Will Speaking French Help Me Land a Job? | FreshGigs.ca

Will Speaking French Help Me Land a Job?

When applying for a job, it should come as no surprise that an abundance of skills is never a bad thing.

That being said, certain skills are greater assets than others, and in an economy where time spent developing these skills costs money, it’s important to know which ones are worth investing your time and money in, and which ones can be left on the shelf.

One of those skills that those applying for jobs may consider, is being bilingual. After all, Canada is a bilingual country.

The question though is, do applicants who are fluent in both English and French have an easier time finding employment? And as an extension, once they become employees, will they earn more money?

Before we answer these questions, we must first look at what it takes to be considered bilingual by an employer.

Are you bilingual?

The promise of being able to find a job, as well as earn a higher salary is compelling, but what exactly does it take to be considered a bilingual applicant.

Marijke Kanters of Nova Consulting says that the companies she works for have “pretty high standards.” If it is clear that an applicant isn’t native to the language, a French skills test is put in place to rate the applicants ability. The scale ranks 0 to 10. Marijke explains, “Usually 8 out of 10 is fine. But some companies do want native French speakers.”

Up to a 10% increase in income…”

What bilingual jobs are available?

A quick search on multiple job websites will show that there is an abundance of bilingual jobs available amongst many different industries. As of October, the number of “bilingual” labeled jobs reached 4,557. That’s a pretty big number of opportunities throughout Canada.

Furthermore, a paper titled “Bilingualism in the Canadian Labour Market” lists the hundreds of employers within Canada that specifically look for bilingual employees. Some notable employers are: Air Canada, BBM Bureau of Measurement, Hewlett-Packard, IBM Canada, Mitsubishi, Unilever, and many more.

The bottom line is that the opportunities do exist. Keep in mind, employers may also hire you based on your bilingualism, even if you’re not applying for a bilingual specific job.

How much can you make from being a bilingual employee?

Now that we’ve established that there is a market for bilingual job seekers, aside from the fact that you will look more desirable to potential employers, the question still remains whether or not there are financial benefits of being bilingual. And why wouldn’t there be. You potentially speak twice as many languages fluently as your fellow co-workers.

According to Canadian Census taken in 2001, “those possessing knowledge of English and French [had a] higher income.” The Census continues by saying that out of all the provinces and territories, those in Ontario saw up to a potential 10% income increase compared to those who weren’t bilingual.

There is a slight case of mixed messaging between what employers are saying…”

It would appear though that there exists a contradiction to this statistic. In the previously mentioned paper “Bilingualism in the Canadian Labour Market,” when employers in the following industries (construction, auto manufacturing, banking and finance, pharmaceuticals, and retail trade) were asked whether or not bilingual staff members were paid more, or whether bilingual staff received bonuses, the answer for all the industries was a surprising “No.”

It would seem then that there is a slight case of mixed messaging between what employers are saying, and what the Census says. It should also be noted, that the paper was published in 2002. One year following the Census.

So will being bilingual help me get a job?

Based on the findings, it seems that if an employer considers you bilingual, the odds do increase as far as acquiring a job. Whether it be in a bilingual classified job or not, employers want to have someone on their team that can help them navigate as much of the market as possible, and having someone on the team that can speak another language, can offer that advantage.

When it comes to earnings though, it seems that there is no guarantee whether or not you will in fact earn more on account of your bilingualism. Weighing out the pros and cons though, it is never a bad thing to posses as many unique qualities as possible, and being bilingual, even in Canada, is one of those qualities.

Poizner, Susan. “Learning the language of success.”jobboom.com. n.d. n. page. Web. 30 Oct. 2012. http://www.canoe.ca/CareerConnectionNews/030827_bilingual.html.
Baratta, Marisa. “Can You Earn More Money If You’re Bilingual?.” Talent Egg. 22 2011: n. page. Web. 30 Oct. 2012. http://talentegg.ca/incubator/2011/11/22/earn-money-bilingual.
Canadian Parents for French, . (2002): n. page. Print. http://www.cpfns.ednet.ns.ca/data/resource/bilingual.pdf.
Jedwab, Jack. “Valuing and Validating Bilingualism in Canada.” 17 2011: n. page. Web. 30 Oct. 2012. http://www.ocol-clo.gc.ca/html/jedwab_biling_e.php

  • Michael MacNeil Sr.

    Battle of the Plains of Abraham, which took place on 13 September 1759. changed the business language of commerce to English in Europe. I personally think we all should be studying Gaelic! Because it was on the backs of the Scots and Irish that built Canada, to what you see today. But Michael if You are going to work for the Fed’s You will need Your French. can’t wait till my wife reads this lol..Her grandpa was raised in Quebec City.

    • Thanks for the little history lesson Michael. Very interesting.
      You’ll have to tell us what your wife thought of the article.

  • Pierre Cormier

    Fair analysis Michael. Learning a second language (be it french, ukrainian, german, mandarin, etc.) may stretch a child’s mind and perhaps give them the ability to excel in whatever they decide to tackle (as other research has indicated). That is my hope for my 2 kids that are completing their french immersion (K-12) schooling here in Alberta. And maybe that is the hope of corporate recruiters? Cheers Pierre Cormier

    • Pierre – thanks for the comment. Matthew Stasoff wrote this article and it’s great to see this discussion going on.

    • Hi Pierre,
      First I just want to applaud you for enrolling your children in a french immersion school. While I can’t speak from personal experience, I can imagine that learning a second language throughout the day, opposed to just one hour a day, is likely to yield more positive results.
      I’m one of the many individuals who looking back now, wishes French had been more of a priority when I was a elementary/HS student.

  • Edith Kehoe

    Easier time? Not necessarily, but speaking both languages can open certain opportunities in Canada that might not otherwise be available.

    Depending on field of study, public sector may be the most likely career option. I am often surprised by how many university students drop second official language studies in high school only to find that the public sector is closed to them as a result.

    • Hi Edith,
      The field of study occurred in multiple industries. I agree with you in that the public sector may be a likely candidate, as it is the an area where bilingualism is almost mandatory. That being said though, you might say that this fact makes it even more difficult to land a job, despite your bilingualism.

      It’s in the industries where it might not be so apparent, that landing a job may come with more ease. At the end of the day though, it is really just one of many skills one can have.

  • Michael, this is a good question. However, I would say the answer depends on your field | industry and position you’re searching for. I don’t think that just having a second language on your resume will do the trick. But if you apply for a government position in Canada (for example), then speaking French should be very relevant. Same thing with multinationals or for that matter any large company working between Quebec and Western Canada will bu suitable. Bottom line is that the answer depends on what company you apply for.