Running a small translation office I am bombarded with requests from would be translators looking for work. It is perhaps a sad reflection of the times that I get ten times as many such requests as I have jobs coming in, and often these people find me through advertising channels which I end up having to pay for (e.g. Google AdWords, linkedIn etc.).
So here i have compiled a list of tips for those applying for work based on my experience looking at such prospective applications.
1: Make sure the application is in good English. You are a translator offering language services, and even if English is not your mother tongue, it tends to leave a bad impression if it has errors strewn all over it. Also take care of punctuation and presentation, part of your work involves presenting a document in an acceptable format and if you get this wrong.....well...
2. Don’t make overhyped and overambitious claims. Nobody is perfect, I certainly am not, and when I looked at one translator who claimed to offer “perfection” it was hilarious to see how many errors he made in his pitch letter. Bidirectional translators do exist but my experience is that people are best at translating into their mother tongue. So even if you are bidirectional, I would play this down at first. And don’t try to claim you can take any amount of work on at any notice, this is also completely unrealistic and leads to mistrust from the off.
3: Don’t forget to mention your language combination, preferably in the subject of the email. . This is THE most important information when filing applications, and you would be amazed at how invisible this information is in many translator’s applications.
4: Differentiate yourself. Don’t try and say you do everything under the sun at a low price in the hope of catching as much work as possible. I want to be safe with someone who I hire and I would rather have someone who knows a lot about comparatively little. Once you establish a working relationship you might be asked to go beyond those limits and do other work, but offer yourself as a specialist first.
5: Don’t send paper CVs in. It takes time (and therefore money) to file this information, and if a company has a mask on a website for entering your details into a database, use it. You will be more respected for it too. If you have to send an electronic CV in, make sure its easy to copy and paste information from it. Don’t send references or certificates unless asked.
6: Be straight to the point. There are a lot of people looking for work. The information people need is what is your language combination? what is your specialty? What is your education and experience background? What translation tools do you use? And How much do you cost? Remember, no claims of unerring reliability or total perfection which merely distract and annoy whoever is trying to assess your application.
7: Tell the office how you heard of them. This is very well respected because it provides information about what marketing measures used by the translation company are successful. If you got to the company’s website by clicking on a Google ad, you already cost that company advertising costs, so a little feedback in the way of information helps to soothe those pains. As I said, ten times as many people click on those ads looking for work rather than looking for a service, so the costs do mount up.
8: Don’t expect an immediate response. Many applications are filed away for a rainy day...i.e. when someone looks for work to be done in a certain language combination. Sometimes people will only get back to you after years.
9: Try to remember that when you are a freelancer, the company you apply to will see you as a service provider, even if you do not see yourself that way. You have to pitch yourself to people that way. You won’t be seeing people 8 hours a day, so a CV need not include information about clubs, organisations and activities. Stick to the information that is important. You are expected to be reliable, punctual and offer material of sufficient quality (95-98% and not 100% perfection), so there really is no point even mentioning whether you have any of these qualities.
Dr. Julian P. Keogh
Dr. Julian P. Keogh