Recruiting bilingual staff
Victorian Government language services policy recognises bilingual staff – along with interpreters and translations – as a valuable part of an agency’s language services response to people with limited English proficiency.
Can I recruit people for their abilities in a language other than English?
Yes. Language is like any other skill that can be acquired and developed. An employer needs to decide how important this skill is for the work required. Furthermore, the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act 2010 Section 22 states that “an employer may limit the offering of employment to people with a particular attribute in relation to the provision of services for people with the same attribute if those services … can be provided most effectively by people with that attribute”.
Advertising for bilingual staff
Once the position description has been finalised (advice on undertaking this can be found in the CEH Bilingual Staff Research Project report and the CEH language services tip sheet Managing bilingual staff), it is important to develop a targeted promotion strategy to ensure you attract the most suitable applicants. Possible considerations include:
- Persons who speak XYZ language are encouraged to apply.
- The ability to speak XYZ language as well as English is desirable / essential.
- Bilingual applicants are encouraged to apply.
Identify the types of language skills required for the role, such as speaking, listening, writing and/or reading. Also consider including a statement that your organisation is an equal opportunity employer.
Existing networks and key institutions
The job application and interview process
The conventional job application and interview processes may be unfamiliar to people who have experienced different work cultures. Strategies to ensure such applicants have the opportunity to present effectively include providing applicants with guidelines covering how to prepare a resume, address key selection criteria and fill in an application, and information about what to expect from an interview. Consider conducting an information session for potential candidates to:
- Assist applicants to better understand the position and the organisation
- Enable the organisation to meet potential applicants and learn about the pool of applicants
- Assist applicants to prepare a written application, if one is required.
For certain roles, you could be flexible in how applicants can respond to the advertisement and consider an alternative to written applications, such as a verbal application.
Conducting the interview
Different cultural communication styles can influence the capacity of an applicant to respond during an interview. Consider consulting with somebody from the same community about the structure of the interview and the type of questions.
Assessing language skills
It is important to conduct a language assessment of the applicant’s LOTE and/ or English skills. Before doing this, decide which language skills you need to assess. To assess language capacity, consider including a person that speaks the same language on the panel.
Supporting your new bilingual employee
All new staff members require support to settle into their new position. When recruiting for LOTE skills, consider there may need to be additional support for English language proficiency and literacy, and a period of acculturation to an Australian workplace.
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