Top Tips for Putting Language Skills on Your CV

Multilingual candidates are more and more in demand each day. How can you list language skills on your CV effectively? Read our powerful advice & tips now!

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Table of Contents

  1. Which Language Skills Should I List on My CV?
  2. How to Describe Language Skills on a CV?
  3. Proving Your Language Skills to a Hiring Manager
  4. FAQ: CV Language Skills

Which Language Skills Should I List on My CV?

If you have skills in languages other than English, there are a few pointers to consider when it comes to listing them on your CV. First, only list languages that you have at least conversational expertise in. You need to be able to hold basic conversations in this language. Knowing a few words of Mandarin might get you kudos at the bar, but its not as helpful for making an impact at work. If you would describe your language proficiency as any of the following, you may be able to list it as a language on your CV:

  • Limited proficiency
  • Professional working proficiency
  • Advanced proficiency
  • Native speaker

The less you know of a language, the less helpful it will be to list it on your CV. However, if you’re actively working on improving your skills in a specific language, you may want to list elementary proficiency on your CV; something like “Russian (Elementary proficiency, taking college classes) will look better than Russian (Elementary).

You should also make sure to list languages you’ll actually use on a regular basis. Don’t include dead languages like Latin unless you’ll use them on the job. Someone applying to work as a Bible professor may need to list their skills in Koine Greek and Latin, but someone applying to work as a cashier won’t.


How to Describe Language Skills on a CV?

Although it is possible to describe your language skills with a general self-assessment, using terms like “bilingual proficiency,” it’s best to describe your language skills in terms using a certified benchmark. These four options are great for describing language fluency:

  • ILR (Interagency Language Roundtable) scale
  • CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) scale
  • ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) proficiency
  • LinkedIn levels

If possible, don’t mix and match these descriptors, using the CEFR for one language and the ACTFL for another. List your fluency level in each language using the same designations. This makes it easier to scan your CV and tell what languages you know best.

Proving Your Language Skills to a Hiring Manager

A hiring manager wants to know that the fluency level you listed is accurate to your true fluency level. How do you prove these levels of language proficiency? Here are a few things to think about.

  • Get an actual certificate if the language will be actually crucial to the job
  • Self-assess with official guidelines and documentation
  • Make sure you’re prepared for any questions a manager may ask to grade your proficiency

If you know you’ll be using this language on a daily basis—for example, if the job description requires specific language fluency—you’ll want to get a language certificate that proves you speak a certain language at a certain level of fluency. Again, choose one type of certificate and strive to get them for all the languages you need.

On the other hand, if you just want your manager to know that you can communicate with someone on a more casual level, such as a customer in a store, you can use a self-assessment. Your manager may also want you to take a quiz or test to ensure you’re being truthful about your language proficiency, so be prepared for this possibility.


FAQ: CV Language Skills

Q: Can I list native fluency in a language that I learned later in life but incredibly well?

If you speak a language well enough that native speakers would believe it was your mother tongue, but it’s a second language or another language you learned later in life, you’ll typically describe this as “near-native” fluency. If you describe it as “native” fluency, this typically means it’s the first language you learned. An accurate language skill level for this ability is usually “near-native.”

Q: What are some of the most in-demand languages for employees?

If you’re looking for some ideas on which languages to learn so that you can add them to your competencies, here’s a list of some of the most in-demand languages employers are looking for:

French

Spanish

German

Mandarin

Russian

Arabic

Italian

Portuguese (Brazil and Portugal)

Japanese

Consider taking classes – even self-starter classes that you complete on your own. Recruiters are looking for people who know multiple languages, and this can get you higher up on the hiring list.

Q: Should I list how many years I’ve spoken a language?

This isn’t a great marker of fluency, so it’s typically not a good idea to list it on your CV. Think about it this way: Someone who took four years of high school Spanish probably doesn’t know as much Spanish as someone who lived for two years in Mexico. This is why it’s a good idea to list your fluency level rather than the amount of time you’ve been learning or speaking a language.

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