Being a professional resume consultant I have seen all types of resumes. From one-paragraph in length sparse dribble to ten-page rambling books. People list all sorts of bizarre experiences and skills on their resumes. Generally, people list the wrong things that they should be leaving off of their résumé and forget to include the valuable things that can actually really strengthen their résumé. One of the most commonly neglected skills added to resumes are language skills, but not for the reason you might think
While it is commonly said that English is the “International Language” or the “Language of Business” it is often misinterpreted and misunderstood by those who continuously repeat it. Yes, while it is true that having English in your language bag will certainly put you at an advantage it is just one among many valuable languages you can learn and that employers will find attractive.
First, I want to dispel the misconception about why languages are valuable to international employers. Many people think that they have to be perfectly fluent to legitimately list a foreign language in their additional skills section. And while it is true that employers like to see some sort of verification of your skill level, as in a certificate or award, it is not necessary for you to be fluent to list a language in your skills section and here’s why:
If you speak English, and are working for an international firm, that company is not expecting to send you abroad to do a business deal in your second language. That would be stupid as you will not be as fast, sharp or on target as your native-speaker opponent. The second language you list in your additional skills has two, much more practical advantages.
Firstly, employers want to feel confident in sending an employee abroad assigned with a task and not worry about him or her getting lost or unable to find the destination where said meeting or conference will be held. This is the advantage the multilinguals have: they can navigate around the world.
The mono-lingual are hugely disadvantaged here because, in order to be sent overseas they will need a liaison or interpreter or guide to meet them at the airport, get them to their place of accommodation, help them order food, go to meetings, find transportation, the list goes on and on. Finding and employing a second person to take care of your employee takes time and money, both unpleasant obligations.
Companies can relax if they know their employee(s) will have no problem navigating and living in a foreign country without the additional cost of a guide or translator. This doesn’t require absolute fluency, but an intermediate proficient level.
The second reason many companies want multi-lingual employees is for meetings, negotiations and deal making. Some foreign firms will have a local language advantage. Being able to communicate freely and openly in a language that your adversary/negotiating partner cannot understand is like talking in code and will give you a huge advantage in any negotiating setting.
To overcome this, companies will send multi-lingual employees to such negotiations without making light of their linguistic abilities. The purpose? So that the disadvantaged company can have someone listen to the opposing parties conversations should they occur in a different language and be able to pick up on any bits of information that may tip the scales during negotiation.
Having a multilingual person in an international business meeting or negotiation is like having a sleeper agent in the CIA. This person flies under the radar and gathers intelligence that can then be put to use by the employees employer.
These are two of the biggest reasons many of the worlds largest international employers seek multilingual applicants. They are not at first obvious, but when combined, present a unique and valuable asset that companies pay big money for the opportunity to have on their team.
So, next time you are refreshing your résumé, maybe use an online resume builder, and make sure to include any second, third or fourth languages you may have, even if not technically fluent, if you are proficient then they are still valuable assets worth advertising.
About the Author:
This article was written by Erik Bowitz, a Senior Resume Consultant at Resume Companion.