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How can I assess my language level for a job interview?

Gerti von Rabenau

As Managing Director of my language school I have often experienced the following scenario:

A frequent  mistake – “my English will probably be OK”

Someone applies for a new job which requires „fluent English both in speaking and writing” and assumes: „I guess my English is sufficient because I learned it in school for many years. So far I have always been able to somehow communicate in English during my holidays in a foreign country. I could understand the people I met and could make myself understood without too many problems. So I can easily apply for this position.”

The applicant is lucky and manages to be invited to the job interview. The employer only asks briefly for the English skills of the applicant and accepts his or her answer without testing them. Finally he hires the new employee on the spot because the other qualifications fit perfectly with the job description.

But reality is different and communication in English soon becomes a problem

In the new job the employee realizes very fast: „I don’t find the right words… I cannot express myself as well as I would like to.“  Soon he or she starts asking questions like: „Was this grammatically correct or not?“ And after the first contacts with foreign customers the employee has to admit: “I am afraid I cannot really deal with my customers professionally in English”.

This realization leads to more and more stress. Unfortunately this is not the only negative effect. Another consequence is the increasing feeling of incompetence when dealing with foreign partners. With thoughts like: „What impression do I make on my partner with my bad English? Can I still convince him of my professionality as I manage to do with my German customers?“ you cannot concentrate on the main deal and be successful.

And it’s not only the employee who is questioning his competence in soft skills – but also the employer starts doubting his fast choice when he realizes the lack of English skills of the newcomer – this is clearly the  worst-case-scenario.

My advice: test your language skills properly beforehand

Due to my many years of teaching experience, I can only enjoin you – whether in your role as an employer or an employee– to properly test your language knowledge beforehand so that you can define your skills realistically and if necessary do a short training to brush them up sufficiently. Because the decision-makers in HR need to have a proof , ideally a certificate, of the current language level of the candidates in order to make the right choice in the assessment procedure aimed at finding the adequate staff for the company. Of course, there are numerous tests that certify your current language skills sufficiently well.

According to my experience the Cambridge BULATS-Test is the best-suited online-test

Therefore, my language school BCU offers the BULATS-Test designed by the University of Cambridge. The candidates cannot fail because the test items adapt automatically to the answers and will be given a reliable result  At the end the participants receive a Cambridge Certificate which certifies  their current langue level in terms of the CEF (Common European Framework).Moreover the test is easy to handle and inexpensive.

You will find further information on www.bulats.org .


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