How to Recruit Bilingual Employees

Whether you run a small business or are the hiring manager for a Fortune 500 company, success in today’s global marketplace depends upon your organization’s ability to recruit bilingual talent. With bilingual employees you can expand your business into other countries and local communities where English is not the first language.

The number of US businesses recruiting bilingual employees is expanding rapidly according to a 2017 report by the New American Economy, a bipartisan partnership of business leaders and mayors founded by Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch. The organization researches the role of immigration in the economy and advocates for smart immigration policies. The report, titled “Not Lost in Translation: The Growing Importance of Foreign Language Skills in the U.S. Job Market,” found that the number of employers seeking to hire bilingual employees more than doubled between 2010 and 2015. The research found employers were looking for people who spoke Chinese, Spanish and Arabic across industries and for varied roles, from professional to highly skilled to blue collar.

The Benefits of Hiring Bilingual Talent

First and foremost, bilingual employees help you grow your client and customer base. For example, a tech company selling products globally requires a multilingual team in research and development, sales, and customer service. With bilingual employees, companies can also foster customer relationships with large populations within the US who speak a language other than English. This is important for companies who conduct most of their business in a region with a high percentage of immigrant populations, and for global companies who want to localize their offerings within diverse communities.

Beyond this, organizational researchers have established that diverse teams are more innovative and more productive than teams with lower diversity levels. This extends to teams that include bilingual talent. Researchers are increasingly finding that people who speak two languages think and problem solve differently from those who are monolingual, which can bring valuable creativity to organizations.1

Here’s how to improve bilingual hiring at your company:

Create Targeted Job Postings

If you are looking for bilingual job candidates for a specific role, be very clear about that in your job description. Clarify whether you are looking for bilingual applicants exclusively, or if you are doing large-scale hiring and only want a portion of your new employees to speak two languages. If the role is specifically bilingual, clarify that in the job title and consider writing the job description partially in English and partially in the language you need for your business.

Advertise Jobs to Bilingual Talent

It is common sense that you’ll draw more bilingual hires if you source candidates from within the demographic your business needs. Begin by developing relationships with colleges and universities, and trade certification schools with a high percentage of bilingual students. Depending upon your industry, consider establishing an apprenticeship program or providing mentors for career and technical education classes. Set up an information table during career fairs at these institutions. Once you get to know teachers and administrators, you can ask them to recommend multilingual students. In short order, you’ll have a pipeline of talented bilingual candidates entering or re-entering the job market.

Bilingual social media channels and professional associations are also a rich source of multilingual candidates. These are often specific to industries, and may be local or global. Explore professional groups on LinkedIn and Facebook, as well as on smaller social platforms.

Assess for Language Proficiency

If you are looking to hire someone who is fully fluent in another language, pre-employment assessments are critical. A person who speaks fluent conversational Spanish may not be capable of writing clearly in Spanish. The Spanish spoken in Spain is different than the Spanish spoken in Mexico. Be specific about the level of proficiency and regionalisms the role requires and conduct assessments during the hiring process. High language proficiency levels are especially important for call center customer service representatives, and marketing and sales teams.

Ensure an Inclusive Workplace

To improve the diversity of your workforce requires an inclusive company culture. Research shows that employees from different backgrounds don’t stay with companies long if their backgrounds aren’t fully embraced. Today, people want to know they can be their whole selves at work. If your organization is large, this may mean establishing professional programs for multilingual employees. For smaller organizations, it could be a cultural exchange luncheon, for example, during which bilingual and monolingual employees share recipes drawn from their country of origin or that of their ancestors.

Clarify Expectations Organization Wide

As your company expands bilingual hiring, it’s important to educate leadership and employees about how this can improve innovation and build business. A multilingual workplace is more effective when it is folded into the company culture organically.

Also, sometimes the role itself hinges on the second language, such as when a salesperson makes sales calls in French or Cantonese. But in circumstances where the bilingual hires’ language skills are only required on occasion, it’s important everyone is aware this is still a formal part of their job. That way team members are prepared for when the bilingual employee gets pulled away from a project to translate during a teleconference with overseas clients, and they won’t feel abandoned.

It takes an extra measure of attention and strategizing to recruit bilingual employees successfully. But the gains to your company are immeasurably positive.

Contact LINK today for help hiring outstanding bilingual employees.


Hogan-Brun, Gabrielle. “People who speak multiple languages make the best employees for one big reason.” Quartz. Web. 9 March 2017.