5 Tips to Hiring a Bilingual Workforce
Statistics say that over 76% of people lie about their English fluency level on their resumés.
While seemingly a “victimless” crime, these individuals end up wasting thousands of hours of operational time for HR teams around the world, leading to a loss in productivity and, of course, a loss of money. While wasting time interviewing unqualified candidates is certainly an issue, the real problem lies in the fact that some of these candidates trickle through – the result of which could be disastrous for a company, from tarnishing brand image to losing existing clients and prospective new business.
So how do we make sure that we are hiring the true multilingual talent?
Having lived and built a business in Brazil as an American, I understand firsthand the challenges of hiring a multilingual workforce as well as the benefits that a multilingual workforce can bring to an organization.
As such, in this article, I will explain the best practices that you can use to hire a strong multilingual workforce guaranteed to make an impact on your organization. These practices were learned the hard way, primarily by hiring the wrong people and having to course-correct more times than I care to remember. Nevertheless, we learned many lessons from the mistakes we made, and we’ve used these missteps to help propel the EduSynch software to become one of the most effective English language proficiency testing platforms in Latin America.
Tip 1: Create Content in Multiple Languages (Targeting Native Speakers) Across Social Media Platforms
Whether it’s English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, etc., job candidates are going to be looking for evidence that your company is truly multilingual. This will include posting relevant content in the target language so that speakers of these languages are convinced. On the other hand, posting content in your company’s local language is also important in order to showcase the multicultural nature of your firm. Don’t forget to use culturally significant nuances in the content so as to appeal to the right target audience!
In our case, we publish a lot of content in Portuguese specifically catering to the challenges that Brazilian companies face in their hiring of English speakers. These topics range from ways to detect lies on a resumé to interview guides in English for Portuguese-speaking HR staff. Targeting known problems and using real cases has proved very effective in building rapport with new potential hires.
Tip 2: Advertise in Multiple Languages on Local And Foreign Job Sites
While posting on local job sites and in local newspapers is important, it’s likely that many multilingual candidates may be searching more universal platforms that exist in their own language. As such, it’s important to advertise for job openings across different sites in different target regions and in different languages.
As an example, at EduSynch, we post jobs on Facebook in both Portuguese and English. We also advertise for job openings in Portuguese on the popular job site in Brazil, cato.com, and in English on indeed.com. Our first hires actually ended up coming from indeed.com, but were fluent in both Portuguese and English.
Tip 3: Target Universities and Recent Graduates
Finding qualified candidates is already difficult, which makes finding bilingual candidates even more difficult. This is why it’s important to look in places where talent may be hiding, like university job fairs and events on university campuses. Specifically targeting the languages department of certain universities may prove useful in finding individuals who either already possess the ability to operate in multiple languages. If not, at least they showcase a strong desire to learn one or more language, and can most likely be trained to executive well in a multilingual position.
At EduSynch, this strategy proved incredibly effective. We even conducted workshops at some of the top engineering schools in São Paulo and spoke about some of the major advantages to working as an engineer in a multinational company versus a local one. We also went to a number of the lesser-known first tier universities and upper second tier universities where we targeted the language departments. We found a number of qualified applicants who were very interested in job opportunities where they could flex their abilities in both languages, but had not even started looking beyond their university career department. With a little training and direction, these individuals proved to be very effective in their roles.
Tip 4: Language Testing
Obviously I had to mention this one!
One of the easiest ways to affordably vet new candidates (and do it at scale) is to use an online English proficiency testing platform. Using software to help weed out unqualified candidates will allow you and your staff to spend more time on building a strong pipeline of leads and less time dealing with interviews. The more skills the software can test the better, as there are often candidates who claim to be proficient but cannot actually speak or write in the target language.
At EduSynch, we actually use our own English tests to vet each and every candidate before bringing them in for an interview. Based on the resumé, we send them a test remotely, have them take it, and if they display a certain level of proficiency, we will then contact them to schedule a real interview, either via Skype or in-person. By doing this, we’ve saved thousands of hours of our operation team’s time.
Tip 5: Referrals
One of the easiest ways to get qualified candidates quickly is to speak to friends and contacts in multinational firms. Often times they will be more than willing to share tips with you about where to find candidates. You will be surprised by how often they may even send you resumés and contact information of potential hires directly.
We used this strategy for some of our early hires, speaking to other language training companies in Brazil to actually source operationally adept individuals who can speak multiple languages.
As a more general guideline, it’s important to seek out the best but be prepared to make concessions. For instance, it may make more sense to hire a candidate who is qualified for the position in other ways, but needs a bit of training or guidance on the language side. No candidate can ever be perfect, nor can the process, but at least these 5 tips will help you avoid some major problems and headaches as your company expands and grows internationally.
Just remember – the most important resources we have are still human.