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Bilingual? Market It in Your Job Search!


If you’re bilingual, don’t miss the opportunity to highlight it in your job search. Even if you’re seeking work locally, every job market is a global job market these days: You may be competing with talent from around the world for positions that can be done remotely, applying for multinational companies, or seeking work for an organization with a diverse customer base. Whatever the case, bilingual skills are powerful assets.  

It’s also rare, at least for a U.S. job seeker. While an estimated 50% of the global population is bilingual, that number shrinks to just 20% for Americans. This presents a unique opportunity for U.S. job seekers with bilingual skills: a chance to stand out in a crowded field and maybe even be paid more.

Why it Matters

The most obvious second (or first) language for Americans is Spanish, and for good reason: The U.S. has the world’s second-largest population of Spanish speakers. Nearly 7.8 million Texans—more than one in four—speak Spanish at home. Spanish fluency is particularly useful in medical, educational, government, and legal settings.

But don’t discount other language fluencies. Many Texans speak Vietnamese, Chinese, Arabic, Tagalog, Hindi, Urdu, and more. Knowing these languages is exceptionally marketable. The more customers, fellow employees, and other stakeholders you can communicate with on behalf of an organization, the better. And it’s better for you, too: Businesses tend to pay bilingual employees up to 20% more an hour than staff members who speak only one language. A whopping nine out of 10 employers rely on employees who can speak languages other than English.

If your language fluency is a bit more niche, there’s value there, too. Texas is home to about 1,600 international companies. Each of these organizations has its own language needs. For instance, Samsung has been hiring staff with Korean fluency for its giant build in Taylor, Texas. German and French aerospace, aviation, and manufacturing companies have also been moving into the Lone Star State. In fact, since January 2011, more than 40% of foreign direct investment projects in Texas have originated from Western Europe. And Texas also has more Fortune 500 companies than any other state, further expanding its global reach.

Being bilingual also demonstrates desirable soft skills. In short, it makes you more well-rounded. It can indicate good attention and task-switching capabilities, an understanding and acceptance of cultural diversity, and other possible attributes.

So, you’re bilingual and ready to leverage this valuable skill in your job search. Here’s how to effectively market your language fluency to potential employers:

Understand your true skill level. Being “bilingual” can be subjective. Look for clues if the job asks for someone who knows another language. Are they hoping you can speak it but don’t mention writing proficiency? Are they asking for specific language certifications? You may be asked to test your proficiency, or you could be proactive and test it on your own.

Be sure that you meet their qualifications, and certainly never claim that you’re bilingual if you’re not. Resume Builder offers guidance on how to describe your level of skill. For instance, are you genuinely fluent (can speak and write the language as well as a native speaker), proficient, or conversational? When applying for jobs, you want to take the time to tailor your resume and cover letter to the specific language needs mentioned in the job description, but only while remaining truthful. 

Highlight your talent. Unless you’ve decided that you prefer not to use your bilingual talents in your next job, flaunt them freely!

  • On your resume: You’ll ideally add it to the “Skills” section and include any certifications or proficiency tests you’ve passed. If you have a degree in a language (including a major or minor), include that detail in the “Education” section.
  • In the cover letter and interview answers: If language proficiency is a part of the job, take the time to include a narrative in your cover letter and/or prepare answers to common interview questions that include how you’ve used those language skills to meet goals, overcome challenges, or offer support.
  • In your LinkedIn profile: Don’t overlook listing your bilingual skills in your LinkedIn. It widens your net regarding recruiters and employers who may use it as a keyword when searching for a perfect candidate.
  • As part of your thank you: When thanking a recruiter or employer for interviewing you, re-reference the skill. It’s one extra reminder that you are the complete package.
  • Network! Practice! Don’t wait for a job requiring the language proficiency you have to drop onto your lap. Take the opportunity to network in bilingual communities, volunteer your skills with organizations in need, and consider seeking online communities to socialize with. You may find valuable connections while also keeping your bilingual skills well-tuned.

If you were raised bilingual, you may not have realized what a marketable asset it is for your career. Make no mistake, it could be the attribute that tips the scales for your job search, even if you’re fluent in a language you never thought you could capitalize on.


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