Is there employer discrimination if applicants state knowledge of Arabic and/or Russian?

Friday, November 21st, 2008 - CV Writing


Rick asks: Is there employer level discrimination if applicants state a knowledge of Arabic and/or Russian on a resume. Is this a taboo subject? If someone’s resume states that they know Arabic and/or Russian language, how likely will they be discriminated against by potential employer/recruiter? Job market: U.S. and Western Europe. Should people who know those languages not mention them on their resumes, unless the job description specifically asks for them? Assumption: Although it is possible to tell that the applicant has a foreign-born name, their native country/language is not recognizable just by their full name.

In answer:
The first thing to say here is that for the markets you are targeting, there are clear discrimination rules protecting citizens and residents from employer level discrimination on many levels, including racial which this would be classed as.

Is it possible that candidates will stand a lesser chance of being employed, as opposed to being discriminated against, if it is stated or clearly obvious that the local language is not their first language? Yes, because that often means they are immigrants, and there is a clear paperwork burden on the employer to engage such people – ie: even if they are EU citizens moving within the EU. Employers want easy and quick employment decisions, and so diverting from that means your chances of employment are lowered. One piece of advice I offer all non-local nationals, is to always get at least two well educated locals to check their application through – even my Aunt who has spent 50 years in the Netherlands can be spotted by a native as English from her writing.

Should you mention your language ability on your application? It is your application, so its your choice, but as you conclude the default advice would be not be mention it if the job description doesn’t require a second or third language capability.

There are still premiums paid for certain language capabilities in certain markets/posts, with Arabic and Russian being two clear requirements in the banking industry of two years ago. Clearly that has changed as banks have down sized; but I wouldn’t totally dismiss this valuable asset in some markets.

Good Luck!

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