Up Your Bilingual Recruiting Game in 5 Easy Steps

(Note: Introducing our newest blog post, originally published today by CUInsights titled “Up Your Bilingual Recruiting Game”. While this post is addressed to credit unions, the basic steps can be applied to any organization recruiting a bilingual workforce.)

Many credit unions are actively recruiting bilingual talent at all levels (from tellers all the way to the executive suite!) to better serve their linguistically diverse members. However, they are facing the same problem that other organizations face: that hiring and recruiting bilingual talent is challenging. By taking the following steps, your credit union will be able to save time, effort, and money, all while ensuring the most qualified bilingual talent serves your members and effectively communicates your credit union’s value to the community.

Step One: Revise Your Bilingual Staffing Strategy

Some credit unions think they can just hire a couple of Spanish speaking tellers and they are good. Understanding the language needs of your members and of your community (if you want to grow) is crucial. Do a comprehensive analysis to the commonly spoken languages in your area. While many areas have large Spanish speaking populations, don’t just assume Spanish is the only language of your community.

First, try to  estimate how many members have limited English proficiency. Then, develop a plan to hire enough bilingual talent to serve them. For example, if 25% of your members speak primarily Spanish, then you need at least 25% of your staff be fluent in Spanish. This ensures that you have personnel to provide services such as mortgage lending, business lending, investments, etc. in Spanish. If not, your credit union could have a “gap” or “deficiency” where it cannot effectively serve its members due to the language barrier.

Step Two: Provide Detailed Language Qualifications in Job Postings

I have seen countless job postings for bilingual postings where the technical skills are clearly defined, but there is one very small line stating “bilingual (English/Spanish)”. It was clear whoever created the job post had no real idea about the bilingual part of the job. You do need to include detailed language qualifications and specifics for how the language will be used on the job. Explain how the candidate will utilize reading, listening, speaking, and writing skills in that language. Will the candidate be expected to translate mortgage documents into Spanish? Do you expect the candidate to be helping Mandarin speakers open member accounts? What about being a community liaison into the local Polish community?

Also, if being bilingual is truly a major component of the job, then bilingual skills should be heavily weighted in the decision process. Make bilingual skills required! Many credit unions place a surprisingly low weight on the bilingual skills. This puts the credit union at risk of hiring an unqualified (from the languages aspect) candidate. In weighing qualifications, make sure bilingual skills is one of the biggest factors in making a hiring decision. 

Ask that when a candidate applies, that they demonstrate proof or explain why they are qualified for the role from a language perspective. Can the candidate prove the targeted language is their native language? If not, can they demonstrate they studied the language or have extensive work experience in the language? You must make sure the candidate’s language skills are just as strong as their technical skills. 

Step Three: Initial Language Screening

Languages are one of the most difficult skills to verify in the recruiting process. Few people who are bilingual have credentials that prove it. Often candidates develop the skill through years of study and practice. That is why it is so crucial to conduct an initial screen of the job candidate’s language abilities. Unfortunately, some candidates, intentionally or unintentionally, claim to be bilingual when they really are not. Taking a year or two of high school language courses doesn’t mean they’re qualified for a bilingual position. 

Therefore, I suggest that credit unions implement an initial screening process so that they can identify the candidates with strong language skills for further consideration and eliminate the ones with weaker language skills. Some companies develop their own ad-hoc language screening processes, but these often consume valuable time and effort.  ECLPS360 offers the Enterprise Cultural & Language Proficiency Screener (ECLPS), which is a platform where job candidates can take an automated assessment in either English, Spanish, French, Mandarin, Arabic, or Russian. 

Step Four: Finalist Screening

After the finalists are identified, set up an additional screening, especially if it is a position where the language skills are critical. While it is more intensive and expensive than the ECLPS described above, it is much more detailed and pinpoint. Language Testing International, offers language assessments developed by ACTFL, the leading organization that advocates for the teaching and learning of languages. Not only will the candidate receive a nice credential in the form of a certificate, but the results will help make the final decision. 

Don’t look at the ECLPS and LTI assessments as a cost, but as an investment. In the same way you pay to inspect a home before buying it to uncover major issues, you should invest in effective screening methods to ensure the bilingual candidates are truly qualified. Hiring an unqualified bilingual candidate will cost your credit union far more than the screening and assessment costs. 

Step 5: Provide Retention & Development Opportunities

Building the proper workforce does not end when the candidate joins the credit union. Make sure that you retain that talent (as they are in high demand and hard to find!). In this way they will serve your credit union for years to come. Just like with many other technical skills, look for professional development opportunities focused on the language. If you feel that a member of your team can improve their language skills, seek development opportunities and the investment will soon payoff. 


Now you have a basic overview on how to improve the bilingual recruiting process at your credit union. Your credit union needs bilingual talent to serve an America that is increasingly global and diverse. That bilingual talent is the first step in gaining a competitive advantage and opening new markets for growth. I am also available to speak to and consult credit unions and industry associations about this topic.

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