A Second Language Can Be Your Hidden Asset

Outside of looking for a job, you’ll find that many current jobseekers won’t have the same educational backgrounds, industry experience or job descriptions. However, approximately two-thirds of them do have one thing in common.

Over 31% of jobseekers speak two languages, according to a poll of over 12,000 visitors to the Korn/Ferry International website. An additional 20% speak three languages, 9% speak four languages and 4% speak more than four. Whether companies are conducting business overseas or trying to obtain a larger market share locally, employers are increasingly seeking out bilingual employees, or people with the ability to speak and communicate in more than one language. In fact, a recent CareerBuilder.com keyword search turned up more than 6,000 job postings seeking bilingual applicants.

Employees who are bilingual in English and Spanish are particularly in demand and earn between 5 and 20% more per hour than the position’s base rate, this according to Salary.com. Take government workers in California for example. Those who hold bilingual positions earn nearly a dollar extra per hour, according to the state’s Department of Personnel Administration website. In Washington County, Ore., employees in “bilingual positions” who spend 15-20% of their time in “regular and frequent use” of their bilingual skills earn over $30 per pay period.

Federal government employees may also see a sizable jump in bilingual pay under a provision of the Defense Authorization Act. According to the National Association for Bilingual Education, the law approves up to $1,000 in monthly proficiency pay for bilingual active-duty military personnel. Civilians can earn special pay up to 5% of their base salary.

The bottom line: Being bilingual pays off.

Want More Money?

So you speak another language? Before demanding extra pay at your current job or during negotiations for a job, do your research. For some roles, it’s all about the position – not the employee – that’s considered bilingual. That means if you are not required to use your bilingual skills for a significant portion of your job, you may not be entitled to differential pay.

However, be prepared to take a competency exam. You may be able to carry on a decent conversation in the language but companies want to be sure you can fully and effectively communicate the business’ policies and technical terms. The steady rise in bilingual hires stems in part, from the establishment of standardized tests to prove ones language ability. These tests have become relied upon more and more by HR personnel and staffing companies throughout the country. The tests may be written or oral, and vary widely from employer to employer. Popular online testing services such as, Profluentplus.com (from Language Testing International) make determining your proficiency level fast and efficient. It will also help prove your language proficiency to employers by providing a validated language credential. So if you’re currently seeking a job or looking to change careers to find a position that utilizes your knowledge of a second language, look at positions in:

Hospitality – Customer Service – Education – Healthcare – Law Enforcement

These specific market segments have been known to seek candidates like you and willing to pay you more for it.