Looking to improve your prospects of getting hired in a competitive job market? Language skills will help boost your chances!
Employers in Malaysia and all over the world are looking not only for the usual candidates. They're searching for candidates who can connect with diverse clients. Job seekers who can manage global businesses. Those who can speak languages vital to their businesses -- like English.
Having strong English proficiency is key to successful employment. According to Malaysian Employers Federation president Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman, good English language skills allow employees to broaden their knowledge and find more career opportunities.
Adding this to your resume may, thus, raise your chances of landing an interview.
Whether you have native or bilingual proficiency, this guide will help you stand out. It will give you everything you need to know about listing levels of language skills on your resume
Language proficiency refers to an individual's competency to use a language with accuracy and fluency. It encompasses a range of skills, including speaking, listening, reading, and writing.
Before including your language skills on your resume, learn the main frameworks used. This helps you to accurately represent your abilities.
Several employed frameworks in Malaysia include:
Familiarise yourself with CEFR, ACTFL, and ILR below:
The CEFR has six levels, from A1 to C2. They are divided into Basic User, Independent User, and Proficient User categories.
Adjust these levels for local needs. Each has 'can-do' descriptors, showing language skills and abilities at each stage.
ACTFL's scale consists of five levels: Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, Superior, and Distinguished.
The first three levels have Low, Mid, and High sub-levels. Each major level shows different language abilities. They create a hierarchy, including the skills of the lower levels.
The ILR Scale measures listening, reading, speaking, and writing language skills. It rates levels from 0 (No Proficiency) to 5 (Functionally Native Professional Proficiency).
Assign Plus levels (e.g., 0+, 1+) when the proficiency is higher than a base level but not yet at the next higher base level.
The proficiency levels on the ILR Scale are as follows:
The first step is to assess your language skill. Use these three methods to determine your level.
Self-assessment is a valuable starting point. Begin by reflecting on your language skills and evaluating your abilities. This helps you to gauge your strengths and areas for improvement.
Think about how well you speak, listen, read, and write in the language. Compare your abilities to descriptors from CEFR or ILR to find your best level.
If you want a professional evaluation, consider standardised language tests and certifications. They are recognised neutral assessments of your proficiencies.
They measure your language abilities and provide a score based on your skill level. Popular language tests include the TOEFL, IELTS, DELE, and others.
Besides formal assessments, real-life language usage provides valuable insights into your communication skills.
Think about how you use the language at work, travel, or through books and movies. This helps you see how well you can communicate in real situations.
Combine the above methods to have a well-rounded view of your language level. This helps you list language skills accurately on your resume and set realistic learning goals for growth.
Once you're aware of your skills, it's time to add the languages you know to your resume. Effectively showcasing your language skills on your resume impresses potential employers.
It also sets you apart from other candidates.
For example, English is “valued as a pragmatic language among Malaysia’s working adults”, according to a research paper published in the GEMA Online™ Journal of Language Studies. In Malaysia's diverse job market, employers will thus prioritise a candidate’s English skills.
Let's look at the key aspects of creating a compelling language skills section on your resume.
When organising your language skills, you have two choices. Decide if you want a separate section or integrate them with other resume sections. Both work. But, a dedicated section allows your skills to be seen easily.
Separate or integrated section: A separate section is recommended if language skills play a crucial role in the applied job. This way, employers can quickly identify your linguistic competencies. If your language is complementary, integrate it within sections like the personal statement. This can be a more practical approach.
Placement within the resume language section: The location of your language skills section matters. Put it near the top of your resume to catch the recruiter's attention early on. This encourages employers to review your resume more thoroughly.
Next, keep your language skills section clear and easy to understand. You have two options to show your skill levels:
Descriptive adjectives vs level indicators. Descriptive adjectives like "Fluent" or "Basic" provide a quick gauge of your skill level. Meanwhile, standardised level indicators like CEFR's A1, B2, or ILR's 0, 1, 2, offer precise and recognised descriptors. Choose the format that best suits your own resume language skills and target industry.
Visual representation of skill. Use graphics like bar charts to represent your skills. They offer an overview of your language abilities. It can also be an attention-grabbing addition to your resume.
Whichever option you choose, be sure to list your language skills using consistent naming conventions. For instance, if you are fluent in Spanish, consistently use Spanish" instead of "Español." This uniformity makes your language skills section appealing and professional.
Present your linguistic abilities clearly and concisely. This section allows employers to gauge your language skill. They can also assess how it aligns with the job requirements.
