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Building Your Language Policies for International Recruiting

Mar 3, 2021 | Business

Recruiting internationally and recruiting local foreign professionals on visas are both great ways to get the best talent in your field. Plus, it helps expand your business into new markets. You might be recruiting to bring an international professional onto your current team or you might be building a new team in another country. However, beyond professional skills, one of the most important requirements is setting your language policies.

If you are hiring professionals who speak a different language from that of your home company culture, it’s vital that you consider both what is necessary and what is reasonable for language requirements. Especially if you are hiring from or opening offices in other countries. You neither want to set yourself (and your new team members) up for language barriers, nor to ask too much from international recruits by demanding polyglots who are few and far between.

So, what constitutes as reasonable expectations for language with international and foreign new hires? What can you make a language requirement, and how can you overcome any language barriers in a newly multinational team? That is what we are here to explore today. 

1) Able to Speak the Company’s Shared Language

The first and most natural requirement is that international recruits be able to communicate in the company’s shared language. If your team shares one language, each new recruit must communicate in that language. This ensures that you can conduct business, handle legal matters, and avoid confusion along the way.

That said, there is a difference between communication and fluency. At minimum, you may need to require only that an international recruit be able to speak and understand the language, while conducting most work in their native language. This is most often the case when hiring international recruits who will stay in their location and work with locals.

2) Fluent & Literate in the Company’s Shared Language

Of course, you likely need someone who is not only capable, but also fluent and literate in the company’s shared language. Fluency allows for an understanding and use of more subtle language and opens the door to more technical discussions. Fluency combined with literacy in your home language also ensures that international recruits do not need translated paperwork or to slow their workflow by translating work documents on the fly. It is always reasonable to require fluency and literacy in the company’s language, though the degree of fluency needed will, of course, be determined by the role.

Some roles will only need to receive and understand day-to-day messages and instructions, while others will need to collaborate on a fluent and literate level with remote team members.

3) Able to Speak the Local Language

If you are recruiting an international to work locally with those they already live near, then speaking the local language is a natural requirement. They will need to be able to communicate with locals and conduct business in the local language in order to perform and thrive in the role. In some cases, you may be asking for someone who can speak the local secondary language. Again, there is a difference between communication and fluency. Decide on the measure to which you require fluency in the local language, or just someone who can handle basic business with customers.

When the role calls for it, it is reasonable to ask for someone who is fluent in the company’s language and can at least communicate in one or more local languages. It is often invaluable to have employees who can bridge the language gap, and some teams are made up of one dually fluent manager with teams of those who only speak the local language. Depending on the company, this method can also work.

4) Fluent and Literate in the Local Language

If you are looking for someone who is fluent-and-literate in both the company language and the local language, you are looking for someone who is genuinely bilingual. These professionals are in high demand because the pool is small when seeking bilingual workers with the skills you require. Particularly those who are bilingual in the two languages needed.

It is reasonable to ask for double-fluent bilingual candidates, but lower your expectations for finding the right person who meets these requirements. The perfect person might not be available and job-seeking at present. In many cases, an employer helps new hires who speak one language fluently and have the basics of a second language. Indeed, they nurture their dual language skills with training and opportunities to practice.

5) Beyond Bilingual as a Bonus, Not a Requirement

Lastly, take heed before asking that candidates know or be fluent in more than two languages. Bilingualism is reasonably common across the globe, but being a true polyglot is rare. Not everyone’s brain can do it. When it comes to reasonable job requirements, multi-language fluency is an incredible bonus to the team. However, it is not something you can require. There’s no guarantee that there is an available polyglot with the job-skills you need.

Unless you are hiring for an extremely diplomatic position and are willing to train a polyglot with the rest of the skills, requiring more than two languages is not reasonable in most circumstances. But you can always keep an eye out for enthusiastic polyglots with the right skill set. Just remember that language skills don’t necessarily reflect a good match on other hiring points.

Learn More About Language Policies for International Recruitment

So, where do you draw the line? What language proficiency can or should you require? It all depends on the role and where your new international recruit will be working. Contact us today for more international hiring insights, best practices, or assistance finding the best international professionals for your team. Building a team in the new normal doesn’t have to be limited by location or even language. If you’re looking to grow your team, we can help.

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