2 min read

Lost in Translation: Making Sense of Language Assessments

Pre-employment language testing is an increasingly popular method for determining whether a candidate has the language skills required for success in a particular role.

Many law firms, for instance, need their attorneys to be fluent in languages common to their clientele. Since even a minor mistranslation can lead to major legal trouble, these firms must thoroughly vet potential hires and ensure that they can communicate accurately and effectively. Language assessments provide a quick and effective way to determine that.

The trouble with language testing is that, traditionally, a human being has been required to score the results. While just about anyone can score a test taken with paper and pencil, what about a spoken-language test? Language testing companies have traditionally enlisted the services of people posted abroad to listen to recorded audio, which is costly, subjective, and time-consuming.

One particularly brilliant service is TrueNorth, a machine-scored language test offered by Emmersion. This language assessment program uses advanced research, AI, and cutting-edge speech analytics to provide an accurate and unbiased assessment of a candidate’s ability to understand and speak a particular language — in real time. It has the added benefit of integrating directly into TestGenius’ pre-employment platform, making it more convenient, objective, and cost-effective than manually scored solutions.

Removing Human Scorers From the Language Assessment Equation

Like all pre-employment testing, language assessments have to be properly administered and scored to ensure they don’t create a bigger problem than they solve. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has clear guidelines for using pre-employment tests to avoid these scenarios.

Language testing is meant to ensure that a candidate can communicate effectively in the context of the needs of a position. While many companies used in-person language assessments that were scored by human beings, this aspect introduces a greater chance for bias and inaccuracy. Additionally, organizations looking to hire bilingual speakers don’t always have managers who are qualified to score such an exam.

With more people moving to smart, cloud-based testing solutions due to the pandemic, there is an opportunity to fix this fatal flaw in the system while maintaining ethics in the hiring process. TrueNorth uses a clever machine-scored approach unparalleled in accuracy, speed, and test duration. In about 10 minutes, the TrueNorth exam can rate the level of understanding and quality of speech of job applicants — from anywhere in the world.

Effectively and Ethically Integrating Language Assessments Into Recruitment

Making sure you have an effective and ethical solution for language assessment is of paramount importance. Here are a few aspects to keep in mind:

When you test is almost as important as how you test. If language proficiency is a crucial factor for the position, then performing a language assessment before you interview candidates can help you filter out unqualified candidates quickly. This is typically the case when language proficiency is a minimum qualification (i.e., a requirement) for the job.

But if language proficiency is a quality that would be useful rather than essential (i.e., a desirable qualification), pre-testing could cause you to lose out on candidates who might have otherwise been a good fit. In these cases, post-interview testing can be used to distinguish between equally qualified individuals or to determine who might be qualified for a more senior role or position.

If you haven’t vetted your current language testing software or solution lately — or if you aren’t using one — you might wish to reevaluate your options. With an outdated assessment solution, you could unintentionally lose qualified candidates or open your organization to a legal challenge. With the right solution, you can optimize your hiring process and increase your chances of finding the best person for the job.

If you’re interested in finding a better way to conduct pre-employment testing, contact the team of experts at TestGenius today.