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On a 1 page resume it feels like it may be a waste of space, especially if I'm applying to a software/engineering company where I may not necessarily explicitly use the language. Still, it is something I am proud of so I would ideally keep it, only if it makes sense.

How much do recruiters/hiring managers look for something like foreign language proficiency?

Edit: As a followup question, for any hiring managers in non-primarily English-speaking countries, do you prefer to see foreign language proficiencies high up on a candidate's resume?

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How much do recruiters/hiring managers look for something like foreign language proficiency?

Obviously, it depends.

It depends on the specific foreign language, the company, the customers, the workforce, the personal preferences of the interviewers, etc.

In general, if proficiency in a foreign language were required, it would be specifically mentioned in the job description. If it were specifically a plus but not required, that would be mentioned in the job description.

Otherwise, it might spark a nice conversation. Or it might not be useful at all.

It couldn't hurt. It only uses 1 line. I would add it to my resume.

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    Yes, it's nice filler. Make sure you are actually proficient though, because I once spoke to a chap in an interview claiming a language he was obviously barely competent at. You just never know what skills your interviewers might have.
    – Kilisi
    Feb 21 at 20:38
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This will probably depend a lot on culture and customs in the locality you are applying in.

As far as I know, in Germany, listing the languages you speak (if possible, with some way to determine the approximate level of proficiency) is a standard part of the CV. Typically, job postings will only list the most crucial requirements of a job, often (if at all) only mentioning something like "German and English proficiency in reading and writing". While there are no guarantees at all that knowing any other languages will help, it can well be beneficial:

  • Knowing any given language might make you more suitable for the position because chances are you can help out with certain customer contacts or product translations.
  • Knowing any given language might make you a better fit for the team if communication with some team members could be more efficient in that language.
  • Knowing any given language can help put other parts of your CV in context - for instance, having done an internship in a foreign country looks quite a bit stronger if you also indicate mastery of that country's language.

Now, I'm not a hiring manager (in that the final decision is not on me), but I'm integrated in the hiring process when it concerns the team I work with. I would certainly point out a total absence of statements about spoken languages as a red flag. At the same time, only listing those languages that are explicitly mentioned in the job posting (usually, German and English) would look ... "spiritless" to me, as if the candidate just wanted to tick the mentioned boxes and get it over with.

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  • Thank you! As a followup question, if you have encountered applicants from the USA/primarily English-speaking countries in your work, how would you describe their marketability in your country and line of work? I have little to no context for how I should present myself to, say, a software company in Germany (Europe in general). I have no experience in the language but I would certainly consider an opportunity there, if the circumstances were right.
    – CharlieD
    Feb 21 at 22:02
  • @CharlieD > It will really depend on the country/company you work in. Europe is broad, with a lot of different languages (I'm in Belgium myself, we have 3 national languages), and not every country or workplace is necessarily multi-lingual. I can't imagine not putting language knowledge on my CV though. That said, English being somewhat the lingua franca in the tech world, being an English speaker will probably open more doors than any other european languages...
    – Laurent S.
    Feb 22 at 8:19
  • @LaurentS.: "English being somewhat the lingua franca in the tech world" - I agree with this, but I'd like to caution that frequently, software developers cannot (or should not) remain entirely within their tech world; they may have to familiarize themselves with one or more business domains. Depending on which industrial branches these are related to, availability of material in English and readiness to use English for anything may be considerably lower in that target domain. Thus, while a developer can communicate with other developers in English, it becomes a real problem if they are ... Feb 22 at 12:27
  • ... unable to read the original issue reports submitted by customers in the local language and always need someone else to translate for them first. (Possibly, this issue is not quite as significant in Belgium with its 3 national languages, as you say, as this might imply a larger readiness on the customer side to deal with other languages in the first place.) Feb 22 at 12:27
  • @O.R.Mapper I'm not sure it's easier in multilingual countries. In such places, choice of language often risks tripping up on hundreds of years of historical tensions between different groups who are only reluctantly joined together in a single country. Even when people in such regions can speak all the national languages fluently, insisting on communicating in one particular language can cause a lot of bad feeling if it comes across as disrespecting/delegitimising the others. Feb 23 at 1:20

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