How to specify the level of language proficiency in a resume?

The scale of the Council of Europe is more and more often in use to describe the level of proficiency in a foreign language. The Common European Framework of Reference distinguishes six levels of language proficiency:

A1 (Beginner) – the ability to introduce oneself and formulate sentences and questions regarding the place of residence, and work performed. Communication on uncomplicated topics, provided that the interlocutor speaks slowly and clearly.

A2 (Pre-intermediate) – communicating in routine, simple situations requiring only a direct exchange of sentences on familiar and typical topics.

B1 (Intermediate) – producing simple, coherent statements on topics that are familiar or of interest. Ability to communicate while traveling and describe events.

B2 (Upper intermediate) – formulating clear and detailed oral and written statements, as well as explaining one’s position on matters under discussion, considering the advantages and disadvantages of various solutions.

C1 (Advanced) – understanding complex texts and content. The ability to see the irony and hidden meanings of an utterance. Free and error-free formulation of content.

C2 (Proficient) – expressing thoughts fluently, spontaneously, and precisely. Freedom to draw conclusions. Understanding the written and spoken word, regardless of the level of complexity of the topic.

The greatest disproportions and misunderstandings regarding the proficiency of a foreign language in a CV are usually caused by the “communicative” description. For some candidates, it is used to describe a basic (A) level, while in fact “communicative” is an intermediate B level.

Of course, we can specify the level of language proficiency in between and use a description of the type – A2/B1. This is a common practice, especially among candidates who do not have a language certificate, and thus have no certainty as to the level of proficiency.

At the end of the day, the recruiter is still obliged to check the level of the foreign language during the interview to confirm the actual skills of the candidate. However, it is worth approaching the evaluation of language proficiency in the CV quite honestly and not being too strict or too modest for yourself.

Apparently, the most common method used by recruiters to verify candidates’ language proficiency is to ask them how they spend their free time. I tend to use it myself! Paradoxically, the answer to this question is more difficult for candidates than telling a professional story in a foreign language.

A question for you that always intrigues me when I read candidates’ CVs – does it make sense to write in the CV:

Spanish – A1,

German – A1,

Chinese – A1?

This is a very common practice, but I have the impression that it does not make us polyglots. Unfortunately, the A1 level is in most cases an overestimated ability to communicate in a foreign language, usually supported by intensive gesticulation 🙂

So is this a “skill” worth boasting about?

Monika Ciesielska
President at IMSA Search Global Partners. An experienced consultant in the recruitment of the management staff, including board members, and a leader of the recruiting team in the IT/Tech area. Enthusiast of digital transformation of HR processes. Podcaster at "Skrzydlaty HR" and "Top Leaders Club".
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