Resume Language Skills: Do I Need Them? How Do I Present Them?

31 October 2018 Reading Time: 5 minutes

Your ability to communicate is one of the most important things recruiters look for when reviewing your resume. Detailing the languages that allow you to expand your communicative abilities can have a significant impact on whether or not the recruiter will call you for an interview. But are language skills always relevant? How do you describe your language skills? All of these questions and more are answered below.

Why do recruiters care about my language skills?

Without the ability to communicate with clients, fellow co-workers, and management, no business will survive. Recruiters look for language skills as it gives insight into your ability to convey information to groups of people. Possessing language skills not only gives you the building blocks to communicate with others, but it also comes with culture-specific knowledge too. This is becoming more and more important for businesses as the economy globalizes across all sectors.

When should I include language skills?

It’s relevant to your role

This might seem like the obvious reason (because it is) but if your language skills are relevant to the job you’re hoping to undertake, you should include them. Of note, however, is this doesn’t just mean when the recruiter has included desired language capabilities in the job description. Think about what your day-to-day tasks will be in your role. If you’re applying to be a retail assistant, how likely will it be that more than one language will help you communicate with customers? If you’re working in customer support, how many countries is the company based in? These are just some of the questions you should ask yourself.

A rule of thumb is, if you’re going to be working with the public as a key part of your role, your language skills are probably relevant.

In developing his customer support resume, Sia knew his ability to speak over three languages would make an impression on recruiters at SAP SE.

Enhancv Resume Language Skills: Do I Need Them? How Do I Present Them? resume language skills

Little experience

Language skills are great for adding content to your resume. If you’re putting together your first resume, or a student resume, language skills show your ability learn quickly and your ability to apply knowledge to real-world situations.

In Avery’s volunteer resume, they highlighted their language skills as they were applying for a role with AIESEC, which has entities based all around the world.

Enhancv Resume Language Skills: Do I Need Them? How Do I Present Them? resume language skills

Where should I include language skills?

Where you place your language skills on your resume will differ depending on the level of language proficiency you have and the relevance of your language skills to your position. If language skills are essential for your position, dedicate a specific section to discussing them (as shown previously). However, if language skills are merely preferable or not necessarily relevant to your position, you can include them as part of your education or previous experience.

How do I describe my language skill level?

Picking your level

Without describing your level of language skill, there’s no sense in including it in your resume. This plays off a similar premise to quantifying your achievements in different resume headings. The recruiter needs a tangible way of judging your ability.

Beginner

A beginner language skill ability can be used if you’re starting to learn a new language. You might know some basic words and phrases, but you have no real understanding of grammar.

Intermediate

An intermediate language skill refers to being able to speak a language but with some difficulty. You can’t speak with the speed of a native and your vocabulary is somewhat limited. However, you’re able to hold conversations in the language and have adequate reading proficiency.

Proficient

A proficient language skill refers to an ability to speak, write, and read a language without much difficulty at all. You don’t foresee yourself having an issues using the languages listed in your role, however, you’re not fluent. You may need native speakers to repeat things and may struggle understanding colloquialisms.

Fluent

A fluent language skill means you can read, write, and speak a language fluidly and without hesitation.

Native

A native language skill refers to a language you have grown up speaking. As far as you remember, this is a language you always have been able to communicate with. You have spent your life speaking this language and have honed in on your ability to communicate with it through formal education and so on.

Providing proof

Another aspect of describing your language skill is providing evidence for your particular level. You can consult the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages or the US Department of State to assess formal definitions of language ability to choose the level that represents your skill best. For those including English as a language skill, you may avail of an open-access test, the EFSET, to provide a reference of your skill level.

Mistakes to avoid when including your language skills

Lying

When it comes down to it, there is no reason to lie about your language ability on your resume. Not only will recruiters void your application should they suspect you’re lying, but it doesn’t add any value. If a particular language skill is required for your role and you lie about your ability, you won’t be able to perform in your role. Thus, applying for this position will be a waste of your time. On the other hand, if you lie about a language skill and it isn’t relevant for your role, it’s not going to make an impression on the recruiter. Honesty is the best policy.

Monoglot

If you’re a monoglot, meaning someone who only speaks one language, it may be best to leave your language skill off of your resume. Simply put, the recruiter will assume proficient language skill in the language your resume is written in. There’s no need to state you’re a fluent English speaker if you live in a predominantly English speaking country and your resume is written in English. This will unnecessarily take up space on your resume an affect your resume length.

Forgetting to update LinkedIn

If you’re discussing your language skills on your resume, be sure to update your LinkedIn profile with this information, too. One advantage of updating your language skill on LinkedIn is you can have colleagues provide recommendations and references of your ability in this skill.

When it comes to including language skills on your resume

When deciding to include language skills on your resume, the most important thing to consider is relevance. While possessing an array of language skills when relevant can have a major influence on the recruiter calling you for an interview, the same cannot be said when language skills aren’t relevant to your position. Another aspect to keep in mind is your level of language skill. Recruiters will want to know to what degree you’re skilled in languages you mention.

Overall, you’ll need to take into account the type of work you’re doing and the goals of the business to assess whether or not you need resume language skills and what emphasis they should be given.

Dean O'Reilly

Psychology student with keen interest in academic research. Currently exploring the world of marketing distribution and content creation with Enhancv to help people get closer to the job of their dreams. Read more about my journey to Enhancv on Fast Company or Gay Times.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *