What we like to see in job applications from freelancers

What we Like to See in Job Applications from Freelancers

Constructive Translations receive a lot of emails from freelancers looking to join us. Sadly we have to delete around half of them without reply as they are either likely to be spam or fraud or immediately suggest to us that the translator or interpreter won’t make a good partner.

In this series of blog articles, I’m going to talk about some things which will help ensure that your job applications bring positive results. It goes without saying that you need a strategic plan of development to continually improve yourself and make yourself more attractive to agencies, but this series of articles will focus on communicating what you have to offer right now. This will be useful if you are still at the stage of working to get more agencies on your books so you can get more regular work. I suspect a lot of technical translation agencies have workflows similar to ours, so I hope this can be useful for all job applications.


Communication is important in job applications

The first hurdle

The first hurdle you need to pass is to ensure we don’t delete your email at first sight. In this blog entry we will talk about some of the things to bear in mind to prevent this. In subsequent articles we break down some of these concepts in much more details.

If it looks like the email is probably spam or if the email was sent to the wrong address, we are likely to delete it. Yes, that means we run the risk of deleting perfectly good applications, but with our workloads being what they are, we don’t always have time to do a detailed background check.

Some clients only have one email address for all business, but I would say the vast majority have an inbox for freelance CVs. It might be something like jobs@, freelancers@, vendors@ or similar. Always browse the website and find the right address. If you really can’t find one, maybe you could apologise for writing to the “general” inbox in your cover letter. That might be useful feedback for the agencies.

We receive a lot of job applications in email form which are obviously fraudulent. These tend to include lengthy cover letters with dubious English and strange language combinations (e.g. English, Spanish and Swiss German into Japanese and Tagalog). However, spammers and fraudsters are getting smarter by the day, so we can’t just assume that if you write a good, concise cover letter and have a nice CV, you are not a fraudster. We need to take a lot of various factors into account.

One thing we consider is that if it looks like it could have been sent to more than one client at a time it is more likely to be spam. That means it contains “Dear Sirs” or “Dear Recruitment Manager” without any reference in the email to our company. It’s easy for spammers to create automated mailing lists contacting every translation agency with one very broad and very general email.

If you have taken the time to look into a company, you should show us why you are a good match. Tell us why you would be a good partner for us. Do you have the skills we need or are you writing on the off chance we do ever get something in your field? Both of those situations are fine. We specialise in technology and construction, but we do get asked to do financial and business texts too, and we always say it is worth getting in touch with us anyway. But if your specialisation is, for example, accounting, you need to explain why you are writing to technical and construction specialists.

In addition, you should say something like “I found your website from the ITI Directory” or “I’m writing because Constructive Translations specialise in the same areas as me”. That helps us improve our recruitment process while also showing you are more serious about your application. If we find applications from certain sources are more suitable, we know where to invest our time in future.

We also have some other ways of reducing our dealings with fraudsters and spammers. We will check your address, phone number and other details against various directories. We will Google your name and check to see if you have any profiles elsewhere (and of course we will check your feedback). I would encourage you to include a link to your various profiles if possible. The ITI or a similar body would be ideal, but Proz or even LinkedIn would be a good start. At least it helps us be sure you are a real person. A CV from a totally anonymous person with just an email address is likely to be put straight into the spam folder.

We also have some other checking processes which I don’t want to publish in a public forum, but do check your CV carefully for inconsistencies like “david1@hotmail” being your email but “david2@hotmail” being your PayPal account name.

What Next for job applications which pass spam/fraud checks

If your email passes the first hurdle, it will then be read by our busy administrators who will try to handle dozens of job applications in a just few hours. So please don’t create any additional work for us. “Please tell me more about your company” emails are not what we like to receive. Nor are “please refer to link for my rates and CV”.

It’s always a good idea to connect via social media. That means we’ll see something about you in addition to the application email. If you have followed us on Twitter it will show up in our records when we receive your application, the same for Facebook etc, so get Liking and Sharing! It shows you have actually put some time into finding us, and that you are more likely to be a serious partner.

With all those things in mind, your CV should get through to us, and we’ll read it and decide if we think you are a good match for our company. The process will vary from agency to agency, but for us, you have to offer some evidence of the following four features:

1. A high standard of work. Saying “my work is always good quality” isn’t proof that your work is high quality. In fact, seeing any kind of “my work is really great, trust me!” text in an email makes us highly suspicious. Ideally we would love to see ITI, IOL or similar professional organisation membership, lots of experience, good feedback on various forums (e.g. Proz) if you have profiles there, and excellent writing in your CV and all your communications with us. If you are missing any of those things, don’t try and cover it up, be honest, there may be suitable jobs for you, no matter where you are in your career.

2. Professionalism. What have you got to lose if you make a total mess of our job? We could lose a client worth tens of thousands of pounds. If all you have is an email address, why would you bother going the extra mile for us? To Constructive Translations, professional clients are members of various bodies, put themselves out there for feedback, and demonstrate that they are in the industry for the long run. A website, contracts written by lawyers, email footers containing real addresses and invoices sent by a professional accountant all help in this regard, as they show you are serious about what you do.

3. Flexibility. Can you use any CAT software? Don’t just say “I can use most CAT tools”. Make clear which tools you have and can use well. We need people who actually know them and can deal with unexpected issues which may occur. Be honest about what you can do, it’s better to do a few things well than try to do everything. I’m pretty comfortable with Trados myself, and even after years of use, I still encounter issues from time to time!

4. Pricing. This is a real can of worms. As far as I’m concerned, your prices have to be realistic. If you have one year of experience and are charging the same rates as someone with 20 years of experience, guess who we will go for first? There are many agencies who will always look for the cheapest solution; we absolutely never do that, but we also won’t pay over the going rates. We are willing to pay good rates for good work, and we keep an eye on the wage and price surveys so we can follow the latest trends. You should do the same.

I hope those things will be helpful and make a good first guide in making job applications to new agencies. Over the coming weeks I’ll expand on each of the four issues mentioned above. I would be delighted to get your feedback (so please comment on Facebook, LinkedIn or however you wish). In the next article, I’ll talk in much more depth about simple ways of demonstrating, in your correspondence with us, that you are capable of producing work of good quality.