An 18-year-old applying for a Saturday job in a Cambridge shop was surprised to be told she needed to speak Chinese to secure the position.
Zoe Churchman took her CV into a branch of the Body Shop, and the manager asked if she spoke the language.
"When she said no, he told her they were 'looking for someone who speaks Chinese'," her father said.
A spokesman for the company apologised, saying language skills were useful but the manager had not followed procedure.
Mr Churchman said: "When Zoe told me what had happened, I thought she must have misunderstood, but it kept grating on me and I felt I had to go and check it out.
"The manager said he thought the language requirement was odd, but he said he had checked it out with the head office.
"He said to me, 'That seems to be the norm'."
Mr Churchman said it seemed "absolutely ridiculous" for his sixth-form student daughter to be required to speak Chinese for a part-time job in retail in Cambridge.
In a statement to the BBC, the Body Shop said: "The Body Shop believes in equality and seeks to find the right person for the job based on skills, regardless of age, sex, race and nationality.
"Language skills are an advantage for candidates applying for retail sales positions as we have multi-cultural customer appeal and it's great when required to speak to customers in their own language.
"However, we would not exclude applications on the basis of language skills alone.
"In this instance the franchise manager has not followed the company recruitment procedure and we will be following up with him directly."
The company apologised to Miss Churchman and said it would be happy to discuss recruitment with her.