Translator Resume Tips: 9 Ways to Make it Stand Out

Beginning freelance translators often have a misconception about translator resumes.

Most of them think that they don’t need a resume.

They’re freelancers, right?

Owning their own business.

Why would they ever need a resume?

What they don’t understand, though, is that resumes are needed if you’re a freelance translator.

The reason is because as a freelance translator, sure you’re an entrepreneur owning your own business.

But you’re different than someone who say opens up their own storefront.

A store owner doesn’t need a resume to attract clientele.

He needs other things for sure, but I don’t go pick up milk at my local mom and pop based on the owner’s resume.

On the other hand, you do need a resume to attract clients.

You need to be able to show a prospective client that you can do what you say you can do, and one of the easiest ways to do that is by showing the client previous work that you’ve done, and experience you’ve gained.

This is the purpose of your translator resume.

Now, let’s talk about how to make the most of it.

Nine Tips for Translator Resumes

A resume can often be the first thing a prospective client sees when trying to decide whether or not to hire you.

It’s imperative, then, that you make your experiences and knowledge stand out. And I’m not talking about changing the font or using pink paper. Here’s how.

1. Build Trust

The very very first thing a resume should provide is trust. Trust for anyone that you are sending it to.

A resume’s job is not to get you a job.

It’s job is to get the person reading it to trust you enough to move you to the second round.

To avoid the trash pile of discarded resumes.

There’s lots of ways to do build trust in a resume. A lot of those ways will be outlined below.

But the most important thing you can do is to realize that you’re not writing for you.

You’re writing for someone you’ve never met who has to make a judgement about you in 2 seconds. Really, only 2 seconds.

Read your finished resume with a critical eye. Pretend your resume is a stranger’s resume.

How does it sound?

Do you trust that person?

If not, your resume won’t make it past the trash heap.

2. Play to the Medium

The paper resume is nearly non-existent.

Almost nobody sends a resume on a piece of 94 white paper to a company through the snail mail.

Instead we have digital resumes sent through emails.

But even those are disappearing.

Now we have resumes that are uploaded to job sites or a company’s HR department webpage.

Classically-formatted resumes


are passé.

They are being replaced by online forms that request specific information and don’t care that you like to paint calligraphy on the weekends.

Recognize the change in medium. Don’t try to fit the round peg of your old resume into the new square hole of requirements.

3. Highlight Experience

Your real-world translation experiences will trump translation training every time.

As a hiring manager, I’m going to trust someone with experience over someone with a translation degree every time.

Your translation degree does not tell me that you can translate what I need translated.

It does not tell me that you even understand the specialized vocabulary used in the document I need translated.

However, someone with language experience in that specialization will get a second look.

If you show me through your resume that you have experience translating for real-world clients, you will most likely get a second look.

What this means is that you shouldn’t pursue a translation degree or certificate in order to avoid real-world translation experience.

Finding clients is going to be a much better use of your time than getting a translation degree.

4. Respect Prior Clients

Don’t ever include information in your resume about previous clients that you shouldn’t include.

If you’ve worked for a super-cool client but you’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement with that company, don’t overstep the details of that agreement.

That’s a surefire recipe for making sure your resume gets sent to the trash heap and that you never get work again.

I am not going to be impressed that you translated for Apple or Google if you tell me things about the job that you shouldn’t have.

I’m going to be disgusted.

And then I might tell Apple or Google how much you suck.

5. Customize

Your resume shouldn’t be the same for every person or company you’re hoping to work with.

Every client is different.

Each client has different needs.

Why would you not tailor each resume to highlight the individual ways you can solve the language problems of that particular business or person?

And don’t think that changing a few words is customizing.

Nobody is fooled by that, except you.

6. Favor the Sniper Approach

I get resumes all the time from translators.

(Nevermind the fact that I never have ever asked for resumes before.)

But  I get resumes all the time.

My email address is on the BCC line.

Shotgun Approach to resumes
An example of the Shotgun Approach to sending out translation resumes.

Janet sent this same email to hundreds of other people.

Maybe thousands of other people.

She doesn’t know (or care) whether I’m a Sir or a Madam.

She lost trust from her email header and that was before I even read anything on her resume!

Use the Sniper Approach with resumes.

Know your target.

Know who you’ve got in your sights.

If you do that, then you might get a hit.

7. Focus on Solutions

What problem can you solve?

How can you improve the life of the client?

Can you make them more money?

Will hiring you give them more time?

Will it provide freedom?

How about convenience?

It doesn’t matter what problem you solve; what matters is that you are helping the client with something.

8. Tell the Truth

Don’t lie.

Don’t exaggerate your skills, your accomplishments, your abilities.

It’ll be found out eventually.

Thamsanqa Jantjie, anyone?

9. Care for the Client

A client doesn’t care about you. He cares about himself.

He only cares about you in determining whether or not you can help him take care of himself.

So stop focusing on yourself.

Let’s go back to Janet.

Here’s the first paragraph of her resume/email she sent to me (out of the blue).

Screen Shot 2017-01-04 at 10.38.38 PM

Let’s see how many times Janet talks about herself:

  • my name is…
  • my mother tongue is…
  • I am an…
  • I have more…
  • I am interested…
  • my professional services…
  • I have a…
  • I check my…
  • I can be…

In two sentences, Janet mentions herself 9 times.

Nine times!!

In two sentences!!!

Guess how many times she mentions me, the potential client?


The fourth word from the end of the paragraph.

Lest you think I’m picking on poor Janet because she’s Chinese, here’s an introductory letter/resume i received (again, unsolicited) from a French translator:

Screen Shot 2017-01-04 at 10.46.06 PM

On one pass through I counted 13 instances of me, me, me.

She doesn’t focus on me at all.

So there it is.

No matter what your resume looks like, make sure it focuses on your potential client.

Solve problems.

Do that and your resume will stand out.

Until next time.

P.S. To make your resume really stand out, put it on your own webpage using Bluehost.

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