How to Write A Winning Translator’s CV

By Chiara Grassilli
In Getting Started
May 27th, 2013

Translator’s CV – Interview with Alejandra Villanueva



Do you want to know how the perfect translator’s CV should look like?

Do you want to know what a project manager does and what she or he is looking for in a translator’s CV?

Listen to this interview with Alejandra Villanueva, English-Spanish translator and project manager who gives you the tips you need to prepare your CV and obtain a collaboration with a translation agency.

If you want to create a CV that gets you hired by translation agencies, enroll in the course Create a CV that will get you work from translation agencies.


Transcript of the interview

Chiara – Hi everyone, I’m Chiara and this is Today I am with Alejandra Villanueva, an Argentinian translator living in the UK. Welcome Alejandra, it is a pleasure to be with you today.

Alejandra – Hi Chiara.

C. – Tell us a little bit about you, how did you become a translator and what is your specialization.

A. – OK. I’m from Argentinian. After I finished high school I went to the university and I decided to become an English translator. The university course here is 5 years. So I completed my course and I really enjoyed the time although it was quite difficult. The main specialization after you graduate from the university is legal. In Argentina there are different regulations, so only people with a specific degree are allowed to do a legal translation. So I can say that my main specialization is legal. Then, after some years, I got really curious about the medical field. So I started investigating a little bit more about the medical field. Unfortunately I haven’t found any course, any Master’s degree in medical translation but I really wanted to work in this field. So I started reading, getting documents to translate, I attended different conferences specialized in medical translation, so I can say that those two are the main fields I mainly deal with.

C. – I like very much your presentation on LinkedIn where you write that your goal is to keep learning and facilitating the communication among cultures. I also had a look at your website where you write that translation is a bridge between cultures. So how do you see the role of the translator, is he a communicator, a facilitator, a technician…how do you define his role?

A. – I think we are facilitators because we are giving and providing information to an audience that probably cannot have access to that information in the language that it was written in. For example, people in South America or Spain, if they don’t know English there is no way for them to have access to that information. So in that sense I think it is a great role, and it is really important, although sometimes it is overlooked. We are in the shadow, in the documents and texts we translate.

C. – You started to work as a freelancer. How did you find your first clients?

A. – I can say that I was lucky. I have a friend, she is older than me and she was a translator at the time I started. When I got my first clients I was a student and I got but clients through her. So I can say that thanks to her (her name is Marian) I started using CAT tools, I was in touch with technology, I knew what the requirements of the industry were at the time, I could ask her how to charge a job. Sometimes when you are a students and you are starting you don’t get that information at the university. Somehow now it is easier, because we have the internet. At the time there weren’t many blogs or websites for translation so it was mainly just finding a good professional with experience in the field that could share that with me. I was lucky in that sense.

C. –  So she was a sort of mentor for you.

A. – Yes.

C. – How did you market yourself, how did you promote yourself as a freelancer to find clients?

A. – I started building my profile in different websites, that was the first thing to do. The most important thing is to put your contact information. Be precise about documents that you have translated or your fields of expertise. And that’s it mainly, this is how I started.

C. – After working as a freelancer you became also a project manager right? So you have experience in both roles. What does a project manager do exactly?

A. – We deal with clients directly, that’s really important. We are in the negotiation process, we prepare estimates, we see the different factors that are involved in a project. We analyse all the possible factors: if it’s a difficult area of expertise, if it is a rare language, if it is a rush project or we have some flexibility from the client. Than we see who is the best provider for the specific task. We can say that we put all the pieces together to make a good match and to give the best quality to our clients.

C. – What does it happen if you have to deal with languages you don’t understand?

A. – Well, this happens most of the cases. In my case besides the western languages, we see a lot, lot of requests into Asian languages, Japanese, Chinese, Korean. In this case a project manager won’t deal with any linguistic task, because obviously we don’t handle those languages. The key point is to have very good providers that will be in charge of the translation, edition, proofreading, and make sure that there is very good communication between them, and that you are part of the process. Obviously any communication between them is done in English, and you are copying everything in emails just to keep a record and see what is going on with the project. It is not a problem, it is something that you can do easily if you have a good professional team.

C. – If you have to look for translators in languages you don’t know, so people who probably you don’t know, how do you find them? What are the criteria you use to choose the professionals you work with?

A. – I haven’t had that situation yet. I mean, when I started working with this translation agency as a project manager, they already had very good database of providers. What happens to me is that if a provider that was in our top list couldn’t take the task because he or she was busy, we give a test to a new provider and we ask the senior provider to give us a feedback of the proficiency of that provider in that specific language. You need to have a senior provider that you trust and that you know is a professional linguist with experience or education in the area. And you need to give a test, you need to make sure that the person you are choosing, beside having a fantastic CV, actually can provide a good translation or editing or proofreading.

