The Importance of Language Assessment in Recruitment

job candidate search

As we continue to be more linguistically and culturally diverse, providing services to customers in their preferred language to meet their needs becomes a necessity. As many as 75 percent of consumers say they’re more likely to purchase a product if customer support is provided in their preferred language. More than half would spend more on a product if a company provided information in their own language. Therefore, customer-facing roles in the U.S. require candidates to be proficient in languages other than English, such as customer support, tech support, and sales to name a few.

Hiring the right language-proficient multilingual candidates to help with the growing need for multilingual customer service builds your brand loyalty in target ethnic markets and turns prospective customers into loyal clients.

But… can candidates for bilingual positions actually speak the language listed on their resumes?

A survey of 2,000 hiring managers by Hloom, a company that provides templates for cover letters and CVs, found that the second worst lie an applicant could put on their CV was foreign language fluency.

Why lie? Candidates tend to exaggerate where it’s difficult to draw a clear line, so language ability is an item that tends to be exaggerated. In addition, language fluency is hard to gauge if it’s not supported by an official language certification. Phrases such as “Fluent in. . .”, “Conversant in . . .”, or “Working knowledge of . . .” are often included on resumes with no explanation or proof of actual proficiency. A recent survey has shown that almost 60% of job applicants overstate their abilities, including their language proficiency.

Hiring bilingual or multilingual talent without verifying their language proficiency leads to miscommunication and carries a risk of legal ramifications and loss of credibility. According to a recent report, as many as 67% of employers believe that miscommunication due to language barriers contributes to inefficiencies and 37% believe that customer service suffers when the employees cannot efficiently communicate in the language their customers prefer.

A simple solution is to make language proficiency testing a part of the recruitment process.

Language assessment in recruitment is used to verify the candidate’s ability to communicate in the language they are expected to use with colleagues and customers. Valid and reliable language proficiency assessments evaluate how well a job candidate uses language within a practical setting. Language tests, such as ACTFL language proficiency assessments, can reliably evaluate a candidate’s speaking, writing, reading, and listening skills. Different jobs require different language skills (for example, a customer service representative should have strong speaking skills, whereas representatives hired to answer customers’ queries via chat should demonstrate strong writing skills), so the decision as to which language tests should be administered depends on the type of role you are recruiting for.

Read more –> The Importance of Assessing Employee Language Skills for Specific Positions

Benefits of Language Assessments in the Recruitment Process

There are several benefits of making language assessment a part of your recruitment process. Below we discuss three.

Efficiency of the Recruitment Process

Requiring your job candidates to take language tests early in the recruitment process allows you to quickly filter out those who do not possess the required level of proficiency. Once you identify those who do demonstrate a sufficient proficiency level, you can then focus on other skills and talents required for the job. In addition, language tests such as the ACTFL language proficiency assessments can be administered online or over the telephone anytime and anywhere over secure networks, eliminating the need for the job candidates to come to your office to take the test.

Standard Ways of Measuring Proficiency

Reliable language assessments can help you standardize your recruitment process, eliminating subjectivity and bias. Before you begin testing job candidates, you should establish the minimum level of proficiency for each role and then measure all candidates against that metric. Language Testing International (LTI), along with a group of Industrial and Organizational psychologists, developed the LTI Task Analysis process to assist companies in establishing minimum-proficiency levels for bilingual positions. By using standardized methods, you ensure a fair recruitment process, and you can easily defend your hiring decision as all candidates are measured against the same criteria.

Read more –> What should the standard be for language assessments?

Confidence in Hiring the Most Qualified Candidates

Reliable and valid language proficiency assessments eliminate the guesswork on whether candidates who claim to be fluent truly possess the language skills required for the job and ensures you select candidates who are best suited for the roles. This, in turn, guarantees employees’ satisfaction as they succeed in their jobs and customers’ satisfaction as they can rely on your employees for accurate and complete information.

Partnering with a Reliable Language Assessment Provider

Partnering with a trusted language proficiency assessment is the first step to ensuring your multilingual candidates truly posses the language skills necessary to succeed in the roles you are hiring for. Consider partnering with LTI:

  • We are the exclusive licensee of the ACTFL—providing clients with a valid and reliable measure of speaking, reading, writing, and listening proficiency and candidates with a universally recognized language credential.
  • We implement convenient technological solutions to facilitate the testing process for our clients. Our assessments are remotely proctored and can be taken by candidates at anytime, anywhere.
  • The independent LTI process mitigates the risk of unfair employment or advancement processes and of customers claiming inferior service in their native language. Our certification results are legally defensible; decades of research and practice assure the reliability and validity of each assessment.

Ready to get started? Contact us for more information.

Meet a Language Superhero: Dr. Chad Davidson

Chad Davidson

Gauging One’s Language Superpowers by Way of the ACTFL Tests

Dr. Chad Davidson, this month’s Language Superhero, is a lifelong learner of languages. He continuously studies and practices five world languages: “I was once told by someone I highly respect that when asked how many languages I speak, I should always say that I only speak my native language but am learning others. However, I consider myself a continuous learner of my native language as well, so I prefer to answer this by way of how many languages I presently regularly speak. Being raised in and living in Middle America means that I only regularly speak one language, English, but I would say that I am continuing to learn five languages: English (my native language), Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and French. In the past, I have embarked on other language learning journeys (e.g., studying abroad in Russia and in Greece), but I realized that if I wanted to get to a point in which I could think about, talk about, and learn about my other interests through the languages (e.g., philosophy, CrossFit), I needed to commit myself to a select few languages. Hence, for the last couple of years, I have been and still am presently committed to these five, and it is the four non-native languages that I took the ACTFL tests in (i.e., Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and French).”

