Understanding Language Proficiency Tests During Job Interviews





The internet enables employers to access a diverse pool of candidates from across the globe to fill vacant roles. Candidates versed in Mandarin, English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German and other languages are more accessible to help meet the needs of growing brick-and-mortar or virtual firms.

The cost of hiring the wrong person can be steep, so picking the best candidate from the get-go is important. Using language proficiency tests for new hires is critical for finding the closest fit for the role you need to fill.

Language Proficiency

Language proficiency refers to a person's ability to communicate effectively in a language that is not their native tongue. Being proficient, a person is expected to navigate a foreign language fluidly using the four fundamental language skills — listening, speaking, reading and writing — in practical ways and different contexts. Depending on the company's vacancy, a recruiter may emphasize proficiency in a particular skill(s). In filling the position of an interpreter, for example, a recruiter may focus only on candidates' proficiency in listening and speaking during the hiring process.

In Canada, the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program, the TEF Canada (Test d’Évaluation de Français pour le Canada), and the TCF Canada: Test de Connaissance du Français are three tests used to measure proficiency in English and French, respectively. The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages is another framework commonly used worldwide and in Canada to test for proficiency in multiple languages.

Understand Language Proficiency Tests

Language proficiency tests measure a person's ability to listen, speak, read or write. Each skill requires different modes of assessment that can vary by organization.


Listening is the first of the language skills. It refers to one's ability to accurately identify the sound of speech and process what is heard. Listening is essential in developing language proficiency as it helps with learning correct pronunciation and where to emphasize words and sentences. Babies' first introduction to language comes from listening to those around them.

Listening proficiency tests evaluate how well a person understands the spoken language. Candidates are presented with some type of audio or video followed by questions to indicate their understanding of the material heard.


Speaking skills enable us to communicate effectively, allowing us to communicate in a way others can understand. Speaking and listening typically work together to facilitate communication between individuals.

Speaking tests evaluate a person's fluency, pronunciation, vocabulary and ability to interact with others, among other indicators. Candidates can be tested for speaking proficiency via a telephone or video interview, or you can request they present a video of themselves speaking on a particular topic.


Reading is the ability to decode and understand written language. Language evaluation tests measure a candidate's language comprehension and interpretation. In some reading tests, candidates are provided written text and asked to answer questions about what they read.


Writing skills encompass our capacity to use symbols and spaces to convey thoughts and ideas into text. To write effectively, it is important to understand the basic system of a language.

Writing tests measure the ease with which a candidate writes in a language. When assessing proficiency, a recruiter may ask a candidate to write a paragraph in a foreign language. Another test may require candidates to complete sentences by filling in blanks.

Are You Ready to Learn a New Language?

If you are ready to learn a new language, contact Berlitz Canada. We offer the most commonly used languages – Spanish, Portuguese, German, French and Mandarin, among others – to improve your marketability and appeal to recruiters.

Call us at 1-855-865-0548 or complete our online contact form to learn more about our programs.