C. – How many CVs do you receive from freelancers?

A. – Really? Thousands! No, let’s say 30, 35 daily.

C. – And what does it happens with those CVs? Do you put them in a database and then when you need that language pair you get in touch with them?

A. – Yes, I do, I do if I see..I mean, after a few years of looking at CVs you just get the idea of who can be a good providers. We are linguists, so we should be able to produce a good CV, that’s the first thing to judge. If we are not able to write your own CV properly, what can you expect apart from that? So you can tell who are valuable future providers. In that case I put them in a database. I just reject resumes that do not include the language combinations. I don’t want to spend time looking through the CV to find the language combinations. That should be included in the subject and the same time if I see a cover letter that is endless, I don’t have time to read and go through all that information. I just need key information, languages, if you use CAT tools..that’s it.

C. – How long should the right CV be?

A. – A cover letter shouldn’t be more than one page, so no more than around 450 words. A CV… I mean, if you are an experienced translator, I don’t need to know where you went to primary school. Sorry… So it should be straight to the point, probably 2 pages, 2 pages and a half. it is more than enough. At the same time you don’t need to have just one CV, you should have more than one, according to the job you are applying for.

C. – What about the experience factor? Because a lot of people who want to start in translation don’t have the experience, and to get the experience they need to be hired or to find some clients, but the client will not hire them because they don’t have experience. This is the main trick..

A. – Yes, that’s true. Here we hire junior translators all the time, especially for generic fields, general knowledge or text that are not very complicated. Obviously if we receive a document that is very technical, about nuclear machinery for example, we need someone who has the knowledge. But we have a lot of different projects so junior translators are welcome all the time.

C. – Is it complicated to open a translation agency in the UK? Because this is what you are doing, you are opening your translation agency if I got it right. Is it very complicated?

A. – I don’t think so. Fortunately here you have a lot of information and a lot of help for small businesses. There is a very useful website where you can get a lot of training. Probably in our case, since we are linguist, we don’t know much about legal or financial aspects. But you have this website, I think it is, it is done by the government so it is a non-profit website, with all the information you need, you have a phone line there so if you have a doubt you can call them and they will help you. So I think it is quite simple and straight forward.

C. – There are some countries where opening a company is really complicated, even a small company. But luckily in the UK is really different, and it seems it is quite easy actually.

A. – Yes, you receive the help that you need. Here they try to encourage small businesses and entrepreneurs to create new businesses.

C. – What is the aspect of your job you enjoy the most?

A. – To be honest is the mix. In general in the morning I love translating, I love editing. I really enjoy having these really interesting medical researches and at the same time you learn a lot. So I really enjoy the academic part. And in the afternoon I have something more client-related or more interactive with people, which sometimes we translators miss. You may enjoy to deal with a very interesting topic but then you realise you’ve sat there for 6 hours totally alone in front of your laptop. So for me it is a good balance, a little bit of both.

C. – OK, that’s great Alejandra, thank you very much, thank you for your time and for sharing your experience with us.

A. – You’re very welcome and thank you for having me.

C. – Can you remember the name of your website?

A. – Sure. It is

C. – OK. That’s perfect. That’s all, thank you so much and until next time.

A. – OK, bye.

If you want to create a CV that gets you hired by translation agencies, enroll in the course

Create a CV that will get you work from translation agencies

Sign up and receive weekly tips to get started in translation

Sign up and receive free weekly tips

No spam, we promise.

About "" Has 117 Posts

Since an early age I have been passionate about languages. I hold a Master's degree in Translation and Interpreting, and I have worked as a freelance translator for several years. I specialize in Marketing, Digital Marketing, Web and Social Media. I love blogging and I also run the blog

14 Responses to “How to Write A Winning Translator’s CV”

  1. Jaber says:

    Grazie Chiara

  2. augusta says:

    thank you, it was nice to take a break and listen to some professional advice! 🙂

  3. Tereza says:

    thanks Chiara, I’m going to improve my CV right away 🙂

  4. Thierry Jamez says:

    Dear Chiara,

    A perfect translator’s cv should be like a LinkedIn profile:
    ==> adapted to the reader
    – language – wording
    – structure – length – details

  5. windhof says:

    For the US market my answer would be: it should not be a CV but rather a one page résumé!

  6. […] you do not want to work as a freelancer, you might want to know how to write a translator CV, and what a project manager is looking for when recruiting a translator. Take 10 minutes to listen […]

  7. Gabriel says:

    Good article, and the audio track is a very nice touch!

  8. Rafaella Branco says:

    Your blog is just very revealing, amazing!!!

Leave a Reply to windhof Cancel reply