American Translators Association (ATA): Targeting Your Résumé

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American Translators Association (ATA): Targeting Your Résumé

Targeting Your Résumé

An informative and concise résumé can do much to attract business. This column shares advice on creating and maintaining a folder of specifically targeted résumés that are ready to send out upon request.

Dear Business Smarts:

As a newcomer to self-employment in translation and interpreting, I have a question about the appropriate format of my résumé. I am currently using my general résumé, which highlights my past work experience and educational background. When prospective clients ask for my résumé, is that what they are looking for, or should I focus on translation experience? This is a little more difficult in my case because I just started out. Any advice? — Pilar S., by email

Dear Pilar:

For maximum effectiveness, your résumé should focus exclusively on your translation and interpreting background. Past work experience should be listed only if it has a direct connection to your area of specialty or current translation work. This means that the résumé templates provided in many software packages are not helpful, or need to be adapted in order to produce an effective freelancer’s résumé.

Most project managers and recruiters at translation companies prefer a concise format that fits on a single page, and are interested in finding out exactly what your language background is, including your education, international experience, and certifications. Translation agencies additionally want to know about your computer equipment and computer-aided translation tools.

If you also provide a brief description of past projects and names of references, keep in mind that you may still be bound by confidentiality agreements and cannot disclose, without permission, the identity of specific end clients for whom you worked through an agency. It is acceptable to state that you worked for Agency ABC, but not that you worked through them for Fortune449 Inc. We also advise asking for permission before you list anyone’s name as a reference.

It is absolutely imperative to go over every detail of your résumé with great care. Spelling errors make a bad impression, of course, but so do sloppy formatting, missing commas, or font discrepancies, and they can lead to instant rejection of your application. Print out a copy of your draft and carefully review every aspect of the document, possibly enlisting the help of another person.

Many seasoned translators prepare several electronic versions of their résumé and keep them up to date on their computer. We recommend setting up a separate folder in your computer directory where each version is easy to find.

To give an example, a "medical" version of a freelance résumé would focus on past experience translating in the medical field, highlighting project data such as "50-page manual, pacemaker equipment, English into Spanish." This same version of the résumé might also mention membership in ATA’s Medical Division, attendance at specific workshops, or other related experience. This document can be sent out promptly in response to a project inquiry about medical material. A slightly modified version, containing different work experience and references, can be saved, for example, as your "pharmaceutical" résumé. This approach saves time in the long run, and helps you provide the specific information project managers are looking for. The only drawback to this method is that you have to keep multiple documents updated, since an assignment you did two or three years ago is not necessarily an indication of your current capabilities.

Another approach is to maintain your electronic résumé files in both English and foreign-language versions. Whether this is worthwhile depends on your typical client profile and marketing approach, but the dual language strategy can once again save time when an immediate response to an inquiry is needed.


Reprinted from The ATA Chronicle: September 2008, p 44