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5 top tips to highlight your language level on your CV

Well done on recently completing a language training course with 1to1PROGRESS! Don’t waste any time to make the most of your new skills and to put them to good use. Start by updating your language level on your CV. Indicating a clear and accurate level, will give you a better chance of attracting the attention of recruiters and open up new doors. Here are our tips for a “foreign language” category that will make your CV stand out from the crowd.

1. Highlight the “foreign languages” category on your CV.

Nowadays, languages are a staple on a CV, not least for someone gunning for a position with an international scope. While indicating your level of English is crucial, you should also mention any other languages you speak.

The first mistake to avoid is burying your foreign language skills in the midst of other information. Make them stand out by dedicating a specific category to them.

Forget about catch-all categories that include your IT skills, the languages you speak, or even your hobbies. Allocate a specific part of your CV to languages to highlight skills and provide as details on your level of proficiency per language.

2. Avoid unclear wording

With all due respect, “read, write, speak” no longer cuts it. To catch any recruiters attention, you must state your command of languages much more precisely.

There is somewhat of a trend for percentages, little stars and other (more or less imaginative) graphic visuals on CVs to indicate language proficiency. Such displays are not necessarily to be avoided, but keep in mind that they do not clearly indicate your level. What’s the real value of a 4 stars out of 5 in English, for example, or a 67% command of Chinese?

If you intend to use such displays, make sure you include a caption or an explanation of your actual language level.

highlight your language level on your CV

3. Don’t overestimate (or underestimate) your language level.

This goes without saying, but it is worth remembering that honesty should always prevail on a CV. Saying that you are bilingual when you only have an intermediate level of English can lead to a few worries.

Keep in mind that most recruiters will test your language skills during your interview. If they don’t, you will soon be faced with your shortcomings on the job! If you say you have a perfect command of English, but are unable to conduct effective business negotiations in that language once you are hired, dramatic consequences will ensue!

You should also avoid downplaying your level or listing languages that you do not know enough to use in a professional context. Including ‘notions of Italian’ will be of little value to an employer unless you state that you are currently studying Italian and add your target level in the longer term.

4. Use standard levels such as the CEFR

To accurately state your language level on your CV, it is advisable to use a scale that will speak to as many recruiters as possible. The standardised levels of the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) can be especially helpful in this respect.

The CECRL scale comprises 3 levels, divided into 2 sub-levels.

Level A reflects to an elementary command of the language:

  • A1: elementary beginner user ;
  • A2: elementary basic user.

Level B means that you are somewhat autonomous in the language:

  • B1 : independent user;
  • B2 : upper independent user.

Level C indicates an advanced proficiency level. :

  • C1 : proficient user ;
  • C2 : native level.

More and more recruiters are familiar with this scale. They will be pleased to see “English level B2″ in your foreign language section, rather than ” conversational English ” for example.

if you do not know your CEFR level, you can assess it using the criteria given on the official reference grid.

✔️ Note: find out what your CECR level is with a 1to1PROGRESS language audit sesssion which can be part of a training course, or a standalone session.

Alternatively, you can also indicate your language level in a simplified way using the scales found on professional social networks such as LinkedIn :

  • Bilingual/mother tongue;
  • Full professional abilities/skills;
  • Professional abilities/skills;
  • Limited professional abilities/skills.

5. Reference your experience and certifications

The trouble with the level of language you indicate on your CV is that it is often a self-assessment.

To convince recruiters that this is truly your level of proficiency, you will need to affirm it thanks to:

  • travel experiences ;
  • certifications such as TOEIC for example

Don’t hesitate to indicate the results you achieved in the tests you took to prove your current level and your ability to use the language in a professional context.

The ideal way to show your level of English on your CV is as follows:

  • English level B2 on the CECR scale;
  • 6 months in Sydney (graduation internship, 2014) ;
  • TOEIC 785/990; Higher operational level (achieved in 2020).

This accurate information will enable potential employers to verify your language level at a glance.

You now have all the tools required to highlight your language level on your CV. You might even get an interview, which another suitable candidate may miss-out on, thanks to your “foreign languages” section, so don’t overlook it!