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Bilingual? You're Valuable

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Spanish has become the country's unofficial second language, and corporate America has responded with diversity initiatives that seek to recruit, understand and attract a Hispanic/Latino workforce, writes Graciela Kenig in her book Best Careers for Bilingual Latinos.

With more than 40 million Hispanics in the US today and an estimated annual growth rate of 4.65, the Latino community will add 1.7 million people to its population every year. This trend is creating a tremendous demand for bilingual job seekers fluent in Spanish and English.

According to Kenig and other experts, the top industries for bilingual candidates include healthcare, financial services, sales and marketing, social services and public service. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, reports that there are a number of emerging occupations in social services such as cross-cultural counselors, bilingual teachers and consumer credit counselors.

"Being fluent in Spanish is a big plus in social services," says Evie Engler, vice president for Metropolitan Family Services in Chicago, Ill. "In many of the communities we serve, our licensed clinical social workers, case workers and counselors must be bilingual to serve families in need of our counseling, mental health and financial management services."

Banks and mortgage companies seek tellers and loan officers who can converse with their Latino clients. Insurance companies need claims adjustors and administrative staff to assist in processing claims for their diverse client base. One major insurance company that pays referral fees to employees for candidates who are hired offered an additional $500 incentive if the new hire was bilingual.

Hospitals and pharmaceutical companies are experiencing some of the greatest demand for bilingual employees to better serve patients. "Being able to speak and understand our patients? native language ensures proper treatment. Patients must be able to understand medical instructions and prescription dosages and physicians need to understand symptoms and circumstances related to a patient?s condition," noted Kathy, a nurse at a suburban hospital in Chicago.

To sell goods and services to a multicultural market, corporations must hire people who understand the language and culture of their clients and their vendors. Karen, an inside sales manager in Columbia, Md., needed call center associates to process orders for paint testing equipment from business clients in Latin America. "Finding candidates who were fluent in Spanish and also had strong sales ability were two key criteria in reviewing resumes and deciding who I would interview."

In nearly every field and profession, from financial services to sales, there is a growing need to multi-lingual candidates. In addition to Spanish, companies that have offices and clients throughout the world seek employees who can speak languages from Russian to German, French and Mandarin. "Job seekers who speak Japanese, Chinese and Mandarin are becoming a hot commodity among employers, particularly on the West Coast," says one recruiter from California.

Not only are bilingual skills helpful for seasoned professionals in the job market, graduates who are fluent in a second language are finding that they have an extra edge during job interviews. While bilingual skills aren't always required to land good jobs, many companies prefer to hire candidates with this added dimension.

If you are truly bilingual, that is you can speak two or more languages with equal or near equal fluency and are able to speak and perhaps also read and write more than one language very well, tell employers up-front that you have this ability. Even if your prospective employer may not have an immediate need for your multiple language capabilities, they are likely to see your fluency as an added benefit and asset in the hiring process.

Consider including this information in your cover letter and in your resume?s career or skills summary. Refer to your skills as "bilingual," or "multilingual" if you speak three or more languages. Then, list each language, including English. Be honest though. If you just had a couple of semesters of a language in high school or college, use the phrase "knowledge of..." Never overstate or understate your expertise.

Bilingual? Make sure employers see your resume >>

Last Updated: 24/09/2007 - 3:50 PM

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