Advice on résumés abounds online, but there are some special considerations to keep in mind when searching for freelance translation work. A vendor manager (VM) looks for specific points on translators’ résumés — and there are a few others they definitely do not want or need to see.
Make clear which is your native language, as many language service providers (LSPs) allow translators to work only into their native language, even if they have experience translating into others. It can also be helpful to note important details about your working languages, such as specifying locales (e.g. Brazilian versus European Portuguese) or writing systems (e.g. Simplified versus Traditional Chinese).
If all the work will be done remotely, why should a company care where a freelancer lives? First, time zones play a role in assigning certain time-sensitive work. Location can also impact a freelancer’s legal ability to work for a company (for a recent example, see California’s gig-worker bill AB 5). Lastly, some end-clients actually prefer or require freelancers to be based in specific locations.
Outside of actual work experience, VMs place great value on a freelancer’s education, degrees, training, and certifications. Results from certain tests, such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), and membership in translation organizations can establish a candidate’s fluency in non-native languages and commitment to the profession, respectively, although they do not correspond to translation skills.
Fear of age discrimination may lead professionals of a certain age to leave dates off of their résumés altogether. This can actually backfire by making the candidate look like they have something to hide. VMs want to know when candidates earned their degrees (to understand how recent their experience is) and for how long they have worked with various clients (which can attest to successful, long-term working relationships).
Many translators may enjoy watching make-up tutorials, but that does not automatically qualify all of them to work on cosmetic translations! Candidates whose résumés list relevant qualifications, such as a related degree or extensive experience in the field, stand out to VMs as prepared to handle specialized work.
Freelancers can help speed up the vetting process by providing at least an email address for two or three individuals who can speak to a translator’s quality of work. Recent graduates can list professors or organizations for which they have interned or volunteered; more seasoned linguists should name past employers, clients, or project managers.
Freelancers know why they are submitting a résumé, and so do VMs: to find work. No need to overthink it.
While photos are part and parcel of résumés in certain parts of the world, résumés in the US almost never include photos (in theory, to avoid any possible allegations of discrimination).
It is common for linguaphiles to study all the languages they can — but those classes do not belong on a résumé! If a translator does not work from or into the language, and is not applying for work where their level of linguistic competence will be helpful, the best choice is to leave it off.
This is about more than formatting. Graphics symbolizing a candidate’s mastery of certain skills have become popular over the past five years, but they are less than informative for VMs. Worse still, some candidates try to use graphics to showcase subjective “soft skills” such as communication and emotional intelligence. A freelancer’s experience and references can speak to those abilities instead.