Leadership

Here's the only time you should put a foreign language on your resume

In today's global economy, speaking a second language is highly prized. But if you're tempted to add a language to your resume that you haven't spoken since the seventh grade, here's a word of advice: don't.

If you're not a native speaker and it's not something you've been building on for your specific career, "I don't think it belongs [on your resume]," Amanda Augustine, a TopResume career advice expert, tells CNBC Make It.

To determine your level of proficiency, Augustine says to ask yourself: Could I travel to a country that only speaks this language and hold fluent conversations without any outside assistance?

If your answer is no, remove the language from your resume.

Granted, being bilingual or multilingual is incredibly marketable, says Augustine, but the costs can outweigh the benefits if you're not as proficient as you claim to be.

"It really depends on if it's important to your role," says the career expert. If you're fairly proficient in a language but it has no bearing on the job to which you are applying, don't bother adding it to your resume, says Augustine.

Be mindful that the interviewer might speak the language and want to test your fluency, especially for common languages like Spanish. An inability to communicate clearly could end up making you look deceitful, casting doubt on the rest of your resume, says Augustine.

If you're hired without a test, your company might eventually expand to another country or conduct business with clients who speak a different language. As a result, your employer will quickly learn that you fibbed, a risk you shouldn't take when the role likely didn't require a foreign language in the first place.

For positions where a secondary language is desirable or crucial to the role, ask yourself whether you'd feel comfortable holding the entire interview in that language, says Augustine. She recommends that you also ask yourself if you'd be able to conduct business deals in that second language.

For native speakers, there's no downside to disclosing a foreign language. But do remember that you have limited space on your resume so you should still prioritize any job-related skills.

If you still want to include a language, provide context. Augustine suggests explaining whether you speak fluently or conversationally, for instance. Understand, however, that such descriptions are highly subjective and could create confusion.

No matter what you do, if you pretend you have a higher level of proficiency than you have, "you're probably not going to land the job," says Augustine.

"You need to sell yourself," she says. "If it doesn't help your candidacy, eliminate it."

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