Dr. Davidson shared his story with us of validating his language proficiency with ACTFL assessments and how the ACTFL assessments aided him in his doctoral research. Use the link below to read his story.


Using the AAPPL to Assess Brazilian Students’ English Proficiency

high school students attending class

By Sandra Baumel Durazzo, Head of Internationalization and Languages at Bahema Educação – Brazil

The role of schools today is different from what it used to be. In the 21st century, schools aim at preparing students to participate actively and critically in a world with subtle frontiers. Thus, instead of transmitting information, it is necessary to develop competencies.  Effective communication is one of these essential competencies, especially in English, considering its international status.

Bahema Educação is an educational enterprise with 14 schools located in different states of Brazil. Each school has its own identity and pedagogical objectives. Bahema’s professionals have been debating on the role of assessment in our students’ education. Our analysis of collected data and research ultimately led to establishing a cycle of English proficiency evaluations in 2021.

Selecting an Assessment

As head of the Internationalization and Languages department, I led a study of assessment solutions from all around the world and selected the AAPPL. The main reason for choosing it was the focus on communicative abilities and proficiency, instead of verifying the use of certain grammar patterns or ranges of vocabulary.  The fact that the different test forms targeted specific age groups and proficiency levels underscored the relevance of the assessment tasks for the students, and the reports generated by their results proposed valuable teaching and learning opportunities.

From decision to action

The whole process took about 6 months, from the moment we decided to use AAPPL tests to the meetings with the faculty of each school to discuss the results and define a course of action for the following years. What steps did we take? First, it was necessary to guide school administrators to prepare both the school and the community for testing days. We set up mentoring for teachers to learn about the proposal to use the AAPPL and get to know more about the assessment, so they could help students feel prepared for it. We also evaluated the testing spaces and technical requirements to ensure we could keep COVID-required protocols and have enough silence to avoid background noise interference for the speaking portion. We used many resources on the AAPPL Central website to help teachers, students, and parents know what to expect.

In September 2021, over 500 ninth grade students took the AAPPL. The schools reported easy management of the tests. Students were comfortable with it, although some of them were tired by the end of the last test. Overall, the school administrators and teachers were pleased to have a standardized assessment everyone can look to for reliable information.

The results revealed several accomplishments as well as challenges we will need to face. We learned that in the future we may want to consider administering individual components of the test in shorter sittings across multiple days instead of having students take the full AAPPL in one sitting. We also learned the instructions were accessible and easy for students to understand, making test administration very straightforward. We are developing proposals for teacher training, technology tools for learning, and other initiatives. In all of these proposals, having reliable data from the AAPPL helps inform and substantiate our requests. At each of the schools, teachers look at the Score Reports with their students to reflect on the reasons for the results obtained and how each individual can work to improve. Likewise, teachers are evaluating the reports to help them consider steps to improve their ELL programs. Using the AAPPL has been a very favorable and valuable experience for our organization.

The Importance of Language Proficiency in the Workplace

a diverse group of professionals having a discussion In a recent study conducted by ACTFL, it was reported that 9 out of 10 U.S. employers rely on “U.S. based employees with language skills other than English, with one-third (32 percent) reporting a high dependency.” (p. 5). With this high demand for bilingual and multilingual professionals, the bar has been raised on the importance of validated language proficiency in the workplace. The demographic shift we are experiencing in the U.S. is creating an increasingly multilingual and multicultural society, and American employers are quickly learning that approximately “65 million U.S. residents speak a language other than English (40 percent with limited or no English proficiency) and 96 percent of the world’s consumers and two-thirds of its purchasing power reside outside U.S. borders” (p. 6). What the results of this study tell us is that professionals with bilingual or multilingual skills are in high demand as companies look not only to reach their customers in their preferred languages but also to expand globally. However, it’s not sufficient to state on a résumé or application that you are bilingual or multilingual. More and more employers are validating the level of language competency and proficiency in speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Why? Employers need a valid proof that job candidates truly possess the language skills they claim to have to make sure that whoever they hire will successfully perform the tasks required for the job.

In a recent episode of “Language is Your Superpower” podcast, host Lisa March chats with Vinay Patel, PhD, Senior I-O Psychologist working on the HR Research Team for AT&T. His role focuses on ensuring an objective, valid, and reliable process for employee selection, assessment development, and confirmation of job language competency. By using language assessments, employers are better equipped to test and track their employees’ language proficiencies to fill any gaps, better serve their customers, and grow their businesses. However, Dr. Patel warns against homegrown assessments and advises companies to rely on language testing experts that have decades of research, experience, and validated tools to ensure that they are measuring what they are intending to measure, which is language proficiency. Assessing language proficiency is both an art and a science that requires a certain level of flexibility as roles and responsibilities on the job evolve as well as the research and empirical evidence needed to validate the reliability of the assessments. As a potential language test-taker, you also want to have the comfort of knowing that the process is just, fair, and meets your proficiency needs.

AT&T relies on Language Testing International to perform language proficiency assessments with their bilingual and multilingual employees. We have conducted over 5 million language proficiency tests over the last 30 years across most industries and are a leading expert in this field. To learn more about how to get certified, visit LTI today!