Fluent in another language? Here's how to make the most of it
The recent blog post Why the Change in Language Focus for Employers, explained how languages such as Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese are becoming more important to UK employers.
If you’re fluent in another language (as well as having cultural knowledge gained from living or working in a different country) there has never been a better time to show it off. Here are some of the ways you can present your credentials on your CV (and in your covering letter).
Fluency in a foreign language will help set you apart. In your profile section, mention the languages you speak, and your level of proficiency. You can use the European Framework levels to help you, or simply use descriptive terms such as “mother tongue / native speaker proficiency”, “full professional proficiency” or “working knowledge”. If you’ve lived abroad, or have close ties to a particular country (through having studied or worked there) your profile is also a good place to present this information. For example, “Fully familiar with Brazilian working culture and practices”.
As organisations try to expand their global reach, the ability of their employees to work with diverse groups of people and across wide geographical locations becomes more important. In addition to the specific technical skills needed for the job, organisational or communication skills become valued – especially if you can give clear examples of how you’ve used these to minimise linguistic or cultural misunderstandings, or to get your job done on time and on budget.
Use verbs such as “liaised” or “collaborated” to show off your team-work skills; “filtered”, “managed” or “prioritised” to show how you’ve used organisational skills, plus of course the full range of your linguistic abilities in a communication skills heading. Here you might have wording such as “translated” and “interpreted” along with “wrote”, “presented”, “researched”, “analysed” and so on.
To highlight the range and diversity of your experience, consider dividing your work history into different sections, such as “International Experience” and “UK Experience”. Make sure that in your international experience section you provide explanations of job titles and company activity. Highlight anything that is relevant to the roles you are applying for now, and select a couple of achievements (quantifiable if possible) that show off your skills, expertise and value to an employer.
PA to non-Portuguese-speaking senior manager in Brazil
*Scheduled and co-ordinated all activities, making sure her meetings and travel ran smoothly.
*Reduced local travel costs by 20% through negotiating discounts with a car-service firm
*Provided translations of business documents, saving company equivalent of almost £1000 per month
*Advised on “Relocation to Brazil” workshops offered to incoming expat families, offering cultural and language tips.
This gives you the opportunity to tie in your background and skills to the requirements of the role (and the organisation you’re applying to). It can be helpful to explain your reasons for applying, as well as pointing out the value your language skills will bring.
“Working with a diverse group of people has made me adept at identifying potential areas of misunderstanding, and then minimising these. My background in a multi-national company, where I worked and communicated with people from many different cultures means I’m better able to see things from a range of perspectives. Fluency in Brazilian Portuguese means I can also interpret where necessary, as well as undertake all office communication.”