Tips for Recruiting Bilingual Candidates

Demand for candidates who speak two or more languages is rapidly increasing. According to one study, there were approximately 630,000 job postings directed at bilingual job seekers in 2015; in 2010, there were only 240,000 bilingual job postings. Have your clients started asking you to recruit bilingual candidates?

Bilingual recruitment agencies aren’t the only firms that can recruit bilingual employees. And, recruiting bilingual candidates does not necessarily require you to be fluent in multiple languages. But, you do need to alter your hiring process to target the right candidates.

Why recruiting bilingual candidates is popular

Companies need bilingual candidates to fill both low- and high-skilled positions. And, companies don’t just hire bilingual candidates to fill translation and interpretation positions.

Hiring managers recruit for all sorts of bilingual or multilingual jobs, including sales, customer service, office and administrative, social service, financial service, software development, and healthcare positions.

Bilingual employees can bring a lot to the table. They can appeal to non-English speaking consumers and provide value in the workplace.

If a company conducts business globally, bilingual employees are a must. Using temporary translators to speak with customers or clients can be costly and time consuming for a company. Not to mention, failing to have employees who can communicate with the company’s client base can be detrimental to a company’s growth and profitability.

Even if a company does not conduct business internationally, bilingual employees might be necessary for communicating with American consumers. One study found that 21% of the U.S. population speaks a language other than English at home.

In addition to appealing to more consumers, bilingual employees can be valuable in other ways. Hiring bilingual employees can diversify the workplace. And because they are able to speak two or more languages, they might have advanced cognitive and multitasking skills.

How to recruit bilingual employees

When recruiting bilingual candidates, you need to specialize your outreach. You might need to use specific platforms to find bilingual candidates. And, you must get them to apply for the job by creating an individualized email template.

So, how do you work around the language barrier when recruiting bilingual candidates? If you don’t know the other language or languages in the job order, you can still recruit. One option is to partner with a recruiter who does know the language and make a split placement. Or, you can do the footwork necessary to recruit talent and have someone (e.g., your client or one of your client’s employees) who is fluent in the language present during the screenings and interviews.

Whether you are multilingual or not, take a look at some recruiting strategies for bilingual candidates.

1. Use both languages in the job description

To attract bilingual candidates, you need to showcase the languages your client needs in the job description. Half of the description might be written in one language and the other half written in the other language.

If your client wrote the job ad in one language, you can rewrite part of the job description in the other language.

For example, you have a client who is looking for an employee who knows Spanish and English. You can write a description of the job responsibilities in English and list qualifications and how to apply in Spanish.

Writing the job description in multiple languages will weed out some of the candidates who don’t qualify. And, the ad will appeal to and encourage bilingual candidates to apply.

2. Source bilingual candidates

Once you have a solid job description, you might need to do more than post it on job boards. You can try searching for bilingual candidates on social media or using a search engine. Also, you can use your recruiting database or ask for referrals.

Sourcing bilingual candidates in social media groups can also expand your search. You can do social media searches to find bilingual candidates, as well.

Another way to source bilingual candidates is to do a Google resume search. You can find resumes of bilingual candidates by specifying the languages your clients need. This method might pull up thousands of resumes, so it’s important that you narrow down your search by including other information, like the location.

If you have been recruiting bilingual candidates for a while, you might have a decent number of bilingual candidates in your recruiting database. If you haven’t recruited bilingual candidates before, you can still search your database to see if any of the candidates are bilingual. Look through your recruiting software by doing a Boolean search.

Last but not least, you can find bilingual candidates by asking for referrals. You might ask people in your candidate pool, use a recruiting network, or even ask agencies that work with immigrants for referrals.

3. Create a special email template

When you find potential candidates you think should apply for the position, reach out to them. Create an email template that is specifically geared toward bilingual individuals.

Your email might be in both languages. In your email, talk about the job and how their language skills would be an asset to the company. Tell the individual where you found their information and why you think they should apply. And, sell your client’s company so the lead can see why it’s a good place to work.

Hiring bilingual employees

Once job seekers apply for the position, you need to make sure they are actually bilingual. Some candidates might claim they are fluent in a language when really they are entry-level speakers.

Personalize phone interview questions, in-person interviews, and different types of pre-employment testing to gauge the candidate’s language proficiency.

When testing a candidate’s proficiency, make sure they have the other skills needed for the position, like you would for monolingual candidates.

Here are some ways you can make sure a candidate is right for a bilingual job.

1. Conduct interviews in both languages

To find out if a candidate is bilingual, use both languages when doing phone screening interviews and in-person interviews. The sooner you are able to weed out the candidates who aren’t fluent, the more time you’ll save yourself and your client.

Listening to the candidate talk in another language isn’t always proof that they could perform well on the job, though. You need to make sure the candidate is proficient in industry-specific language. Let’s say you’re recruiting for a medical position. The candidate should be fluent in medical terminology in both languages.

If the candidate is not as confident talking in one of the languages, or if they mispronounce words, they probably aren’t a good fit for the position.

2. Use code-switching

Many hiring managers who recruit bilingual candidates use code-switching to determine whether the individual is fluent in the language.

Code-switching is when someone alternates between two or more languages when talking. Using code-switching with candidates forces them to use code-switching when listening, which helps you determine how well they know the language.

For example, you are searching for a candidate who is fluent in both French and English. Code-switching would work like this: “Hello! Pouvez-vous me parler de votre previous work experience?”

3. Provide a written bilingual test for employment

Conducting pre-employment testing is a common practice used by hiring managers. You can use a bilingual test to gauge a candidate’s reading and writing abilities in both languages.

You might ask comprehension-based questions about a passage. Or, you can ask vocabulary questions.

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t rely on written comprehension exams. You need to use these in conjunction with verbal tests and bilingual dialogue to make sure you place the best candidate at your client’s company.