Issue: Demand is rising for employees who speak multiple languages.
Risk: Candidates often overstate their language abilities and can't deliver what's promised.
Action: Follow these three steps to recruit the best-qualified applicants.
Fueled by a growing immigrant population and continued globalization of American businesses, the demand for bilingual employees is rising. But employers need to be cautious about hiring: Some apparently bilingual employees who look good on paper don't always pan out as promised in the language department.
How deep is the need? Staffing firms Kelly Services and Korn/Ferry International both cite double-digit increases in client interest in recruiting multilingual professionals.
Practical example: Banking giant Wachovia this year began allowing customers to request their statements be printed in Spanish.
If you're in the market for bilingual or multilingual workers, follow these steps to ensure a better hiring outcome:
1. Pour details into the job description. Before you start searching for an employee with language skills, lay down the specific requirements you must have, plus those you'd like to have.
Do you need, for example, the employee to be proficient in both English and Spanish and have solid knowledge of medical vocabulary in both?
2. Require oral and written exams. Ideally, the oral test will cover your required subject matter for the job and be given by a native speaker of that language. Written test should include key job subject matter.
Another good written test of fluency: Give the candidate an employment application in the language you're seeking.
3. Use nontraditional recruiting methods to attract more advanced speakers of the language.
Examples: Collaborate with English as a Second Language (ESL) programs in your area. Hook up with translation services as a source of recruitable talent. Concentrate your job ads in publications that serve specific ethnic groups.
Join the chamber of commerce associated with the ethnic group you're targeting.
For instance, when HomeBanc Mortgage in Atlanta needed employees with sales experience and Spanish fluency, it started participating in Latin American associations.