How to Build a T&I Resume That Sells

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One of the first things you do when you apply for any position is dust off your resume and send it to the employer (or contracting entity, in the case of most in our profession). But how do you know what to include on your resume 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 receiving it? How do you know whether your resume 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 so if you feel 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: the email or form in which you send your resume and in the resume itself. That seems like a no-brainer, right? 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 is it that they want to see when they open your email or skim over your resume? 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 sell your services well through your resume so that you can start to stand out to those who are on the receiving end.

1. Keep it brief. Don't make your resume too long. Really, just because you have a lot of achievements, awards or education, this doesn't mean the person on the other side of the email thread has the time or will to read through a laundry list of items. So, be concise and know what sells to this type of client. A one- to two-page resume is plenty. Anything longer than that means you run the risk of your resume getting sent to the Trash folder.

If you find yourself having to make a choice as to what to include in your resume in order 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 resume 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 resume to honestly reflect that I fit their needs?

Once your resume provides the answers to the core questions your client will have when reading your resume, 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 resume. This saves your reader time, and it helps to weed out clients who may not be right for you. It also makes it easy to locate your resume in a set of files or if printed and placed in a stack of papers on someone's desk.

3. List what is relevant and nix what is not. Only put on your resume anything that is related to your work in translation or interpreting when it comes to your:

  • education,
  • achievements,
  • awards,
  • skills,
  • experience and
  • affiliations/memberships.

4. Leave out the unnecessary bits. There is no need to include your photo or any personal information other than the best way to contact you. And while it's nice to know you have hobbies, most people who want to hire you do not 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 resumes that are better left out include things like:

  • education or degrees that are completely irrelevant to their language pair, specialization and/or to the translation and interpreting industry,
  • volunteer activities that do not reflect one’s ability to deliver a solid translation or interpretation,
  • contact information that is out of date or no longer in use.

Provide an email address that 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 addresses, such as (No one’s perfect… sorry!) or writing an email that is riddled with errors won’t get you the gig either. Think about your message and resume 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. If you don't have any education or training in translation or interpreting, make a plan to get some. If all you list on your resume is education and training in other fields, you are not necessarily going to make a very competitive candidate. The key is to have education and training in your area(s) of specialization, as well as in your language pair(s) and translation/interpreting studies.

6. Are you certified? Highlight this! Put this information closer to the top of your resume than the bottom. 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 resume visually appealing. Gone are the days when you have to follow an exact template for a resume. You can be creative as long as you organize the information well and include all the information your client wants to know. Consider using logos to represent your association memberships, certifications, etc. 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 resume. 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. And it makes you more memorable than the others who simply send in a traditional resume.

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 have seen many that don't. Continue to update your resume to be consistent with your website. If you start to work in a new area of specialization, make sure you include this on both your resume and anywhere else people can find out more about your services (your website, online directories, etc.).

Now that you have an updated resume, go post it on every one of your directory profiles. Post it on LinkedIn. You could even make it a downloadable PDF file on your website. Start sending your new and improved resume out to several potential clients a week, but remember that all-important email message bit I mentioned above?

Write an email that is 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 resume to the wrong person, your message is more likely to be forwarded to the right individual if it doesn't look like you just sent it out to potential clients en masse.

Finally, after you send your resume to a potential client, schedule a time to follow up a week or two later. Continue to update your resume, website and directory listings as you get more training and education so that all of the information is consistent. If you change your email address or phone number, remember to update this in all these places, too. After all, your goal in sending a resume is to elicit a response and hopefully gain a new client. Make the process to choose and contact you as easy for potential clients as possible!