In today’s global work environment, language skills are a draw for employers. Detailing your proficiency in desired languages can stand you apart from other similarly-qualified candidates.

When detailing languages on your CV, consider relevance to your target employer. If they have offices in the target country, and you happen to be fluent in that language, list it. On the other hand, if you are considering noting fledging language skills gained from a GCSE course studied a decade or two ago, think twice. Think about how language skills will be useful in your target role, then assess whether your skill level would equip you for that task. If it doesn’t, you may opt to leave them off, or state an intention to develop the required skills through specific training in a defined timescale. For example, if applying for a role based in Paris, stating that you have enrolled in a three-month Business French course is probably more informative than laying claim to conversational French.

If you have some language skills, but don’t wish to use up vital space on your CV, you could always save your language skills for LinkedIn, where a dedicated section is provided. LinkedIn should reflect and enhance the information provided on your CV, so it’s good to give a little more depth here.

How to Explain Language Proficiency

There isn’t a hard-and-fast rule about how to denote language skills. When listing a language on your CV you could categorise your competency as:

> Basic or beginner

> Conversational or intermediate

> Advanced or proficient

> Fluent, native, or mother tongue

You could also seek inspiration from LinkedIn, which classifies language aptitude levels as elementary proficiency, limited working proficiency, professional working proficiency, full professional proficiency, and native/bilingual proficiency.

Sell Don’t Tell

If your language skills are likely to resonate with your target employer, show them in action throughout your CV. If your languages will be really important to your next role, you could highlight your skills in your profile section by describing yourself as ‘fluent’, ‘multi-lingual’, or ‘bi-lingual’, for example. In your Experience section, give examples of your language skills in action, bringing them to life. For example, you could detail cost savings achieved through negotiations with German-speaking suppliers, or explain how you attracted 10 new prospects at an international trade show.

Honesty Is the Best Policy

Don’t oversell your language skills, as this could place you in a very embarrassing situation and, what’s more, compromise your integrity. Instead, as mentioned before, show commitment to securing the necessary skillsets by listing an appropriate ongoing training course.

Lis McGuire

Lis McGuire

Lis McGuire is a professional CV writer at Giraffe CVs. She has 15 years of experience gained delivering interview-winning CVs and cover letters for professionals at all levels, helping individuals to stand out from the crowd in a highly competitive job market.
Lis McGuire
Lis McGuire