English is still considered to be the business language of the world, although this is very closely followed by Chinese, and as such international candidates are expected to have at least a conversations level of English to succeed in their role, now and into the future. As a result, the assessments candidates undertake in the recruitment for these roles are readily available in English.
This begs two questions: is it fair to ask candidates to complete assessment processes in a non-native language and to perform at their best, and are employers just narrowing their talent pool by not providing their recruitment processes in a broader range of languages?
Some of the brightest minds I have studied or worked with are those with English as a second or even third language. I can’t help but think how impressive it is to be performing their role at such a high standard, in a non-native language. Seamlessly engaging with others, gathering information and solving difficult problems without as much the slightest bit of interference from their mother tongue.
Research into Cognitive Load Theory and students with English as first and second languages, shows that the difficulty in moving between languages is bypassed when an individual is completely bilingual (Nawal, 2018). However, individuals who are yet to fully master a language must:
1. Think in their native language
2. Translate the meanings of words into the target language
3. Retain this information in their working memory
4. Use these words to form sentences
Those of us fortunate enough to have grown up with English as a first language, will sometimes overlook the blessing of not having to go through the steps above when engaging with emails, calls, meetings and other colleagues. Imagine having to take this cognitive load on each day on top of your daily workload.
This thought becomes even more relevant when we look to the world of early career recruitment. Some of the top young talent applying for roles in another country aren’t necessarily ‘fluent’ in the target language but are naturally better performers than their native English counterparts (HBR,2014).
With this in mind, it is worth asking ourselves as assessment designers whether we are really measuring someone’s potential to do well in their role through the assessments we create, or is this part of the challenge of completing the tool we create really a test of language ability?
You don’t need to be fluent in another language to understand whether an assessment is suitable for the global early careers’ audience. You just need to remain aware of other cultures, keep things simple and ensure that we design, translate and adapt the solutions with our end user (and client brand) in mind.