Like many small business owners, I spend a lot of my time on Facebook. It’s a great place for networking, marketing, competitor research and connecting with likeminded businesspeople – I find the professional groups especially useful in this respect.

I was recently part of a conversation in one of the private groups of which I’m a member and somebody mentioned an issue they were having. They’d recently hired someone new into their team for whom English was a second language, and after a couple of weeks had realised that his language skills weren’t up to the standards they needed for the role. 

Now they were considering letting him go. “I have to correct, overlook and oversee everything he does – I just don’t know if we should keep him. What do you think?”

The overwhelming response from this supportive and concerned group of professionals?

“Sack Him.”

I asked what the role involved, and it transpired that this was a Marketing role involving copywriting, including Google and Facebook ads. Needless to say, this is a role where accurate writing and grammar are essential.

I was astonished – and infuriated.

“There are some things you can feign in an interview – experience and passion can be exaggerated and embellished. But one thing you definitely can’t fake is your ability to express yourself in a foreign language.”

I couldn’t believe the hiring company hadn’t made a point of thoroughly checking his language skills before hiring him for a role where language skills were essential.

I couldn’t believe the candidate had displayed enough potential, talent and experience to make him hirable, but on discovering a development area the company were contemplating firing him instead of training him to improve this limitation.

But most of all, I couldn’t believe that ultimately this employee was going to end up bearing the consequence of something that was, in my mind, clearly the employer’s fault.

If the hirers knew that an excellent level of English competency was vital to the role, they should have assured themselves that their new recruit met their expectations. 

“It’s an employer’s responsibility to question, test and assess a candidate’s skills prior to offering a position.”

If this company didn’t do a language test or ask the relevant questions about their candidate’s language skills, that’s their accountability. It’s not the candidate’s responsibility to try and second guess whether his comprehension of expression skills is matched to the role!

One of the services VIC Language Dynamics provides is language testing for businesses so I know this is something that can be done quickly and cheaply, protecting both the company and the recruit.  One of the things that has always frustrated me is many hirer’s erroneous belief that they have the ability to accurately assess the language skills of candidates based on nothing more than gut feel.  It’s an expensive – not to say irresponsible – mistake to make, and it’s exactly why there are professional services on hand to help.

I don’t know what the end decision was in this situation:  I sincerely hope the hiring company decided to follow my suggestion to offer training to their new recruit.  In these straitened times, everyone deserves the chance to keep their job.

by Nathalie Danon

Academy Director

Nathalie is the award-winning linguist & entrepreneur behind the VICI Language Academy, VICI Language Dynamics, VICI Languages France and Nathalie Danon Coaching. Her mission is to deliver a lifelong love of languages to everyone: child, or adult in both personal and professional worlds.