When outsourcing to the Philippines, one of the first things you should look for in your Filipino employees is their English skills. We’re not just talking about whether or not they can speak passable English. We’re talking about overall English comprehension, meaning can they speak, read, and write in English and do they understand what they’re saying, reading, and writing.

This is very important because the English comprehension skills of your Filipino staff will affect your professional relationship with them. Will they be able to understand the instructions you give them? Will they be able to read between the lines when you give them comments, compliments or criticisms about their work?

And if you plan to hire Filipinos for customer service, you’d want to make sure that they have great English skills. How they’ll interact with your clients would reflect on you and your business.

So how will you know if this person that you want to hire has good English skills? One good tip I learned from someone I know in the Philippines is to ask the applicant whether they grew up watching Sesame Street or “Batibot”.

What’s “Batibot?” “Batibot” is basically the Filipino version of Sesame Street. In fact, it was also produced by the Children’s Television Workshop. It’s a good kid’s show, but it’s not the answer you’d want to hear if you’re looking for staff that has good English skills.

In general, Filipinos who grew up watching Sesame Street speak and write better English. They also understand English better. That’s because they were exposed to English early on and what they learned from that show tends to stick.

“Batibot”, on the other hand, is a Filipino show that focuses more on teaching the Filipino language. Based on my experience, those who grew up watching Batibot may have decent English skills, but not good or excellent.

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule and you shouldn’t base that person’s English skills on what show he or she watched while growing up. This tip isn’t meant to replace interviews or writing assignments to test your applicant’s qualifications. And if you Filipino applicant has read this article, he or she would probably know how to answer this question.

I tested this theory personally when I asked this question to Filipinos I know and have worked with what show they watched while they were growing up. The ones who’s English isn’t so great grew up watching “Batibot”. Those who spoke great English watched Sesame Street.

Again, this question is not an end-all decision maker. You still have to use your own judgment on who you should hire and use other methods to test their skills. But, it’s still a good question to ask.

Additional note: Make sure to ask whether they watched the American Sesame Street or the translated/ “tagalized” Sesame Street. If they watched the translated version, the entire show will be in Filipino and kinda defeats the purpose.

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