In today's workforce, employees who are Spanish speakers give companies a competitive advantage. Smart companies do not put the cart before the horse: They build an infrastructure of Hispanic employees before advertising to Hispanic market segments.

Many of you already know this and have tried, with varying degrees of success, to build your Spanish-speaking workforce. One of the biggest stumbling blocks is lack of knowledge about Hispanic market segments. In a general sense, there are four segments of Hispanics in the United States. First, though, a couple of useful terms:

Acculturation: Retaining your original cultural behaviors and beliefs while adopting behavior patterns and social norms of a surrounding culture.

Assimilation: Taking on the new surrounding cultural traits and behaviors and forfeiting your original culture and customs.

Now, those four market segments:

  1. Foreign-born Hispanic immigrants, five or fewer years in the US. These individuals speak Spanish and have limited or no English skills. They have limited or no familiarity with American systems such as banking, the postal service, taxes, insurance, and holidays. In other words, this segment is not acculturated.

  2. Foreign-born Hispanics, five to ten years in the US. This segment is still Spanish-dominant but now speaks English at varying skill levels and is more accustomed to dealing with American systems. They have kept the customs of their homeland while also learning U.S beliefs. They have become acculturated.

  3. Foreign-born Hispanics, ten years or more in the US. This person is usually fluent in English and knowledgeable about American systems, beliefs, traditions. They are acculturated, and some are assimilated.

  4. US-born Hispanics. Only 35% of this segment speaks Spanish. Some are still connected with the cultural beliefs and behaviors of their parents and grandparents. It often depends on the generation and family experience as to whether Hispanic value systems (family, traditions, language) are still in place. (Immigrants who experience painful episodes with racism often encourage their children to assimilate to America's systems and values at the expense of their original culture.)

If you are selling a product and your marketing campaign is in Spanish, you are most likely speaking to segments one and two. Segments three and four will respond to your standard marketing messages, in English. Please keep in mind that you will always find people who vary from the norm. There are certainly Hispanics from segment one who are bilingual, just as there are Hispanics from segment four who are bicultural (in fact, I am one of them.) So remember to keep an open mind, and an eye out for exceptions.

Recruiting Hispanics

Hispanic professional organizations and Web sites throughout the United States accept job announcements and also feature resumes of Hispanic job candidates. Such sites are in English and so are easy for non-Spanish speakers to access.

It is the individuals in the first two segments who most often prefer their consumer messages and services in Spanish. This makes sense: Recruiting and marketing are essentially the same thing in this context. Instead of trying to sell a product or service, you are selling yourself as an employer. With marketing, you target a consumer segment and then use the appropriate strategy to reach that segment. Recruitment is no different.

However, it's hard to sell if you are not sold on your product. Now you may be struggling with selling yourself because the job doesn't pay too well. Or maybe the work is part-time or seasonal, the benefits aren't the best, or the job title isn't prestigious. What you are forgetting is that employment is a dream come true for many Hispanic immigrants. It's why they came to the United States. So as long as you are paying a fair wage and treating people well, recruiting and retention are easier than you think. But you must remember that when selling to Hispanics, there are certain aspects to the job that should be emphasized.

So first you must ask yourself: "In terms of language, culture, and experience, which skill set do I need for this position?" The answer to that question will help you determine your recruiting strategy.

Different segments are attracted by different venues. The more acculturated a person is, the more likely he is to use traditional methods to find a job. Segments three and four are the most Internet savvy, for example. Segments one and two rely primarily on word of mouth.

Local involvement in the Hispanic community is an opportunity to brand and build trust, which results in positive word of mouth. Reaching those in the first two segments might mean reaching out and networking with churches, social groups, community agencies, and advocacy groups. Volunteering at festivals, sponsoring events and soccer tournaments, and renting a flea market booth are all good ways to mingle in the community.

Some Basic Dos and Don'ts

Many companies record radio commercials because they know Hispanics tend to listen to the radio twice as much as non-Hispanics. Bud doing so is a mistake if you are not aware of linguistic differences among Hispanic sub-segments. Your message must use the language of the sub-segments that reside in the area—just as you would likely not select someone with a Bronx accent to record a commercial for locals in Alabama.

Accents, regional slang, and dialect are important when sending verbal messages to consumers. Always choose the most popular DJ at the Hispanic radio station to record your job commercial. DJs are respected in our community, and listeners often call them to ask for help regarding local resources.

Employed Hispanics say the following are the reasons they were attracted to their jobs:

  • Employee training
  • Opportunity for advancement
  • Inclusive workplace culture
  • Word of mouth said the employer can be trusted

However, many companies typically tout perks that appeal to non-Hispanic Americans, such as benefits.

Segment one and two are not attracted by promises of a 401K plan. The same goes for stock options, pension plans, tuition reimbursement, cafeteria (Section 125) plans, or health insurance.

The Marine Corps has been very successful in recruiting Hispanics. One of its strategies has been to focus on conveying to potential recruits that they would have an opportunity to be part of the Marine family. That has been much more appealing to Hispanics than tangible benefits that have attracted non-Hispanics, such as getting money for college.

Reaching out

Now, with that understanding of some of the basics of what works and what doesn't, what materials do you have to advertise your product—the job opening?

First, you should have a brochure that's been created in Spanish, one that is not just a translation of an English brochure—but a "trans-creation" of it.

Translation is the process of adapting the text from the language it was written in (the source language) into another (the target language). Trans-creation is the process of adapting the text from the language it was written in (the source language) into another (the target language)—with culturally appropriate idioms and concepts.

The intent of trans-creation is to find equal meaning that will speak to and have an impact on the customer demographic. So what you really want is a trans-creation of your brochure. In other words, your selling points, as spelled out in the brochure, need to be attractive and meaningful to the Hispanic demographic.

And if you are ready to hire Hispanic employees but don't know where to start looking, ask yourself, "Where do Hispanics eat, play, gather, and shop in my area?"

The answers will give you a place to begin.

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image of Blaire Borthayre

Blaire Borthayre is a Mexican-American consultant in the field of Hispanic marketing and CEO of Hispanic Marketing Resources (