Aside from obvious things such as education and experience, there are nuances that can help you evaluate a translator more effectively. My thoughts are in no way final truths, but are simply patterns that I noticed while evaluating translators’ résumés over the years.
Sloppy formatting means, well, sloppiness.
If a résumé is formatted poorly, I close it immediately. With the advancement of translation memory tools, DTP programs, and translation management systems, translation gets more technical as a profession by the day. Today’s translators are expected to have moderate to high computer literacy. When a person is incapable of such a basic thing as formatting a résumé, it is likely that they will have problems with the technical side of things, and I do not want to be the one who teaches them or fixes problems after them. For example, a non tech-savvy translator may have a hard time understanding what you want from them, when you send them changes to a translation they have delivered and ask them to review and accept or reject changes.
Sloppy formatting also means that a person may be sloppy about other aspects of their work as well.
Errors such as spelling and punctuation are always a red flag for me. A résumé is a representation of the quality that you might expect from this translator; it is a sample of the translator’s writing. If a translator is careless about spelling on the résumé, you can be almost sure that his or her translations will never be flawless, because it is much easier to get the spelling right on a résumé than in an actual translation project. After all, samples of work tend to be better than the actual work.
I frown when important information such as a phone number is missing. Although this judgment might be subjective, I think it is a sign that an individual is either careless or is concealing this information for some reason. Some candidates won’t even send a résumé and ask you to contact them by phone instead, as if recruiters are looking for an “exciting” opportunity to waste 10 or 15 minutes talking to a candidate only to learn that he does not meet a certain critical requirement. Thanks, but no thanks.
The email cover letter a résumé is attached to can tell you a lot about a person. Some would not even bother to say “Hi.” Others forget to include the requested information, such as rates when replying to your job advertisement. And others would include their entire résumé in the email instead of attaching it. Such things repel me immediately, because I do not want to do business with impolite people or those who do not care to read my requirements, and assume that whatever they send should be more than enough.
When a candidate’s résumé is chock-full of clients with big names, such as major translation agencies, I frown. What alerts me about such “namedropping” is that those translation agencies are usually hungry for good translators. Unless they cannot offer a rate acceptable to this translator or they are unhappy about her quality, they will send tons of work her way—often more than she can handle. So why is she sending around résumés to another translation agency? I realize this is not a 100% red flag, but it puts me on alert and has turned out to be a correct signal quite a few times in the past.
Evaluating résumés is not always about evaluating the actual content. Such subtle things as formatting, errors, missing information, and impolite or incomplete cover letters can give important clues as well. Big names as clients on a résumé are not always as good indicators as many expect them to be. You can read more about this in the article “What’s Wrong with the Résumé?”.
Do you agree that it makes sense? Your comments and additional ideas are more than welcome.