How to show you do quality work in your job applications

What we like to see in job applications from freelancers – Part 2

 This is Part 2 of my blog article talking about what we like to see in job applications from freelancers. In Part 1, we talked about how to make sure your email does not get deleted right away. In this part, we’re going to talk about the various methods available to show that you produce a high standard of work.

Quality work

There are technical translation agencies out there who only care about price. We are not one of those agencies; we pay reasonable rates and expect good work. When applying to agencies like us, you will need to show that your work is good quality. So the question is simple. How can you convey the fact that you offer a high standard of work in your job applications?



As I said before, just saying “My work is excellent quality,” or “My work is regarded as excellent by my clients,” isn’t really proof of anything. What we like to see is actual evidence. Think of it this way. Imagine if one of our clients sues us at some point in the future, we end up in court and the judge asks “How did you make sure your translator could do good quality work?” At that point, we need to have a list of things you have given us. The longer and stronger the list, the more likely we are to work with you.

Firstly, you need to show that you can understand your own fields. I’m always very suspicious of, for example, Spanish language degree holders who claim to do electrical engineering translations. How did you learn about electrical engineering? It is okay if you don’t have a formal academic degree (although that really is ideal) but you do need some strong evidence of where you developed your expertise. For example, you might be an amateur with a passion for the field who has written for journal XYZ and is a member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers. On the other hand, it might just be something you’ve been translating for many years for other clients. Either way, you need to tell us and be honest about it.

I’ll take a moment to reiterate my main thesis which I’ve mentioned time and time again in my blog and training materials. Translate a small range of things, but do them very well. If you can’t provide evidence, either do a training course or remove the subject from your specialities. Another red flag for us is when people claim to be able to work in multiple unrelated fields. If a professional level of understanding in any one of those fields can take a lifetime of training, how can you understand them all? It’s a sign you are either fishing for just any jobs at all, or don’t really have a good specialisation and consequently won’t produce a good standard of work.

Once you’ve decided on your specialities, you need to dedicate some time to:

  1. Learning them, and
  2. Getting together evidence that you have learned them, so that
  3. You can provide proof of your expertise.

Aside from actually understanding your own specialist fields (which sounds easy but it’s amazing how few translators do it), you need to show your general awareness of quality.

Quality work is useless if it’s late. If you say, “Thanks for your reply – I’ll get back to you at 5pm,”and then reply the next morning, that suggests you won’t respect other deadlines. You don’t have to deal with emails urgently (unless they are urgent) but if you do commit to doing anything, then you should actually do it. Generally, I personally try to reply to everyone within 1 hour and I would say that’s a pretty good timeline. If there’s anything stopping you from doing that, it’s fine, but make sure people know. For example, we state clearly that we only deal with our jobs@… Inbox twice per month, and that’s exactly what we do. If you are late dealing with your own job applications, that sets a very bad impression.

It’s not good if you are not willing to admit mistakes and be honest with us. If we say “Can you do xxx?” or “Please tell us your background in xxx,” don’t just tell us what you think we want to hear. We are trying to manage a large team and we need to get an accurate understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. I would say it’s best to admit your weaknesses right away, clearly and up front, that way we can help you work towards fixing them. Be honest when talking with our recruitment team and project managers. In the long run, that’s the best policy.

Professional bodies do some of the recruitment work for us. If you have passed your ITI exam, that suggests you probably have a certain standard and is a great benefit. Aside from those kinds of bodies, good profiles on Proz and similar forums and even good feedback on LinkedIn can help show that you are capable of producing good quality work.

After the initial contact, we like freelancers who are open minded when reviewing texts and will say “Actually your editor’s phrasing is better than my phrasing,” when that’s true. If you always say “Mine is correct, don’t dare question me”, or words to that effect, it’s a sign you don’t really know what you are doing. The same goes when you are editing work for others. We often try to give editing jobs to new translators first, so we can get to know each other. Some translators feel that the more aggressive they are with their edits, the better they are. In fact, we prefer the minimum number of necessary edits but no more.

Finally, if you are working into English, everything you send to us must be in PERFECT English. If you get terms on your own CV wrong, we’re hardly going to think you are a professional. Proofread all your emails before sending them. Proofread your cover letters and your website if you have one. The only place mistakes are really acceptable are in social media, Twitter, Facebook and other non-formal media. We would rather you get in touch with us with a few typos, than not get in touch at all.

In Part 3 next week, we are going to take a look at some more issues to consider when making job applications to be a freelance translator