Demand for foreign languages in staffing can range from needing an in-house supervisor who can communicate with Spanish-speaking industrial workers to filling a translator position for an international law firm.
But bilingual staffing is not as easy as just adding a checkbox to your application. As two very different staffing firms within the niche show, it’s critical to understand the nuances of your particular market.
“Recruiters have to dig deeper than ‘Yes, I speak Spanish,’ ” says Marcus Elosegui, vice president of KeyStaff, which places professional and light industrial workers in West Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, and other south Florida cities. Some people can speak both Spanish and English, but can write only in one, for example.
Translation is an even more difficult skill, and translators at the highest levels generally translate only into the language they know best, says Ken Zwerdling, CEO of Foreign Translations and Foreign Staffing. One client, for example, needed French-speaking engineers and contract managers to work on building mining facilities in Africa. Other clients need help with business development in Latin America, for instance.
Foreign Staffing does direct and contract placement for companies all over the world, while Foreign Translations translates documents in multiple languages for companies that do international business. The latter have 3,000 translators in 30 countries who have specialized expertise in areas such as legal documents, technical writing, financial writing, and scientific documentation – in addition to their language skills.
“We understand what it truly means to be bilingual – not, ‘Hey, my secretary speaks French,’ ” Zwerdling says.
The need for bilingual staff can vary by area as well as by position. For example, Spanish skills may be a competitive advantage in West Palm Beach, Elosegui says, “but in Miami it’s just a baseline: If you want to do business in Miami, you should speak Spanish.”
For some light industrial positions, only basic English is necessary since even the on-site supervisor may speak little English. But for a receptionist position with a company with clients in South America, a worker would need to speak both Spanish and English, and sometimes even Portuguese. “They want fully bilingual candidates,” Elosegui says.
Providing workers with good language skills can set you apart from competitors, Elosegui says. “The higher the level of Spanish or Portuguese, the more pay you’re going to get,” he says.
With large markets’ diverse populations continuing to grow and domestic companies continuing to expand connections overseas, Zwerdling says this staffing niche is booming. So much so that “we had to stop marketing for a while.”
And as the global economy strengthens, it will grow even more. “I see a very big uptrend in the next five years while the economy comes back,” Zwerdling says. “These companies are going to be scrambling to find people.”