Translation-targeted resumes: pitfalls and best practices

What with the U.S. economy on a downward slide and the euro continuing its climb above U.S. $1.50, many translators are marketing these days. Following are some tips on writing a translation-targeted résumé that will pass muster with potential clients.

  • Let’s start with the obvious but often overlooked: prominently state your language pair(s). It sounds crazy, but I’ve read many a translator’s résumé that buried this most basic information deep within the body of the document. My advice: put your language pair(s) right below your name at the head of the résumé, like “Melissa Thomas, Italian to English Translator.” I would avoid using the generic “Italian Translator;” if you are truly qualified to translate in both directions, put “Italian <> English Translator” or something equivalent.
  • Include some sort of geographical information, at least your city. Although I don’t have a P.O. box myself, I think that a P.O. box is a good option for your work address since it avoids having to give out your home address.
  • Use a professional e-mail address. This is one of my top five pet peeves when it comes to translator résumés. Anything @hotmail.com or an address such as “beachbabe2008,” “kittykat” or “soccergod” (and I’m barely exaggerating here!) doesn’t belong on a professional résumé and is also likely to be caught by a client’s spam filter. My advice: if you want a free e-mail address or prefer webmail, use Gmail, I think it’s the most “legitimate” of the freebies. I think that the best e-mail address is one that’s associated with a domain name that you own, so that you never have to change it if you change ISPs.
  • Double and triple-check your contact information. Make sure it’s a) correct and b) information that is “durable;” don’t include a cell phone number that you might be getting rid of.
  • Give specific examples of your translation work without violating client confidentiality. “Extensive experience in patent translation” is much less impressive than “Translated 100+ patents: topics include automotive components, household appliance components and packaging.”
  • If you’ve been translating for a substantial amount of time (I would say three to five years, others might go longer or shorter), eliminate all non-translation work experience that isn’t relevant to what you do. If you worked as an engineer and now translate engineering documents, it’s worth leaving that information in. But if you switched careers completely, say from managing a restaurant to doing translation, I wouldn’t include it.
  • Include something about your computer setup. If nothing else, this tells the client that you are reasonably technology-savvy. You can also inspire confidence by including “with daily backups,” “dedicated backup computer,” etc. If you use translation environment/CAT tools, you can also include them here, or not, depending on whether you want clients to know that you have them.
  • I’ll admit to being a traditionalist when it comes to résumés, and I find fancy graphics, catchy slogans and “creative” formatting to be a turn-off. Also, I think that a photograph, which is common to include on a European-format résumé, is inappropriate on a U.S. one.
  • Some features I’ve seen and liked on other people’s résumés: the date when the résumé was updated (makes it clear that the document is up to date); information about recent professional development such as conferences and courses; a few very brief testimonials from past clients.
  • Remember that you are applying for language work. Although poor grammar, typos and incorrect punctuation have become commonplace in business documents, be the exception. Show your potential clients that you are worthy of their language work by making your own work error-free.
  • Lastly, keep it brief. For use in the U.S., one page is best, two pages is an absolute maximum. Put the most important information first. Remember when your high school guidance counselor broke the news that after you had sweated and cried over your college applications for six months, the average admissions counselor would spend twelve minutes reading them? Have the same attitude toward your résumé and you’re on the right track!
4 Responses to “Translation-targeted resumes: pitfalls and best practices”
  1. Jill May 6, 2008
  2. Durf May 12, 2008
  3. Corinne McKay May 13, 2008
  4. Kevin Lossner May 29, 2008

Leave a Reply