Alpha Bits

Information, insights and advice regarding today’s IT and pharmaceutical recruitment landscape. 

How, and When, to List Your Language Skills on a Resume

Many professionals have some level of proficiency with a language other than their primary one. As a result, the idea of adding the capability to your resume can be appealing.

However, whether it’s the right move can vary. Additionally, if you do decide to add language skills to your resume, selecting the proper way to do so is a must. If you’re interested in figuring out when and how to list your language skills on a resume, here are some resume tips that can help.

Levels of Language Fluency

Generally, when you include languages on your resume, you need to state your level of fluency. That way, you’re discussing the skill accurately, ensuring the hiring manager understands how well you speak or write in the secondary language.

Your approach to outlining your degree of fluency can take one of two paths. First, you can follow a formal framework, such as the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) scale. With that, you would score your language capabilities using one of the following options:

  • No proficiency
  • Elementary proficiency
  • Limited working proficiency
  • General professional proficiency
  • Advanced professional proficiency
  • Functionally native proficiency

Alternatively, you could try a simplified approach that accurately depicts your capabilities. Aside from “native” for your primary language, you could use widely-accepted terms like “bilingual,” “fluent,” “conversational,” or “novice” to describe your secondary language capabilities.

Adding Language Skills to Your Resume

Positioning languages on your resume is a must, particularly if the job requires a secondary language or prefers candidates with notable proficiency in one. You’ll want to create a separate section that highlights your language skills in most cases.

For example, you may want to add a “Languages” header below your “Skills” section if multi-lingual jobs are a must or preferred, ensuring you can showcase your language capabilities. For jobs that don’t require additional languages, you could use that positioning or shift your language skills to a section below your work history.

It’s also wise to highlight language capabilities in your professional summary, especially if you’re genuinely bilingual. That way, it’s one of the first points the hiring manager sees, increasing the odds that you’ll stand out from other candidates at a glance.

When you list each language, including the name of the language and your proficiency level. For example, one bullet point may read “German – Advanced professional proficiency.”

However, if your written and verbal capabilities aren’t at the same level, you may want to specify whether the rating applies to a particular subset of your language skills. For example, you may have one point read, “German (Verbal) – Advanced professional proficiency,” while a second point states, “German (Written) – General professional proficiency.”

It’s important to note that you typically shouldn’t list languages on your resume if your level of fluency is low. For example, if you’re a beginner or at elementary proficiency, the hiring manager may assume that you’re trying to inflate your capabilities. As a result, including a language when your proficiency is limited works against you.

If you’re seeking out a new career-boosting job, the staff at Alpha Consulting wants to hear from you. Contact us to speak with one of our recruiters today.