Your CV says a thousand words

While I've not yet had the good fortune of being involved in recruiting translators, I've made a point of examining as many translator CVs as I possibly could over the past 5 years. When I first considered becoming a freelance translator, I spent hours and hours surfing websites of translation companies, going to the About Us pages to glean what information I could about the people running the company. Then I moved on to translation communities such as Translators' Cafe or ProZ, where I found I could download CVs of literally hundreds of translators.

Now, bear in mind that most freelance translators first contact their clients by email these days, especially when first starting out. Remember too that our clients may not be in a position to assess our language abilities, and you may start to understand the method behind my madness. Quite simply, a CV is to a freelance translator what a headshot is to a model.

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So I'd keep the ones I especially liked, making adjustments to the format of my own CV in light of these. I made lists of the areas I thought I might want to move into in the future, and wrote notes to my future self, "Keep the references to XYZ to a minimum!", or "DO NOT do this unless you want to look like an oddball!".

I did all this for several reasons - to get an better idea of the routes other translators had taken to get into the profession, to understand how other people sold themselves and to see what I was up against. Mostly though, I did it because I'm quite nosey and I got a bit of a kick out of it

Several years in and I still occasionally review my CV hall of fame, or go on the hunt for a few more. (Of course I call it a "business profile" now, but it's much the same thing). But one thing that still surprises me is many translators' apparent lack of regard for the things that really matter to their clients.

Rowan Manahan, aka The Irish Independant's Career Doctor, had a very interesting post over at Fortify Your Oasis recently. He reckons that while many people appear to understand the concept of fine-tuning a job application to the needs of the recruiter, very few actually have the EQ (as oppsoed to the IQ) to adjust their behaviour to reflect this understanding. I think this is also applies to freelance translators and the CVs (or business profiles) they send out to potential clients.

Most translators, especially those starting out, will be selling their services to agencies. These agencies tend to be small businesses with a handful of employees. They're used to getting a lot of CVs by email from translators all over the world, many of whom will be willing to work for rates a lot lower than you can afford. And as Jason Alba puts it, these people"already have a full-time job where are they going to fit in the time to personally respond to 200+ unsolicited non-matches each day??"

So why make it difficult for them? There are only a few key things things that a translation agency needs to know before they decide to put you on their books. These are as follows (more or less in order of importance):

  1. your full contact details
  2. your mother tongue, including the variation of language if relevant, your working languages and the direction in which you translate. (Your nationality has no bearing on your language skills, and is of no relevance if you are applying for home work as a freelancer!)
  3. your areas of expertise, relevant to the areas the agency works in
  4. any translation-related services you offer e.g. translation, proofreading, editing, voice-overs, transcription
  5. affiliations or memberships of professional associations
  6. your qualifications and the countries in which you gained them (full titles in their original language - no creative translations of degrees. A Matrise does not equal a Diplom does not equal a Masters, and translation agencies know this!)
  7. your translation related experience, grouped according to relevant skill set rather than a chronological list
  8. your rates

So do them a favour, and let them know that you know what they're looking for. They can always get back to you if they're really that interested in your hobbies, or the exact dates you we're employed on that holiday campsite in France.

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