The key to getting a response from a prospective client is to sell yourself in two areas: 1) the introductory email or form in which you send your résumé, and 2) in the résumé itself. While this may seem obvious, it’s one thing to know and another thing to be able to sell yourself well via these two touchpoints with a client.
One of the first things you do when applying for any position is to dust off your résumé and send it to the employer or contracting entity. But how do you know what to include on your résumé and in your introductory message to a client? What is relevant to that position and what will “sell” your services to the client who will be reviewing your résumé? How do you know whether your résumé measures up against others who work in the same language pair(s) or specialization(s)? These are all valid questions when applying for a position in any field, but especially if you feel that you work in a saturated market or if you’re just starting out as a translator or interpreter.
The key to getting a response from the recipient is to sell yourself in two areas: 1) the introductory email or form in which you send your résumé, and 2) in the résumé itself. While this may seem obvious, it’s one thing to know and another thing to be able to sell yourself well via these two touchpoints with a client. So, how do you do this?
First, you have to know your client. Really know them. What do they want to see when they open your email or skim your résumé? Highlight those things! What is irrelevant to them and their needs? Nix those things! What can you provide through your services that will help them solve a problem? Be that solution!
Here are nine tips on how to sell your services effectively through your résumé so you can stand out to those who are on the receiving end.
1. Keep it brief. Don’t make your résumé too long. Just because you have a lot of achievements, awards, or education doesn’t mean the person on the other side of the email thread has the time or patience to read through a laundry list of items. So, be concise and know the selling points for the particular client to whom you are marketing. A one- or two-page résumé is plenty. Anything longer than that means you run the risk of your résumé getting sent to the trash folder.
If you find yourself having to make a choice as to what to include in your résumé to maintain brevity, ask yourself these questions:
- Will listing a particular award or achievement really increase my chances of getting the job?
- Do the components that make up my résumé clearly reflect what I do and why I have the ability to do it well?
- What skills does this particular client find desirable and how can I hone my résumé to honestly reflect that I fit their needs?
Once your résumé provides the answers to the core questions a client will have when reading your résumé, you can redirect clients to your website for more information so they can “get to know you” better.
2. List your language pair(s) and specialization(s) at the top of your résumé. This saves your reader time and helps weed out clients who may not be right for you. It also makes it easy to locate your résumé in a set of files or in a stack of papers on someone’s desk.
3. List what’s relevant and nix what’s not. Include only the information that’s directly related to your work in translation or interpreting in terms of education, achievements, awards, skills, experience, and affiliations/memberships.
4. Leave out the unnecessary personal bits. There’s no need to include your photo or any personal information other than the best way to contact you. While it’s nice to know you have hobbies, most people who want to hire you won’t take this information into consideration. Leave this type of personal information for down the road as you continuously establish your relationship with a client and allow them to get to know you better. Some common items applicants put on their résumés that are better left out include:
- Information that does not clearly connect to your abilities or education as a translator or interpreter, or to the clients you are trying to reach. For example, if you are targeting a résumé to demonstrate your Spanish-to-English medical translation experience, don’t randomly insert that you have a certificate in carpentry unless it has specific relevance to your work as a translator.
- Volunteer activities that don’t reflect one’s ability to deliver a solid translation or interpretation.
- Contact information that’s outdated.
Provide an email address you check often so that the person who contacts you receives a response in a reasonable timeframe, typically one to two business days. Having an unprofessional email address, such as email@example.com (Sorry, no one’s perfect!), or writing an email that’s riddled with errors won’t get you the gig either. Think about your introductory message and résumé as the way to deliver the best first impression you can possibly make on a client. After all, for many of us it’s the one chance we get, so make it count.
5. Plan to get more education and training specific to translation or interpreting if you feel lacking in certain areas. If all you list on your résumé is education and training in other fields, you’re probably not going to make a very competitive candidate. The key is to demonstrate education and training in your area(s) of specialization, as well as in your language pair(s) and translation/interpreting studies.
6. Highlight any certifications. Put this information closer to the top of your résumé. You may even want to mention your certification in a somewhat larger font or in bold so that it stands out to the reader. Let your hard-earned certification work for you!
7. Make your résumé visually appealing. Gone are the days when you have to follow an exact template for a résumé. You can be creative as long as you organize the information well and include everything your client wants to know. Consider using logos to represent your association memberships, certifications, and other credentials instead of providing a long list.
8. Do something different. Are you an interpreter? You could make a brief video introduction about yourself to include in your email message, email signature, and/or on your résumé. This is a great way to stand out and sell yourself, as it allows the recipient to see how you speak. It shows your professionalism in a “face-to-face” and more personable manner. It also makes you more memorable than the others who simply send a traditional résumé.
9. Link back to your website! This is where people go to find out more about you, so make sure the link works! Believe me, I’ve seen many that don’t. Continue to update your résumé so that it’s consistent with your website. If you start to work in a new specialization, include this on both your résumé and anywhere else people can find out more about your services (e.g., your website, online directories, etc.).
Once you have an updated résumé, post it to all your online profiles and directory listings. Post it on LinkedIn. You could even make it a downloadable PDF file on your website. Start sending your new and improved résumé to several potential clients each week, but remember that all-important bit about introductory messages I mentioned earlier.
Write an email that’s tailored to the reader. Make sure it’s sent the way the recipient wants to receive it and not through a client inquiry form on their website! (Yes, this happens and it’s very off-putting.) Make sure you address the person who will be reading your email and avoid simply putting generic names or departments in the opening of your message. Even if you accidentally send your résumé to the wrong person, your message is more likely to be forwarded to the right individual as long as it doesn’t look like you just sent it out to potential clients en masse.
Finally, after you send your résumé to a potential client, schedule a time to follow up a week or two later. Continue to update your résumé, website, and directory listings as you get more training and education so that all the information is consistent. If you change your email address or phone number, remember to update this in all these places. After all, your goal in sending a résumé is to elicit a response and hopefully gain a new client. Make the process to choose and contact you as easy as possible for potential clients!
More Information on Résumés
Bodeux, Eve and Corinne McKay. “How to Write a Great Translator Résumé,” Speaking of Translation Podcast, http://bit.ly/Speaking-of-Translation.
McKay, Corinne. “Translation-Targeted Résumés: Pitfalls and Best Practices,” Thoughts on Translation (May 2008), http://bit.ly/targeted-resumes.
Whitty, Tess. “How to Optimize Your CV and Cover Letter,” Marketing Tips for Translators Podcast, http://bit.ly/CV-cover-tips.
Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo is an ATA director and chair of the Membership Committee. She is the owner of Accessible Translation Solutions and a Spanish>English and Portuguese>English translator. She served as chair of ATA’s Public Relations Committee (2014–2018) and administrator of ATA’s Medical Division (2011–2015). She has a BA in Spanish from the University of Southern Mississippi and an MA in Spanish from the University of Louisville. She is also a consultant for the University of Louisville Graduate Certificate in Translation. You can read more of her articles on her blog at www.madalenazampaulo.com/blog. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.