This post is intended to give tips to job seeking translators on a very specific, but important point; applying at a translation firm. These are based on personal experiences, so you may or may not agree with them, as they are mainly based on my personal view on the subject.
I’m always surprised by the number of applications we receive – sometimes even to my personal email. While it’s understandable – cold-calling, so to say, is an important aspect for a starting translator – it’s saddening to see the total disregard to quality that is given to the process by many translators. Now, here are a couple points to take into consideration the next time you send your resume to an agency:
- Send more than a CV. I NEVER read an application which only consists of a pasted CV. Sadly this seems to be the most common practice for many translators. Sure, it’s fast and allows them to “contact” more companies in a short amount of time, but it sends so many wrong signals. Are you really in such a hurry that you can’t write a couple of lines? Do you honestly believe that the employer will open your email and go “Wow, this person just pasted his resume in this email, it’s so long, so many credentials, I can’t wait to hire this random person”? Employers are wiser than you think, really they are, and will recognize that this is just a generic application which, from the get-go, makes them feel like you don’t value their company very much. Saying “Hello” just takes five letters.
- Send a personalized application. I usually quickly delete a pasted CV which is preceded by a (very) generic presentation. Now, I understand it can be a pain to write a personalized email/letter to every employer you contact. However, the reason I believe a lot of translators don’t think it’s worth the time to personalize their “cover letter” is that they expect it to be tossed; they’re playing the numbers game. What they don’t realize is that in the time it took them to generically contact 30 employers and perhaps, with a little luck, get one or two replies, they could have personally contacted 10 companies and received 4 to 6 interested replies. The idea of the first contact is not to get the or a job on the spot, but rather, like the name suggest, to establish a first contact with the employer – you want to attract him, you want him to want to get to know more about you. Now, I’m not saying you should do a lot of research and spend hours crafting your approach email. The use of a general template is even a good practice, and with time, you can modify it until you have a general template that gets you the good responses. However, you should always personalize it to a minimum. Little details; like instead of writing “I believe I could be an asset to your company”, put the actual name of the company. Browse through their website, read their about us page, and mention specific things about them in your letter. This is especially important if the agency didn’t place a “hiring ad” and you’re just cold-applying. The application should be about what you can do for them, based on their specific needs, and not about what you want. Employers already know what you want (at least in general); interesting projects with good remuneration in your field of expertise. What they don’t know is ‘what good hiring you will do for me’?
- Spell check, spell check, spell check! Personally, I put a lot of value on the presentation letter or the couple lines in your email (and I do mean couple of lines, see next point). I use it as an evaluation of their quality as a translator. Every detail reflects on your professionalism. A typo or two is acceptable, bad grammar and spelling mistakes are not. I doubt employers will expect perfection in that (I certainly don’t, and I’m sure you’ve spotted some mistakes in that post alone), but there shouldn’t be anything that jumps to the eye in an aggressive manner. Whenever I receive an application in bad English, or in bad French, or in bad Spanish, it’s a goner. If it’s in another language, it’s a goner by default, because I can’t read it!
- Keep it short. Here’s a good old book I think everybody should read. Now, while you should always present yourself, and try to personalize it as mentioned in the first point, don’t write an essay. I personally think that a perfect first email shouldn’t have more than 5-6 lines with your resume attached or preferably a link to an online professional profile. Now there’s always exceptions – I’ve received one or two applications in the past that were almost as long as this post, but they were so well written and interesting that, by the end of reading them, I was hooked on the translators – but I think it’s a good rule of thumb. Once again, you want to establish a first contact and get the employer to reply. On the follow up email, you’ll be able to go in more details if you need to. Truth is, employers are or at least think they are too busy to read a long email, especially if they didn’t expect it (cold-applying); by keeping it short and to the point, you’re increasing the chances that they’ll take the time to read and not press on the delete button.
While we’re on the subject of keeping it short and to the point, I believe this post is more than long enough. Please feel free to comment about the above points, whether you agree or not. (I want to state that this post is not a call for random applications).