Bilingual Preferred: Tips for Recruiting Multilingual Employees

Companies who are hiring bilingual talent to service US Hispanic customers are seeking employees who are able to effectively communicate in “Business Spanish” so that they can deliver products and services to Spanish-speaking customers. However, confirming that job candidates are fluent in verbal and/or written English and Spanish is a challenge if the recruiter is not fully bilingual.

Many Spanish speakers in the US speak colloquial Spanish. They are able to converse across the dinner table, but they lack the vocabulary or knowledge of grammar, syntax or verb conjugation rules to conduct a business conversation in Spanish. Unless the interviewer is fully fluent in both languages, recruiters find it difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between casual and business Spanish-speakers. For companies who offer differential pay for bilingual language skills, the recruiter has the additional responsibility of ensuring the candidate’s verbal communication and/or writing skills are professional and appropriate for a business environment.

Let’s evaluate the following requirements commonly used in bilingual (Spanish/English) recruitment ads:

1.    Bilingual abilities are a plus
2.    Bilingual preferred
3.    Bilingual preferred; at a minimum, the ability to understand and to make one’s self understood to all Spanish speaking individuals
4.    Excellent verbal and written communications skills required in both English and Spanish
5.    Bilingual and able to read, write and speak Spanish proficiently
6.    Must speak and write Spanish fluently

In this sample, there are six different descriptions of sought-after job applicant skill sets, but each one requires a different level of Spanish communication expertise. In the first two examples where bilingual skills are “a plus” or “preferred,” a recruiter may decide to “take the candidate’s word” that he can speak Spanish. However in the last four examples, the company is seeking specific bilingual abilities. In these situations, an independent language proficiency assessment is highly recommended as in-house appraisals can be subjective.

Best Practice “Tips”

How do recruiters assess a candidate’s communication and comprehension skills? Many companies require candidates to complete a language proficiency assessment: an objective, scientifically designed evaluation of the candidate’s verbal and/or writing communication skills. Effective assessments are fact-based, consistent, unbiased and use a proven methodology to evaluate all candidates with the same criteria.

Assessment services that require no advance appointment are the most flexible for recruiters since no planning is required and any eligible candidate may be assessed at the time of the interview. We have found that some companies prefer to assess candidates for bilingual positions at the first stage in the interview process so that they only spend their internal resources on qualified candidates. Other companies assess Spanish proficiency in the final steps of the interview process, after the candidate has fulfilled other hiring requirements. Some assessment services can provide staffing for job fairs and weekend and evening appointments as well as during regular office hours.

We have found that companies are able to recruit and retain the most qualified candidates when the job description is specific and lists the position’s qualifying requirements. Advising potential candidates in advance that their language communication skills will be tested can help weed out unqualified candidates from applying for the job. This is a time-saver for recruiters as only those candidates who are confident in their bilingual communication skills will apply for a job if they know in advance that their language skills will be tested.

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Benefits and Cost-Savings

Once assessed, companies can assign employees to the business process they are most qualified to fill thereby improving employee retention, reducing turnover and, ultimately, delivering the highest level of service to their customers. Other benefits and cost-savings companies experience by conducting language proficiency assessments include:

•    increase the probability of hiring the right candidate;
•    reduce training time for new recruits;
•    provide objective data to justify bilingual pay differentials;
•    reduce costs of discharging an employee due to inadequate skills; and
•    deliver consistent, excellent, high quality service to your customers.

Many companies conduct personality tests, clerical and computation skills assessments and drug and alcohol checks to screen job applicants. These employers know the benefits of pre-employment testing. Now companies who provide products and services to multi-lingual customers have an additional resource available: language proficiency assessments to objectively test the communication and comprehension skills of bilingual job candidates.

Arial International, in business since 1992, is a multicultural, multilingual firm that assists companies in targeting and retaining US Hispanic customers. The firm is recognized as the leader in delivering “Business Spanish” services including language assessments, translations, bilingual training, certification programs, consulting projects and E-Learning. The firm has trained over 25,000 professionals in 30 countries with an emphasis in the US and Latin America. For more information please call toll-free at 888-446-2331, send an e-mail to info@arialinternational.com  or visit us on-line at www.arialinternational.com. © 2006. Arial International

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