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Recruiting and Remunerating Spanish Speakers

Posted by Elena del Valle on April 2, 2010

By Astrid Rial
President, Arial International


Astrid Rial, president, Arial International

Photo: Arial International

Companies who recruit bilingual talent to service Spanish-speaking customers seek associates who can effectively communicate in both English and Spanish. In the last few years we have observed that many more companies in the U.S. are providing additional compensation in the form of a bilingual premium or differential to bilingual associates.

Many Spanish speakers in the US speak colloquial or familiar Spanish, so the challenge for recruiters is to objectively verify that bilingual job candidates are able to competently communicate in professional and appropriate Spanish for business situations. Unless an interviewer is fully fluent in both languages, it is difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between casual and business Spanish.

Let’s evaluate the following requirements commonly used in bilingual (Spanish/English) recruitment ads:

1.Bilingual abilities are a plus;
2.Bilingual preferred;
3.Bilingual preferred; at a minimum, the ability to understand and to make one’s self understood to all Spanish speaking individuals;
4.Excellent verbal and written communications skills required in both English and Spanish ;
5.Bilingual and able to read, write and speak Spanish proficiently;
6.Must speak and write Spanish fluently.

In this sample, there are six different descriptions of sought-after job applicant skill sets, but each one requires a different level of Spanish communication expertise. In the first two examples where bilingual skills are “a plus” or “preferred”, a recruiter may decide to “take the candidate’s word” that he can speak Spanish. However in the last four examples, the company is seeking specific bilingual abilities. In these situations, an objective language proficiency assessment is highly recommended since in-house appraisals tend to be subjective.

Best Practice “Tips”

How do recruiters assess a candidate’s communication and comprehension skills? Many companies require candidates to complete verbal and/or written language proficiency assessments: objective, scientifically designed evaluations of the candidate’s communication skills. Effective assessments are fact-based, consistent and unbiased, simulate the skill sets required of the associates and use a proven testing and scoring methodology.

Assessment services that require no advance appointment are the most flexible for recruiters since no planning is required and an eligible candidate may be assessed at the time of the interview. Some companies prefer to assess candidates for bilingual positions at the first stage in the interview process so that they only spend their internal resources on qualified candidates while other companies assess Spanish proficiency in the final steps of the process, after the candidate has fulfilled other hiring requirements.

Companies are able to recruit the most qualified candidates when the job description specifies the language requirements. Advising potential candidates in advance that their language skills will be tested can help weed out unqualified candidates from applying. This is a time-saver for recruiters as only those candidates who are confident in their bilingual communication skills will apply for a position if they know in advance they will be tested.

Benefits and Cost-Savings

Once assessed, companies can assign associates to the business process they are most qualified to fill, thereby improving employee retention, reducing turnover and, ultimately, delivering the highest level of customer service. Other benefits and cost-savings companies experience by conducting language proficiency assessments include:

  • increase the probability of hiring the right candidate;
  • reduce training time for new recruits;
  • provide objective data to justify paying a bilingual differential;
  • reduce costs of discharging an employee due to inadequate skills; and
  • deliver consistent, excellent, high quality service to your customers.

Many companies conduct personality tests, clerical and computation skills assessments and drug and alcohol checks to screen job applicants. These employers know the benefits of pre-employment testing. Now companies who serve multi-lingual customers have an additional resource available: language proficiency assessments to objectively test communication and comprehension skills of bilingual job candidates.

Astrid Rial is President and Founder of Arial International, a multi-cultural, multi-lingual training, consulting and Hispanic services firm in business since 1992. Contact her 1-888-446-2331, x89 or at astrid@arialinternational.com

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