How to check language proficiency in a recruitment process?
How to check language proficiency in a recruitment process?

How to check language proficiency in a recruitment process? A guide with questions to ask.

Assessing language proficiency in the recruitment process is essential, especially if the job requires strong communication skills or proficiency in a specific language. Here are some steps and methods you can consider to check language proficiency effectively:

Define Language Requirements:

   – Clearly outline the language skills necessary for the job. Specify whether the candidate needs to be fluent, have advanced proficiency, or just basic skills.

Job Description and Advertisement

   – Be explicit about language requirements in your job postings so that candidates self-assess their qualifications before applying.

Assessment Tests

     – Standardized Tests: Use standardized tests like TOEFL, IELTS, or CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) for English, or other appropriate tests for different languages.

     – In-House Tests: Develop or use in-house language proficiency tests tailored to the specific job requirements and the language used in the workplace.


   – Conduct interviews that focus on language skills. Here are some interview techniques to consider:

     – Oral Proficiency Interviews: Evaluate a candidate’s speaking and listening skills by conversing in the required language.

     – Written Tests: Ask candidates to complete written tasks or translations in the target language.

     – Role-Play Exercises: Create scenarios where the candidate must use the language in a job-related context, such as handling customer inquiries in a foreign language.

Writing Samples

   – Request candidates to provide writing samples or complete a written test to evaluate their grammar, vocabulary, and writing skills.

Language Skills Assessment by Peers

   – In some cases, you can involve current employees or colleagues who are proficient in the language to assess the candidate’s language skills during the interview process

On-the-Job Evaluation

    – If feasible, consider a (paid)  trial period or probationary period where the candidate’s language skills can be assessed in a real work environment.

Cultural Awareness

    – Assess candidates’ cultural awareness and sensitivity in relation to the language, especially if the job involves cross-cultural communication.

Final Evaluation

    – Combine the results of all language proficiency assessments to make an informed decision about the candidate’s suitability for the role.

When conducting a language check during the recruitment process, you’ll want to ask questions that assess a candidate’s language skills effectively. The questions you ask will depend on the level of language proficiency required for the job. Here are some sample questions for different language proficiency levels:

Basic Language Proficiency

  1. Can you introduce yourself in [the target language]?
  2. How comfortable are you with everyday conversations in [the target language]?
  3. Can you give an example of a simple conversation you might have in [the target language] while interacting with colleagues or customers?
  4. Describe your ability to read and understand basic texts in [the target language].


Intermediate Language Proficiency

  1. Can you discuss a recent project or experience you had where you used [the target language] extensively?
  2. Tell me about a challenging situation you encountered while communicating in [the target language] and how you resolved it.
  3. Provide an example of a written document or report you’ve created in [the target language].
  4. How comfortable are you with technical or industry-specific terminology in [the target language]?


Advanced Language Proficiency

  1. Describe a time when you had to negotiate or mediate a complex issue entirely in [the target language].
  2. Can you provide an example of a presentation or training session you’ve conducted in [the target language]?
  3. How confident are you in translating written documents from [the target language] to your native language and vice versa?
  4. Discuss your experience with simultaneous interpretation if relevant to the job.


Bilingual or Multilingual Roles

  1. Can you switch between languages seamlessly? Please provide an example of a situation where you did this effectively.
  2. Tell me about your experience in a multilingual work environment. How did you manage communication challenges?
  3. Provide an example of a project where you had to collaborate with colleagues who spoke different languages. How did you ensure effective communication?


Cultural Sensitivity and Adaptability

  1. How do you ensure cultural sensitivity and avoid misunderstandings when communicating in [the target language] with people from diverse backgrounds?
  2. Can you share an experience where you had to adapt your communication style to work effectively with colleagues or clients from a different cultural background?

Remember to follow up on their responses, ask for clarification if needed, and ensure that their language skills align with the specific requirements of the job. Not every position requires very advanced language skills.

In the case of written communication and the possibility to use templates a CEFR B1 should be enough. 

When there is more speaking involved you should aim to find candidates with at least CEFR B2.

Language skills will grow while being used. A candidate that starts with a B2 might, with the right support and feedback, reach a C1 level within months.