Correctly assess and state foreign language skills in your CV

No job without foreign language skills! That equation holds true today more than ever. English has long been standard in many jobs and industries, and a second foreign language is desirable. But there are also situations in which applicants prefer not to put their language skills on a pedestal.

Foreign language skills meaning

Why do companies reject an applicant? At least 31 percent of them say: Because foreign language skills are not enough! That was the result of a survey by Bitkom Research on behalf of the HR software developer Personio among more than 300 HR managers.

This means that poor foreign language skills are behind reasons for rejection such as “lack of sympathy”, “little work experience” and “ inadequate job references ”, but still in the top ten in 10th place.

And according to a survey by the Indeed job exchange, almost every third employee in Germany communicates at work every day (also) in one language other than German, others at least several times a week. Some correspond with foreign customers, others exchange ideas with international colleagues, and still others with service providers across national borders. Above all, foreign language skills are used in correspondence, less often in telephone calls or meetings.

The list of the most important ones shows how important language skills in the job have meanwhile become Hard Skills 2020 in Germany from business platform Linkedin. Foreign languages ​​ appear in seventh place in the ranking. Only six skills are therefore more popular, including heavyweights or trendsetters such as Blockchain, Analytical Thinking, Artificial Intelligence and Sales.

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Include these foreign language skills in the application

Nowadays, many working people come to foreign language skills not over. For example, because you work abroad or for an international company in Germany whose official language is English. That is why English is not only a good form, the language is standard.

Applicants with English cannot stand out. To do this, you need a second foreign language. Ideally, this is congruent with the realities and ambitions of the company. If the company wants to expand its China business, knowledge of Chinese is a pound that applicants can use to proliferate. However, if you apply to a company with reference to your excellent Finnish skills that is not or will not be present in Finland in any way, you should hardly have any advantages.

So the task is to find out: in which countries is the company active? Where or where does it want to expand? Which language skills will be helpful?

Foreign language skills: Read requirements from the job advertisement

Basically, a distinction is made between mandatory and optional requirements that appear in a job advertisement. Must requirements are mandatory if you want the job as an applicant. Optional requirements, on the other hand, are something like the cherry on the cake: It’s nice when they are there, but not a requirement.

With regard to foreign language skills, for example, employers formulate mandatory requirements so:

  • perfect command of the German language
  • good to very good knowledge of English
  • … we require business fluent English skills
  • very good spoken and written French

If you use such expressions in If you discover a job advertisement, you can assume that you will not be able to ignore these language skills – and that you will also have to communicate in a foreign language in everyday working life. This is all the more likely if you work in international sales or product management, for example. It can be about telephone calls or e-mails in which you should not make any striking mistakes.

But there are also phrases in a job advertisement that suggest that it is “only” about can -Requirements. Examples:

  • … ideally, you have a good knowledge of the Russian language
  • … language skills in Polish and Czech would be desirable
  • … knowledge of Japanese or Korean would be an advantage

They are not a prerequisite for the position. But if you have these requirements, you will certainly increase your job opportunities.

Include language skills in your cover letter and résumé

You should always have language skills in an application called?

In principle: Yes. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, for the most adventurous reasons. But foreign language skills are generally associated with desirable characteristics: eagerness to learn, curiosity, commitment, for example. And they are always useful for an employer. Language skills could also indicate that you have a certain intellectual level – nice!

But: If you want to brag about your Spanish skills, but you can’t use them in your new job, then Spanish should not occupy a prominent place in your application. List on a resume? Yes sure. Mention it in the cover letter or emphasize it in the CV (by bold it, for example)? Under no circumstance. That in turn would bring out bad characteristics: the inability to prioritize or analyze things.

It would be ideal if your foreign language skills were needed or even actively requested by the company. Then it is a good strategy to make it as present as possible in the application documents. If they are less important, then other skills should take the top positions.

It also depends on the profession and the industry. In a branch of industry that is characterized by international interdependencies, one can use language skills to start something. They can be an asset even if the company didn’t ask for it in the job posting. On the other hand, a medium-sized company or craft business that is mainly active in their home region will probably rub their eyes in amazement at the emphasis on their Japanese language skills. In the worst case, he will take it as arrogant and strange – and sort you out.

