You know that language skills are important to your career and you have invested in making progress in mastering the language. So, what’s the best way to present your language skills on your CV?
Why it is important to certify
The first thing to understand is the importance to certify their language skills with a recognized language certification. Just as the world has become more digital, so has the job selection process. This made applying for a job much easier, but it also means managers are now inundated with CVs. Demonstrating your skills helps eliminate any doubts about your level of knowledge of a language, which could otherwise put you in the “no” pile. Certification allows you to stand out from other candidates and increases the visibility of your CV. LinkedIn recently revealed that putting certified skills on your profile increases visits by up to 600%.
Choosing a language certification
Choosing a recognized language certification test can be difficult, it depends on the language, as there may be several tests available. For the purposes of your CV, the main aspect to consider is the academic rigor of the test. A poor quality test will not properly certify your level and putting it on your CV will not make you look like a reliable candidate. For this reason, it is better to stick to the tests created by international organizations through experts in the assessment of language proficiency.
Insert the language certification in your CV
Once in possession of the language certification, you must present your score in a form that is easy to understand. I recommend including the name of the test, the score obtained and an indication of the level (for example: “Intermediate”), in case the employer is not familiar with the evaluation system of the various exams. This demonstrates that you have certified competence and makes it easier for an employer to understand the results.
Following this advice, the language skills section on your CV will look something like this:
- French: DELF B2 (Independant user)
- English: EFSET 60 (Upper-intermediate)
- Japanese: JLPT N4 (ability to understand basic Japanese)
What if you don’t have certifications?
You may still find yourself without language certifications. This is especially true for languages other than English, for which there is no free quality test available. In this case, your best option is to refer to the rating scales created by government agencies and do a self-assessment, that is, a self-assessment. In Europe, the standard scale is called CEFR while in the United States there are two: ACTFL and ILR. You can find standard scales and self-assessment tools, usually presented as a list of skills, in most languages.
Use the self-assessment tools to determine your level in each language you speak. Be sure to include a level specification as well. For example:
- German: CEFR B2 (Upper-Intermediate)
Although these rating scales are not widely known among employers and self-assessment is not as remarkable as an official test, it will seem more professional than using a generic indication of your level, such as “fluent” or “conversational”.
Include other relevant language experiences
If you have relevant work or study experience in another language, include it in addition to the certification on your CV. For example:
- 5 years of work experience with English clients
- one year of high school in Japan
Prove that you have successfully used a language in context is always important for a future employer.
When not to include language skills on your CV
There are cases where it is better not to include details on language skills on the CV.
Beginner level: In general it is best not to include language skills when you have a beginner level. You won’t be able to really work in these languages and including them on your CV makes you look less professional. The exception exists if you have a personal interest in learning many languages and want to include it in the “hobby” or “Personal interests” section, instead of the “language skills” section of your CV.
Very important positions: In the most important positions of international organizations, fluency in English is taken for granted. In this case, putting your language skills on the CV is superfluous.
When writing your CV, it is important to show your best side without being afraid to enter your skills. For this reason, people are sometimes tempted to exaggerate their skills. However, not being honest about your language skills will always harm you in a professional context. Even if you get an interview through a false claim, the hiring manager will find out during the interview, or you will be caught on the first day of work and are unlikely to keep your job.
If you fear that your language skills are not are good enough, invest in some language courses or try some of the many resources available online. During an interview, you can talk to the manager about your ongoing preparation, employers are always impressed by candidates who really work to improve their skills.