Native Languages. Begin by stating your primary languages. These are the ones you are most proficient in or consider your native languages. Employers consider it a valuable asset. This is especially so if the job requires communication in the local language. When indicating them, you can write "Native", such as "Malay (Native)."
If you are fluent in your native tongue, two, or many languages, emphasise this unique skill. For example, list "Malay (Native), English (Native)" to show your bilingual skills. This is helpful in Malaysia's multicultural environment.
Foreign Languages. Afterwards, include those you have learned or are proficient in. Specify your level of proficiency in each foreign language. For example, "French (Intermediate)" or "Spanish (Advanced)."
You can still mention it on your resume if you're learning a language and haven't yet reached fluency. State your current skill level (e.g., "French (Intermediate)"). Add a note about your ongoing efforts to improve. For example, write "Currently taking advanced French courses to enhance language proficiency."
As you progress, update your resume to showcase your commitment to continuous improvement. This makes you an attractive candidate for multilingual positions.
Note, however, that adding more linguistic skills to your resume can be beneficial, as long as they are relevant to your job, notes New York-based career expert, Amanda Augustine.
Next, effectively describe your language skill on your resume. This is crucial for employers to understand your competency level accurately.
To ensure consistency and clarity:
Review standardised proficiency descriptors.
Take the time to review the standardised proficiency descriptors by frameworks like CEFR, ACTFL, or ILR. They offer clear guidelines and benchmarks for different language skill levels. Effectively communicate your language abilities to recruiters and hiring managers by understanding them.
Familiarise yourself with descriptor scales.
Each skill level is linked to specific descriptor scales. Familiarise yourself with them to accurately gauge your language skills. This helps you determine whether you fall within the Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, or Superior levels. It also provides a more precise indication of your abilities.
Be honest about your competencies.
Honesty is key when describing your language skills. Avoid exaggerating your abilities or claiming to be more proficient than you are. Likewise, don't underestimate your skills. Be transparent about your true level of proficiency. Employers may evaluate your language abilities during interviews or practical assessments.
Align your skills with the descriptors.
Ensure your language skills align accurately with the descriptors provided in the frameworks. For instance, you have the ability to engage in basic conversations but need help with complex written texts. Place yourself within the appropriate proficiency level that reflects this. This way, employers can better understand your strengths and areas for improvement. Also, add context and real-life examples to your language skills section. This strengthens your resume and substantiates your claims.
Here are two key areas where you can show your language ability levels:
Demonstrating language proficiency in work experience. Showcase experiences where language skills were important. For instance, you were a bilingual customer service representative. Mention how you communicated with clients in their native language, boosting customer satisfaction.
Highlighting language skills in education. Include language-related educational experiences that show your skills. If you completed language-specific courses, emphasise how they contributed to your linguistic development.
Like any other skill, language skills need continuous practice to remain relevant. Incorporate these strategies to stay competitive in the job market:
Recognise that learning is an ongoing process. Embrace a growth mindset and strive to improve your language skill levels continuously. Set achievable goals and track your progress to stay motivated and focused.
Enrol in language classes that align with your skill level and learning objectives. Structured learning environments provide opportunities to practise in the target language.
Language learning apps and websites also offer accessible and convenient resources for self-study. Many platforms provide interactive lessons tailored to your language proficiency level and schedule.
Or, invest in professional language development programmes. This is important if language skill is significant in your desired job. These courses cater to professionals in specific fields. They focus on industry-specific skills.
Immerse yourself in language communities, both online and offline. Join language exchange groups or social media communities to speak with native language speakers. Engaging with others provides valuable real-life practice and cultural insights.
Or, look out for language workshops, seminars, and conferences in your area or online. Language experts and experienced speakers there often share valuable tips and best practices.
In today's globally connected job market, presenting language proficiency on your resume has never been more paramount.
Beyond listing languages, it's about showcasing your ability to bridge communication gaps. It's also to understand diverse cultural nuances and engage in a multicultural world.
By emphasising your language proficiency, you're not just adding another skill to your resume. You're also signalling to potential employers your readiness to navigate the intricacies of a globalised workplace.
It’s also about empowering yourself with a competitive advantage. In a sea of qualified candidates, it's these soft skills, like language proficiency, that often make the most significant difference.
As you step into the future, let your multilingual capabilities be the beacon that sets you apart, making you not just a potential employee but a global asset.