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Posted on20 October 2015

Translation Agency Tips: #1 How is your CV these days?

CV Top Tips, atlas translations, translation work, agency, freelance linguists, clare suttie
Thanks for checking out our blog series on tips for language professionals! While we appreciate that freelance linguists are of course experts in their respective disciplines, we’ve learnt a thing or two since we opened for business in 1991, and so we wanted to put together this list which will hopefully be of help to freelancers of all levels of experience. And if you have anything to add to the conversation, please leave a comment at the bottom of the page!

I regularly meet talented and interesting translators and people who want to get into (more) freelance translation and interpreting, and they ask for my advice. After running Atlas for 25 years, I have plenty to offer!

My first request is to see a CV. If you want to succeed in this field, this is what people will look at first, and this is how they will judge you. Your CV needs to be:

  • Perfect (no spelling errors) and beautifully laid out – easy to read and pick out key points
  • Clear and to the point (only 2 pages max please)
  • Professional – look like the translator/interpreter you are – promote yourself!

What I find over and over again, is that translators and interpreters do not present themselves on paper as well as they could. Your CV is such an important document – so you do need to invest time and effort to make sure it shines.

Clare’s Top Tips….

The name of your CV document

Good : Clare_Suttie English to French translator 2012.doc
Bad : CS CV vers 4.doc
Even worse : CV.doc

Have a header, which will appear at the top of each page (remember, 2 pages maximum is best).

Example: Clare Suttie, English to French Translator, BA, MA, Dip Trans, MITI

With these simple steps you are telling the reader who you are and what you do very quickly – before they have even opened or read your CV!

General layout

This should be simple and clear, easy to follow and easy to read. Not a tiny font. Not text-heavy with long sentences and paragraphs. Bullet points will help, but don’t go crazy and bullet point your life!As a freelancer you should be aiming to update your CV on a regular basis, at least annually – so it’s best to have it in a format that is easy to update. If you set up a complicated layout, it can become cumbersome to maintain. Use colour sparingly and seek honest opinion if you are experimenting with design.

Photo or not to photo

The jury’s out on this one! In some countries it is expected. I can’t help thinking that people make assumptions and judgements based on what you look like. If you are sending CVs in the UK, do not include a photo is my advice. And if you do use one, make it a professional one. Though I have seen one memorable CV where the translator is holding a goat…

Contact details

These days you can choose whether to include your postal address or not. Personally I’d usually recommend including it, as it can give you a common interest with the reader if they know the area.

You do need to include phone number, email address(es). Make sure your email address is professional. If it’s one you set up as a bit of a joke, then set up a new one for work!

Good email address:
Bad email address:

Add in Skype, Twitter, Blogs etc. as long as these are in keeping with your professional image. Also include any professional memberships here (they may also be in your header, no harm in mentioning them again briefly for emphasis).


This may not be a large section, but it’s worth including – clearly an employer will be expecting you to be able to use email and Word, but add in other programs such as PowerPoint and any CAT tools you may have used. Note that you do need to be a confident user of any CAT tool you mention – some agencies will provide licenses for projects, so even if you don’t currently have the software, it is worth mentioning.

OK, you’ve got this far. What next? Well, many people include their education next. I would tell you not to do this – put your Professional Experience next. So many people hide away amazing experience on a second or even third page.

Other experience

Many of our translators and interpreters have fascinating backgrounds before they fell into the freelance life. For your second page, I would go on to include this. It’s part of who you are, and has contributed to your skills.

Add in any relevant details here. You can decide how many of your previous lives to include. It’s probably time to ditch your teenage years as a babysitter, and your school work experience!


OK, now you can add in your educational achievements!

Recent training and CPD

Any successful translator or interpreter will tell you that in these professions, you need to keep yourself up to date – and that means CPD. There is a lot out there at no or low cost, so there’s no excuse not to join in. Having this section and updating it shows your clients that you are a real professional. It also ensures you won’t get left behind. You don’t even have to leave home to keep up with CPD – you can do online seminars and courses.


Another can of worms! I say DO add in hobbies – it’s interesting, and who knows, if you’re an expert knitter, a scuba diver or a MasterChef finalist, there may just be a job that comes in which is ideal for you!


These may be “upon request” or with contact details, but they should be included. And if you add in their details, please remember to make sure that they are happy to give references – it is a courtesy to let people know if you are having a campaign to find new clients so they are aware they may get a call or email. If they are forewarned, they are much more likely to respond quickly to any subsequent requests. It sounds obvious, but we do contact referees and sometimes they are not prepared to provide a reference for an applicant, which is embarrassing for all parties and doesn’t reflect well on you and your CV!


Your CV should be updated regularly – give it a spruce up at least every six months.

I advise listing all the projects you do to include subject area, language and word counts/hours. This way you can really see where your specialist areas lie – and if you have gained a new specialism.

I’d love to hear what you think about CVs – will they ever be redundant as we begin to rely on other ways of promoting ourselves? Have you seen some amazing CVs? We welcome your comments!

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