How top translation agencies select the best translators

person wearing brown and white watchIn this tough economic climate, countries must attract world audiences in order to meet business goals and ensure continuous profit. This is why high quality and fast translations are all the more important. Businesses often entrust translation agencies with this feat, who in turn must hire talented and specialized translators. The market is full of qualified language professionals, so the real challenge is finding the right ones by submitting applicants to rigorous hiring procedures.

How translation agencies assess industry knowledge and experience

Translators with all levels of experience have a place in this industry, though most vendors look for at least two years of proven work. Though the more years the better, translators with less experience aren’t in any less demand, as they generally work for slightly lower fees, making them desired commodities. Novice translators may be great at providing machine translation post-editing, while a veteran may be more apt for literary translations.

The bottom line for many agencies is that the translator should have at least 500,000 translated words during the course of their translation career.

A good translation background is only one side of the token. Vendors also look for valuable and hands-on industry experience in their field of specialization. This will ensure that delivered texts are more contextually appropriate and not written about in theory or only based on research. Those who lack that insider knowledge should make an effort to take part in webinars, read articles, master the jargon, and keep their knowledge up to speed.

A language service provider that focuses heavily on software, app and game localization may require the translator to play the game in question prior to translation. As a result, those who are not necessarily specialists are immersed in the product in order to provide the best texts. IT translators must be very knowledgeable about the topic to even qualify to do translations in this sector.

Vendors will also ask for examples of past translation work, references and a short CV with the most crucial information. They examine the translator’s portfolio carefully to ensure they fit the bill.

Computer skills: why linguistic affinity is not enough

In addition to translation and industry experience, technology plays a huge role. Computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools, cloud platforms, tools for editing files in different encodings and machine translation software are a central part of the work. This is why translation companies usually ask for experience with more than one of these tools. In addition, the localization of websites, software, apps and games often require advanced IT and developer knowledge by both the translator and the translation agency.

Educational background

Do translation agencies prefer a university degree and other types of certification?

Education is a big part of a translator’s success and having the right set of credentials is important to recruiters. Without vocational training, aspiring translators may find it hard to land jobs.

However, there are many cases where people have worked years within a specific industry, like in medicine or marketing, who transition to translation by learning the trade through various online translation courses. Next, they apply for a translator certification from a recognized association.

At many language service providers, both university-trained and industry specialists are accepted. Successful translation agencies tend to only work with native speakers who translate into their mother tongue. They must also be fluent in the source languages.

How do translation agencies test freelancers?

There are two parts of the testing process: the actual translation test itself and questions about methodology and technology used by the candidate. Translation agencies may well ask the translator to complete the test within a cloud platform such as Crowdin. The quality of the test determines the hiring (or not) of the candidate. The best practice is to use a translation quality assessment to grade tests.

The Translation Quality Index is a quality assessment model originally created by the Localization Industry Standards Association (LISA), and it is based on quantitative assessment. Errors are divided into categories; each error is weighted. The weighted total number of errors is then subtracted from 100.

Usually translators are not interviewed, unless for an in-house position. The questions are therefore asked in the translation test. Some questions that a hiring or localization manager will ask are:

● How did you localize the content into your target language? What cultural and
situational elements did you consider?
● How long did it take to complete the translation?
● Which tools/dictionaries did they use to do the translation?
● Do they have any relevant comments regarding the texts or a section of the
text/word that they found difficult to translate?

How to test creativity and writing skills

In the case of transcreators or copywriters, and for certain types of translations, vendors also need to test the creative writing skills that a translator would have. They would need to take an original text and ensure that the target text they are creating is highly localized and readable for the target audience. Sometimes a lot of imagination goes into this type of work — like in order to convey humor.

Translation recruiting platforms

Many large translation agencies use platforms such as SmartCat to manage freelance talent. This slightly less personal approach is due to the fact that companies of large size simply cannot handle the sea of freelance applications.

There are small or medium-sized agencies that are able to apply a more personalized and human approach. They have added confidence in their translators, who in turn lend a hand in promoting optimal quality assurance. The translation agency can find and assign the right translators to the right tasks based on individual expertise.

In sum

By assessing education, credentials, experience, industry knowledge and computer skills, translation agencies are able to hire the best talent for their projects. This, along with quality assurance methods, guarantees the high quality of the work their translators and other freelancers are able to deliver. Companies are then treated with highly localized and accurate texts for new international audiences in order to maintain business goals throughout any tough economic situation.

Loïe Favre
Loïe Favre is a localization expert at Alconost, a US localization company that specializes in software, apps and game translations whose aim is to disseminate useful information about the translation industry for language professionals, localization managers and companies. Originally from Canada, she has worked for ten years as a translator and translation manager.


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