And then there are the old, classical languages ​​ such as Latin, Hebrew or ancient Greek, which is No longer being spoken in everyday life. They are only important for future historians or theologians. Of course, you don’t have to leave out your knowledge of Latin, but you shouldn’t brag about it either. You do not need to specify proficiency levels for these languages. Latinum, Graecum or Hebraicum are sufficient.

The 10 most important foreign languages ​​

Which foreign languages ​​ are most important in your job? To find out, the online job exchange Joblift evaluated a total of 15 million job advertisements from more than 1,000 websites over a period of two years. In 3.4 million requirement profiles, language skills in English were required – so English is the undisputed number one. For comparison: The ten languages ​​behind it came together only on approx. 420,000 hits.

The great importance of a language on the German job market usually has one of three causes (or a combination of several): Either is it is the language of a neighboring country (e.g. Danish, Dutch) or it is spoken by many people worldwide (e.g. Chinese, Spanish) or within Germany by members of a large language community (e.g. Russian, Polish).

These Foreign language skills are most in-demand in Germany:

  • English
  • French
  • Spanish
  • Dutch
  • Italian
  • Russian
  • Polish
  • Chinese (Mandarin)
  • Arabic
  • Danish
  • Japanese

Language skills tips

Caution! If you garnish your application with fluent English, you should actually be fluent in English. There is nothing more embarrassing for applicants than to stand there like a doused poodle when the interviewer suddenly switches to English. Risk of embarrassment!

Small objection: Of course, fluency in English on your résumé can get you into the job interview in the first place. So it makes perfect strategic sense to exaggerate rather than being overly careful with your language skills. But only a little!

If you have exaggerated your language skills in the application, then the advice is at least practice before the interview! Prepare a few standard sentences about yourself and your background and hone your pronunciation. This takes away the greatest nervousness and, in case of doubt, leads you over the first cliff.

But if you can hardly pronounce your name correctly in the respective foreign language, then refrain from a positive self-assessment. It’s flying around your ears. Basic knowledge in French is evidence of intellectual curiosity but does not require practical evidence. You are on the safe side.

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Foreign language skills classification

This is how you formulate your foreign language skills in the application :

  • Basic knowledge

    You know the most important vocabulary. Introduce yourself, say hello and goodbye. For you, sentence structure is not a book with seven seals. Then include the basic language on your résumé. You can do this, for example, if you only came into contact with her during your school days – but have been quite rusty since then.

  • Good knowledge

    More is being asked here. That you can conduct a conversation or make phone calls in the same language. Then one also speaks of conversational language skills. This wording also implies that you still have deficits in your correspondence.

  • Very good language skills

    You can easily access complex texts. You can easily talk about abstract topics. You can get involved in discussions or hold technical conversations – even with native speakers. Then you have very good foreign language skills.

  • Business fluent in spoken and written

    You can speak a foreign language communicate without any problems: verbally and in writing. The use of the foreign language is possible in all contexts – intuitively. You don’t have to search long for phrases or words. This is the case, for example, if you have lived abroad for a long time.

  • Native speaker/native speaker level

    That’s easy. If you have a migration background and have spoken a foreign language at home, it is logically not a foreign language for you. But don’t cheat: there are migrant children who by no means have a perfect command of their parents’ language. The skill level native speaker You can also contact them without family ties. Anyone who has lived in the USA for decades and speaks (perfect) English with their family at home can confidently state native speaker level in their application.

This is what your language skills could look like on your CV:

  • Language skills: English (business fluent), Spanish (good), French (basic knowledge)
  • Language skills: German, Russian (mother tongue), English (very good), Swedish (basic knowledge)
  • Language skills: Turkish (mother tongue), English (business fluent), Arabic (very good), Farsi, German (good)
  • Language skills: English (native speaker), French, Portuguese (good), Latin (Latinum)
  • Language skills: Serbian (mother tongue), German (mother tongue), Croatian, Bosnian, Macedonian (very good), English (good)

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