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Getting started with translation agencies: 10 tips for preparing your resume as a contract translator

Note: This is a post written by our CEO Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo. ...

I recently spoke to a group of translators and interpreters from the Northern Ohio Translators Association (NOTA) and was pleased to hear such positive feedback about my tips for preparing one's resume and cover letter when applying for work with translation agencies. A few of the attendees suggested I make this a quarterly workshop, to which I thought, "Good idea!" and have prepared some tips for readers who are thinking of ways to make their resume more attractive to translation agencies. Please remember, these are tips that I am suggesting, as I have been on all sides of this professional triangle. I have worked in the past as a freelance translator, proofreader, interpreter and as a project manager for an agency, and now, as a translation agency owner. One of the things of which I'm most proud is the ability to understand all sides, because after all, I've been there. My experiences have helped me to decide what I will and will not tolerate, what I will and will not do for my contractors and what I find valuable in a professional working relationship between agency and translator. These tips are meant to be simply! So, pick and choose which you find helpful and try to put a few into practice on your resume!

Tip #1: Be relevant. One would think this a no-brainer, but I cannot tell you how many emails we receive daily that reflect very little about a sender's skills in translation. It’s not smart to send a resume to a translation agency that has your experience about work in another industry and nothing more. An effective resume should show experience with the language, translation and one's specializations.

Tip #2: NEVER provide false credentials. Do not tell someone you have certifications or training that you don’t have, even if you’re in the process of getting them. This will come back to bite you and will be the quickest way to burn bridges. Be honest about your knowledge, strengths, weakness, limits. If you’re not sure you can handle a job with 100% of your abilities, then turn it down. More work will come your way and you’ll be more respected for this.

Tip #3: Include your rates, language pair(s) on your resume! This also might seem common sense, but again, my project managers open emails all the time that are lacking one or both of these key points. Update your contact information and experience/training with the agency regularly. This helps them to also remember you’re there and that you’re available and dedicated to your profession. If you complete a certification or training of some kind, send proof of this with your message.

Tip #4: Research the agency before you send your resume One size does not fit all. You may not be a good fit for the agency and it may not be a good fit for you. And that’s ok. Your resume should reflect why you’re the perfect candidate to work with the company and it should be geared toward that agency. A good resume reflects that the applicant took the time to learn about the company before hitting "send".

Tip #5: Use proper grammar and punctuation in your email intro and on your resume, as well as all other correspondence. No matter what language is your native, you should have good grammar usage in both your native language and those in which you claim to work. Showing that you don’t does not reflect well on someone whose business should be about words and meaning.

Tip #6: Provide references (or least a “References upon request”) on your resume. It’s important for a company to know that others have found your work to be outstanding and that they can check with someone else about your promptness, reliability, etc. When a translator doesn't provide references, or does not want to provide them if we request them, that raises a red flag and we probably won't work with them.

Tip #7: If you use CAT tools, specify which ones. If not, and if you are open to using them, state this, as it might help. Some agencies use one CAT tool more than another, or they may use a variety of them. So, it’s good to know what tools you are comfortable using. Also, if you purchase a new CAT tool, this would be a good piece of information to send in a quick message to project managers with whom you work so they can update your information.

Tip #8: Be clear about your specializations and language pair(s). It doesn’t make sense to put down “everything” under your specializations. No one can specialize in all areas of translation and do a superb job with them all. If you know someone that can, please send me his/her resume! Also, if you do not feel completely confident with your language skills, it wouldn't be good to say that you can handle any kind of project. An example of this is a translator who recently wrote to me and said his primary language pair for interpreting was French <> English, but he could handle Spanish <> English projects if they were easy. This doesn’t even make sense for a professional to say. Why would my agency send something “easy” to someone who already claims to have limited skills? What does “easy” mean to this individual?

Tip #9: Submit your resume as requested (ONLY). If the company requests resumes as an attachment to an email or uploaded to its website, do it that way. There is no sense in going about it another way, as this shows that you are unable to follow instructions. This might mean you won't receive any work, as a project manager will prefer to work with someone who pays close attention to details in instructions.

