Pitching for work can be a nerve-racking business. Competition is likely to be tough. Translation agencies often receive hundreds of CVs a week, and an outsourcer may well receive a lot of responses to their job post, so it’s important to make sure yours gets straight to the point and is relevant.
In this blog post I offer ten golden rules based on my experience running a translation agency and as an occasional outsourcer. I hope they will also prove useful for translators in other countries pitching for work in the English-speaking world, as conventions differ between countries.
Only send out your CV to translation agencies or outsourcing colleagues, not to direct clients. After all, if you were hiring a plumber or solicitor, you wouldn’t expect them to send you their CV. Restrict your CV to around 2 pages. This is the rule of thumb for any professional CV. Busy outsourcers don’t have the time to go through page after page.
Put the most relevant information at the top of your CV. Make it quick and easy for the client to find precisely what they are looking for: name, contact details, working language(s), mother tongue, specialist fields. It may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how often vital information gets forgotten!
Lay out your CV clearly. Use bullet points and leave white space. Avoid long paragraphs of descriptive text.
Keep your CV up to date. Every time you send it out, check it first. Add any new qualifications, experience, subject areas etc. And if you state your rates in your CV, check that they are up to date.
Accuracy is key – so make sure you run a spellcheck! A typo is a no-no. And if you have translated your CV into English or any other language yourself, always have the translation read through by a native speaker.
Save your CV in PDF format. This looks much more professional than a Word document and also avoids information being accidentally changed or deleted.
… use a one-size-fits-all CV for all prospective clients. Tailor each CV you send out to the recipient’s needs. For example, if you are pitching for a legal translation or applying to a legal translation agency, highlight your legal translation experience/expertise. It saves the recipient time and shows them you understand their needs.
… list your specialist fields too broadly. Claims like ‘Technical – any field’ or ‘Legal – any field’ mean ‘I’ll give anything a go’ and won’t be taken seriously by good agencies.
… include copies of letters of recommendation or testimonial letters. Rather, include one or two very short testimonials from happy customers in your CV: 1-2 lines each is plenty. But do check with these customers that they are OK with their comments being used in this way. In English-speaking countries, it’s customary for companies to contact references in person, so if you do list references on your CV, check that they are happy to be contacted.