Are You Struggling to Attract Bilingual Candidates?

woman smiling while talking on a cellphone outside

When bilingualism is crucial to the success of your business, you face additional candidate attraction and retention issues in addition to the already tight recruiting market and rising minimum wage issues. Companies are finding it more challenging by the day to attract and retain those crucial bilingual candidates who can help them serve their customers and clients, whether local or international. For example, this dilemma is self-evident in the figures stating that job postings demanding fluent French-English bilingualism received 34% fewer applications in Ontario.

In Canada, about 20% of people speak a second language other than English or French, but only 17.5% of people speak French and English. These numbers really speak to the challenge of identifying those key candidates.


Some ideas that have helped other businesses in this predicament include:

  • Conduct rigorous screening. While a good number of applicants may have some French, the key to success is uncovering which applicants have the fluency level you need in a business environment. Have your existing French-English speaking staff conduct some of the screening segments of your hiring process. They will know immediately if the candidate will have what it takes to be successful, saving you many lost hours in training and onboarding candidates who don’t ultimately work out.
  • Incorporate Code Switching into your oral screening of bilingual candidates. Code Switching is when a bilingual or multilingual person fluidly switches between two languages mid-conversation. Language experts believe true code-switching occurs only when someone is truly proficient in the two or more languages that they speak. Have your existing bilingual staff employ this technique when they do the initial pre-screening of the candidate in the telephone or video conference call.
  • Post jobs in both French and English. Don’t underestimate the power of networking and referrals – someone reading your job posting in English may know a friend or family member who would suit the bill perfectly!
  • Pay a premium wage for bilingual staff. Don’t undo all your efforts of sourcing, attracting and training new bilingual staff, only to lose them to a higher paying position elsewhere: and rest assured that doing so is perfectly legal: the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario decided that paying bilingual workers significantly more than those who spoke exclusively English was not a prohibited form of discrimination.
  • Consider whether a different 2nd language combination would be a better fit. As Canada’s population diversifies through immigration to bolster dwindling population and labour rates, languages such as Mandarin, Cantonese, Arabic, Punjabi, and others, are on the rise. If finding French/English bilingual candidates is proving difficult, why not redeploy your resources by hiring some other language combination speakers to divert some of the other foreign language speakers to other bilingual representatives in your organization: such as English-Mandarin, English-Arabic, or English-Punjabi.

Using these strategies will ensure that you successfully attract and retain the candidates you need to fill important bilingual positions within your company.

Looking For Staff?

Looking For Work?