Tip #10: Be open to doing a test translation, but beware. Some companies ask new contractors to do test translations prior to signing an agreement, but if they ask for quite a bit of text to be translated (I would say any more than 200-400 words), be careful. Sometimes this is a way of getting something for free. So, yes, be open to test translations, but be wary. A good way to check out a company prior to working with them is to open an account with Payment Practices and review the company's history of payment complaints (if any have been reported).

I hope you find these tips useful and are able to incorporate some of them into your resume. If you have more tips, please share!

Choose the translation agency to fit your marketing needs: 10 Steps to a successful experience

A lot of first-time translation clients find themselves overwhelmed with the number of agencies that handle multilingual translation. Searching for a company that will fit one’s marketing efforts can be daunting, unless one knows the type of agency to look for when molding a marketing campaign for his/her company, brand, etc. 1. First, make sure to know who your audience will be in the campaign. As important as this is in marketing in general, it’s just as important in translation of marketing (or for that matter, any kind of) materials. Where does the ideal audience live and work? What dialect do they speak? And no, Spanish is not a dialect. Do a little homework on the group you want to reach so that you can provide this information to the agency you choose for your project.

2. Ask about localization of your materials, whether these will be in print, on your website or part of a social media outreach plan. Localization is more than just translation of the text to reach a specific population. It encompasses the entire concept of the message via the terminology, language, images, etc. used to be relevant to the audience in a specific region (you don’t want to use anything that might be offensive in another culture and you want to sell your brand well to this audience of consumers). So, ask the agency if localization is a service it provides.

3. Be sure to ask if the agency utilizes specialized translators for the type of translation you require. You don’t want a medical translator who is a native of Chilean Spanish to be translating your site’s electronic brochures meant for customers in Mexico City.

4. Ask how the agency ensures quality in the translations it provides to clients. This may seem like an obvious question, but you’d be surprised how often potential clients fail to ask this. It’s perfectly acceptable to inquire.

5. Relating to point 4, you may want to know if the agency will complete the service in-house, or if it contracts the translator and proofreader who will work on your project. Either way, both methods are effective and widely utilized in the translation and interpretation industry, but you may want to know this for the mere peace of mind of knowing that the agency has a confidentiality clause in its independent contractors agreements that will keep your information completely classified and safe from third-parties.

6. Make sure to specify turn-around time on the project you need translated. Don’t expect it to be done overnight unless you are willing to pay a rush fee. And if you aren’t asked to pay one, you may need to look into the agency’s methods if it says it can turn around a 100,000 word document in less than 24 hours. This typically doesn’t happen, so be sure to specify when you need the document back and be prepared to pay a rush fee if you needed it back yesterday.

7. Note the payment terms of the agreement you make with an agency and be sure to let your Accounts Payable department know ahead of time. If you are used to paying for services on a NET 60 basis, you may need to get the invoice to AP as soon as possible to meet a typical NET 30 payment term policy. Many times agencies charge late fees for overdue payments, so check back with AP if your company is not used to working with translation agencies.

8. Be prepared to pay for changes. If you decide once you get the translation back that you would like to change something in the original document, it isn’t ok to assume that the agency who worked on your translation will automatically translate the change(s) for you. You don’t ask your hair stylist to change your hair color the week after you dye it because you aren’t sure about how the color looks with your complexion. Don’t expect an agency to make changes to the text without paying for it. Sending the final document the first time will save everyone a headache (and money!).

9. If you are pleased with the work the agency has done in the past for you, it is perfectly ok to ask that they utilize the same translators and proofreaders that handled your previous projects. Agencies keep track of who does each project and ensuring consistency can be as simple as maintaining the same individuals to work on projects that require similar terminology (here’s another situation where dialects affect translation projects). On a parallel note, it’s worth asking the agency if it has the capacity to produce and maintain a running glossary for your translation projects, especially if you plan to have multiple texts translated and localized over a period of time. We are often asked to do this and it helps both our clients and our company to maintain for consistency and accuracy.

10. If you are pleased with the work an agency provides for you, verbalize it. Pass the word on to colleagues and friends who may need or know someone who needs a text translated. The translation and interpreting industry counts on quite a bit of word-of-mouth marketing. You never know when the agency may spread the word about you and your business to others who need your services because they were so pleased to have you as a client as well.

What other tips do you have that would ensure a successful experience?