cohen, co-founder of SoStocked, who calls those networks “excellent platforms to showcase your skills indirectly.”

Cohen also suggests including translations below each of your social posts. “It’s a great way to indicate to employers that you cater to multicultural audiences,” she says. “However, you should only document it if you can lead a conversation within your field in either language. Remember, the quality service you deliver at work will reflect on your employer. It’s not worth the bluff.”

McConnell agrees that mentioning or defining your level of fluency is key.

“It is not enough to state that you are skilled in a language. You must demonstrate to the hiring manager how well you can speak the language to bring value to them,” he says. “Some positions require advanced language skills, while others necessitate basic to intermediate language skills. Examine the job description to assess the level of expertise needed by the organization.”

Listing your ability to converse in multiple languages offers additional benefits, too, according to Tina Hawk, senior vice president of human resources at GoodHire.

“Many bilingual speakers experience greater creativity and problem-solving skills as a result of being able to speak a second language. Additionally, bilingualism may contribute to a greater sense of tolerance and interpersonal skills, as well as increased cultural sensitivities,” says Hawk. “It might be useful to highlight some of these traits in your resume bio, but mentioning these benefits in your interview, and linking them to your being bilingual, is certainly a good idea.”

(Kathleen Furore is a Chicago-based writer and editor who has covered personal finance and other business-related topics for a variety of trade and consumer publications. You can email her your career questions at kfurore@yahoo.com.)

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