Multi-lingual Internet Recruiting

Internet recruiting is global, and therefore multi-lingual, by nature. Japan, Germany, and China all have a large number of users, and the Spanish-speaking population on the Web is increasing rapidly. It is estimated that more than half (52.5%) of Web users are non-English speakers (Source: Global Reach, 3/01). The challenge for corporations is to adapt to the requirements of global recruiting on the Internet. This article examines issues associated with forming online relationships with candidates of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Multi-Lingual Web Interface A Careers section on a corporate website is a primary point of communication and interaction between the candidate and the recruiter. To have a global reach, a Careers section must be offered in multiple languages. The marketing copy outlining the company’s employment philosophy, culture, and benefits has to be translated in a way that is sensitive to local culture and sensibilities. The user-interface for site navigation must be multi-lingual, as well as the functional aspects of a Careers section, such as the job search function. Job descriptions are more appropriately written in the language of the locale of the position, or the one to be used in the position. Job positions requiring bi-lingual speakers could be offered in both applicable languages. The points of contact between the candidate and the corporation are not limited to the hosted Career page. Email and snail-mail correspondence must be in the candidate’s preferred language as well. Localization The process of adapting a software program – in this context, a Careers section on a corporate Web site – to the language requirements and cultural conventions of a specific locale is known as localization. The goal of localization is for users to interact with a Careers section in their own language and in a setting that feels natural to them. Supporting a language is sometimes not as simple as translating Web copy into French or Spanish. First, there may be different dialects of a language spoken in various regions of the world: Mexican Spanish differs from the Spanish spoken in Europe, for example. Missing these linguistic subtleties can destroy a company’s otherwise careful attempts at developing an employment brand as a global employer of choice. Second, different languages and regions have unique conventions for representing:

  • Dates (long and short)
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  • Time (Europe uses a 24-hour clock)
  • Currencies
  • Numbers (using a “,” instead of a “.” for the decimal place)
  • Telephone numbers (including country and area code)
  • Postal addresses

A truly global Careers section allows candidates to input names, addresses, dates, and other data in a way that they are accustomed to. Multiple-Byte Character Set To conduct true global recruiting, a corporation has to be able to accept and store a resume in whatever language it was submitted. A resume database capable of storing and retrieving resumes in just about any language must be structured on a multiple-byte character set. A byte is a basic unit of information, consisting of a string of seven ones or zeroes. A single-byte character set is a set of characters that can be represented with one byte. Since there are only 128 possible combinations of ones and zeros in a single byte, a single-byte character set has an “alphabet” of 128 distinct characters. ASCII (standing for American Standard Code for Information Interchange, the most common format for text files in computers and on the Internet) is a single-byte character set. While ASCII may be sufficient for languages that use the Roman character-set (i.e. most European languages), it does not have enough possible combinations to represent the thousands of distinct characters in a language such as Japanese. To represent all the characters used by Asian languages requires a character-set that is represented by more than one byte of information – a multiple-byte character set. Storing a resume in its native language is only half the picture. The recruiter also needs tools to search the resume database in a variety of languages. Conclusion Large companies operating in multinational locations require robust Careers section and resume database functionality that amalgamates local business methods with the corporation’s worldwide processes. Localization issues on the Career page front-end are complex and call for careful attention to local and linguistic norms and conventions. The requirement to structure the back-end candidate database to accommodate multiple languages is similarly demanding. To meet global recruiting needs, global corporations need truly global solutions. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*>

Alice Snell is vice president of Taleo Research. The specialty research practice analyzes the best practices and economics of talent management. Taleo Research focuses on critical issues and key trends in talent management that impact organizational performance. Taleo Research is the strategic research division of Taleo, which provides on demand talent management solutions for organizations of all sizes, worldwide.


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