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Bilingual Demand: The Search for Spanish-Speaking Workers

by Oct 2, 2007, 11:54 am ET

Are you adding “se habla español” to your job descriptions for the remainder of 2007 and 2008? If you’re like half of all hiring managers who participated in a new survey, the answer is a resounding “claro que si!”

A recent survey of 2,417 U.S. hiring managers and human resource professionals suggests that Spanish-speaking job candidates will be in especially high demand by employers within the next year.

The survey was conducted by empleosCB.com, which is focused on the online job search for the Hispanic community. It found that 48% of hiring managers are hiring Spanish-speaking job candidates in 2007 and 2008.

When asked which segment of diverse workers they will be looking to hire, a good number say they plan to target Hispanic workers more aggressively in 2007 and 2008.

“With the Hispanic population growing in number and buying power, nearly three-in-ten hiring managers say they are placing a greater emphasis this year and on into next year on finding employees who can relate to this target audience,” says Jesse Caballero, senior career advisor for empleosCB.com.

Who’s Hiring?

The desire to add bilingual candidates is certainly evident in countless industries and across many departments.

According to Manuel Boado, CEO of New York-based search firm Spanusa, financial institutions, private banks that have a presence in Latin America, the insurance industry, and every company that is in consumer products is interested in Spanish-speaking professionals.

Also, in education, school districts are trying to attract more bilingual teachers.

For example, the West Valley City, Utah, school district hired 10 teachers from Mexico as part of an agreement between Utah and the Mexican Ministry of Education.

Under Utah’s visiting teacher program, these teachers receive salary and benefits commensurate with Utah teachers, and they can work legally in “high-need” public schools for up to three years.

Bilingual Workers: The Silver Lining in Real Estate?

Michigan-based mortgage lender Shore Mortgage says it will hire 150 new workers within six months, including underwriters, account executives, and loan officers.

The company’s website, in fact, leads off with a “call to action” for finding workers. The company says it is especially focused on bilingual candidates for its four Detroit-area locations (Birmingham, Roseville, Taylor, and Canton Township).

Shore Mortgage’s president, Robert Rahal, explains that his company is doing well, despite the mortgage meltdown, because the company focuses on government-assistance lending, such as more stable FHA loans.

In a similar scenario, Casa Latino, a year-old real-estate franchise system, says it will open dozens of offices in both Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Casa Latino’s chief executive officer Robb Heering says he expects a minimum of 100 offices in California alone within the next 24 months. Despite this being one of the worst real estate markets in recent history, Heering cites his company’s growth due to other companies having “missed the mark” when it comes to what many call the emerging market.

“Hiring a few bilingual professionals and translating literature from English to Spanish isn’t going to do much to impress America’s Latino market,” he says.

Bilingual Job Fairs

Across other industries, bilingual job fairs are being used to reach out to candidates.

A job fair being held October 3 at New Bedford, Massachusetts-based Sovereign Bank is intended to find applicants to fill 35 customer-service positions. The bank says it is interested in hiring those who speak both English and Spanish.

And the National Society for Hispanic Professionals is hosting a diversity job fair in San Diego on October 18, while CareerJournal.com is holding an executive diversity career fair October 23 in Alexandria, Virginia.

Sponsored by UBS, participating companies at the CareerJournal event include Smith Barney, Eli Lilly, Fitch Rating, Coventry Healthcare, Target, and T-Mobile, among others.

On November 1, a bilingual job fair at the Charlotte Merchandise Mart in Charlotte, North Carolina, will connect employers looking for qualified workers and candidates who can speak both Spanish and English.

This is the second bilingual job fair in the area, and event coordinator Mylene Duffy says companies want to offer their products and services to the community but are lacking enough Spanish-speaking workers.

When you do fill enough positions with the sought-after bilingual candidates, LatPro.com , a niche job board for bilingual professionals, has some advice for companies.

The job board advises that hiring bilingual HR personnel is a “huge benefit” when communicating important or technical information with workers who primarily speak Spanish.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • Simon Evans

    While this article raises an interesting dynamic currently impacting much of the service sector it simplifies the process considerably.

    To be successful in hiring Spanish Speakers for service and customer facing positions it is imperative the individuals hired are effective communicators in both English and Spanish, not just Spanish so as to avoid customer problems or limiting career progression.

    One common challenge is that most second or later generation Spanish speakers, only use the language at home or in social environments, as a result they may need training in business Spanish even when technically fluent.

    Finally the Latino community is very diverse in itself and it is a mistake to downplay the importance of cultural understanding. For instance the community perception of a Mexican American towards banking may be very different to that of someone from Honduras or El Salvador. The difference is driven by the communities experience towards such institutions in the country they migrated from.

    To be succesful in recruiting quality individuals with bilingual skills requires an understanding of all these factors; a realization of the need for grass roots recruiting over the web (not a community heavily vested in the web at this time) and of critical importance, bilingual recruiters. This is not an easy space to deal in!