Avoiding Your Biggest Résumé Mistake – How to Target Your Résumé
We send résumés out all the time, in response to direct requests and in hopes of getting work. Résumés (or “CVs” for European clients) can be a vexing topic – but they don’t have to be.
Let’s start with what you should include:
- Your name
- Your language combination
- Your contact details
- Your skills
- Your relevant experience
- The technology you own, use, or have experience with
- If relevant: your education or specialized training and publications
- Optional: your specialties (no more than 3, and only if you actually specialize!), or Areas of More Experience (no more than 4 or 5)
- Optional: your professional photograph
- Extra: watermark
This is what you will find in anyone’s résumé. Any differences tend to be limited to formatting.
If this is what everyone includes, why is it so difficult to write a good résumé?
The Biggest Mistake
Usually, you send the same résumé to everyone – hoping they will see your value. But the one big mistake you make is not tailoring your résumé to your audience.
Are you sending it to another interpreter or translator? An agency? A direct client? Answers to these questions will tell you how to showcase your information.
Are you sending it to law firms? Construction businesses? Universities? This tells you what experience would be relevant to include.
Let me give you some examples of the different ways to state your languages, using my own interpreting combination.
If you send your résumé to an interpreter from the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC), to international organizations, or to European agencies, you would use the A, B, C classification. For example, my own combination would be A: English, B: Russian, and C: French.
If you send your résumé to an interpreter or agency not familiar with AIIC, you could say: Native: English, Active: Russian, Passive: French.
If you send it to clients who are not interpreters or translators, you should use arrows, or the words “from” and “into.”
My combination would be Russian/French>English, English>Russian, or “I work from Russian and French into English, and from English into Russian.”
Be as clear as possible, and spell out language abbreviations.
Don’t Confuse People
If you assume everyone knows your jargon, you will confuse them.
Explain your skills, such as consecutive interpreting or conforming treaties, so non-practitioners can understand.
- “Interpreting with no equipment, speaking after the speaker.”
- “Looking at two language versions of a written treaty and ensuring their meaning is identical.”
Give Relevant Information
Nowadays especially, include a section on the technology that you own, use, or have experience with – and this goes for interpreters too! Agencies are particularly interested in having this information.
But the most difficult part of the résumé is your relevant experience.
First of all, for beginners: if someone actually used your interpretation or translation, it was work experience. It’s nobody’s business if you were paid. However, if no one actually used your product, it was specialized training.
If you don’t have a lot of experience, add in your specialized training – but remove it when you have more work experience.
Now, for everyone! Keep a list on your computer of all your jobs. Fill in a table with dates, topic, meeting name, and meeting location.
If this data is in a table, you can then sort it by topic, and create groups of similar jobs, or modules. You can then swap these modules in and out of your résumé, depending on your target audience.
Don’t give away too many details! On my own résumé, I use the format: <Name of Meeting>, <City/Organization of Meeting>, <Year>. This gives little away, but shows that I actually possess this experience.
When you need to send a legal résumé, you swap in the module with your legal experience. If you need to send a business résumé, then swap in the relevant module.
My entire résumé is 7 pages long – but no one ever sees all 7 pages.
My first page is a traditional résumé, with all the information in my opening list above, and a bird’s eye view of my experience.
After that comes my “Work Experience Appendix.”
For the appendix, all my experience is grouped into modules: Aerospace, Business, Development, Nuclear (civil and military), etc. The last pages list my training experience.
Modular résumés save a lot of time. You could have your entire résumé on one page, with space for modules. For each client who requests a résumé, you simply swap in the relevant module.
To Send or Not to Send
Agencies ask for your résumé, to keep it on file or to use to win a bid on a job. But they could use it to get the job, and then award that job to someone cheaper, without the relevant experience.
So, if you do send a résumé, at the very least use the PDF format.
It would also be good to include a watermark – a phrase that shows up behind your résumé. For example, the wording could be: “This résumé is for information only and is not for job tenders.”
Of course, anyone with tech knowledge can still strip out and use your information. But at least you have made it more difficult for them.
In fact, you may even decide that you don’t want to target that particular audience at all!
Julia Poger – AKA Your Guide to Realizing Your Worth – is a Business, Conference and Diplomatic Interpreter working with Russian, who started Know Your Worth to give you insights, a roadmap, and the confidence to get more business at higher fees with better conditions.