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Beyond a Resume: Three Signs to Tell a Good Translator from a Bad One

poor quality of work

This is the quality of results that you get when you pick a wrong vendor

Since I’m always on a lookout for great English to Russian translators, I have to deal with quite a few candidates on a daily basis. I discard most applications already after reviewing the resume, usually because a candidate either doesn’t have the skills or experience or he/she fails to describe those skills appropriately. It’s a shame because there’s a plethora of excellent tips about writing good resumes for freelance translators available on the Internet, Marta Stelmaszak’s article being one of them. I want to take this a little bit further and suggest three more subtle things that freelance candidates should avoid unless what they want is to repel clients.

  1. Late response. Response time is usually critical as many translation buyers can’t wait even a few hours, much less a few days. When I contact a translator and get a very late response, this is always a red flag for me. If a candidate doesn’t meet my expectations initially, it’s quite likely that he/she’ll continue behaving in the same manner. It’s all about responsibility. When a person says on the resume that she’s a full-time professional translator, you’d expect that she’s in front of her computer at least some time during the day and can answer an email from a potential client. If she takes one day to reply to an email, that means she doesn’t care much about walking her talk, i.e. the statement on the resume. And that sounds like irresponsibility to me. I think it’s best to look for responsible people from the outset instead of hoping that a potentially irresponsible person will improve.
  2. Weird questions that scream incompetence. I believe that as soon as someone does something weird and then fails to acknowledge it to you, it’s very likely that he/she’s incompetent. Recently, I sent a short English to Russian translation to test a freelance candidate. The first question he asked was why the glossary was not in a translation memory format. The question didn’t make any sense. Although nothing prevents you from adding a glossary to a TM, the two are usually separate things. And if he wanted to have the glossary in a TM format so badly, he could have simply converted it into a TMX himself, using Xbench, for example. I started to suspect incompetence and felt that I should cancel the project. And just an hour later, the guy contacted me and asked what he was supposed to do about the sentences with the tags. His suggestion was to break a sentence into multiple parts (at the places where the tags were located) and translate each part as a separate piece. Wow.
  3. Whining about how he/she doesn’t like this or that. Of all the three signs in this post, this is the strongest one. If a candidate starts to whine about minor things right away such as the fact that he/she doesn’t trust that you’ll pay him/her, what are the chances that he/she will have the guts to help you with really challenging tasks down the road? I think they’re slim to none. Instead of doing the work, this individual will probably just keep whining about how unfair things are. Do you want someone like that on your team?

As soon as I get any of these reactions from a candidate, I normally lose interest in them. Of course, some of my judgments are false positive. But I prefer to trust my intuition because I’ve found that most people don’t change and just become more of what they are. And I don’t really have the time to give them a second chance to prove me wrong.

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About the Author

Roman Mironov
Roman Mironov
CEO & Founder

As the founder of Velior, Roman has had the privilege of being able to turn his passion for languages into a business. He has over 15 years of experience in the translation industry. Roman has helped dozens of clients increase sales by making their products appealing for speakers of other languages.