How to pass an assessment translation test and get hired (advice)
מפרסם התגובה: Silvia B.

Silvia B.
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Aug 18, 2018

Hi everyone,

I have been working for many years as a MFL teacher and I have many years experience as a reviewer and proofreader, but I would like to have a career change and work as a (in house) translator/transcreator. To this purpose I am specialising in the translation field (audiovisual and localisation, in particular), attending a Master which is going to finish in a couple of months. Meanwhile I have been volonteering as a translator in order to gain experience in this field b
... See more
Hi everyone,

I have been working for many years as a MFL teacher and I have many years experience as a reviewer and proofreader, but I would like to have a career change and work as a (in house) translator/transcreator. To this purpose I am specialising in the translation field (audiovisual and localisation, in particular), attending a Master which is going to finish in a couple of months. Meanwhile I have been volonteering as a translator in order to gain experience in this field because I am aware that without experience any opportunity to get a job would be close to zero.

I have started to apply for some positions which reflect my ideal field, and although I have almost always been contacted and passed the (phone) interview, my applications have been unsuccessful so far because of the assessment translation tests. I have always asked for specific feedback, but apart from 'It is difficult to make a choice among high caliber candidates, but in this occasion we found a candidate with slightly more aligned experience' and similar 'silken phrases', I didn't get any constructive feedback to improve. (I understand that is not an HR task to give specific feedback because their purpose is to hire someone suitable for the position they need, but in some cases it would be very helpful to receive the correct translation test back, at least).

For this reason I am writing this post. I would like to ask you, more experienced translators (especially Project Managers), any advice on how to pass a test and get hired. What is your experience? What should I do before completing the test? Usually I do a lot of research on the company, checking their websites, their tone of voice, etc, but apparently is not enough and my approach is wrong.

I am very grateful for any suggestion you would like to give me to improve and get hired next time.

Have a great day!

Silvia

(I don't know if this is the right topic to write in, if don't, please staff member/administrator feel free to move my post in a more appropriate topic)



[Edited at 2018-08-19 13:21 GMT]
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Ousmane Faanah Barry
 

Tom in London
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That's why--- Aug 19, 2018

That's why most of us here (it seems to me) hate these tests and generally refuse to do them.

Fariborz Didaran
Robert Forstag
Patrick Hideo Kirby
 

Kay-Viktor Stegemann
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Local time: 20:31
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inhouse vs. freelancer Aug 19, 2018

Tom, Silvia is talking about applying for an inhouse position, not about testing for freelancers. I believe most of the forum people here are freelancers (correct me if I'm wrong), so the experience with applying for inhouse positions might be limited. But I imagine that the assessment for inhouse people is different and more strict than the assessment of freelancers. Hiring an employee involves more risks than contracting a freelancer, you can always drop a freelancer at a moment's notice if th... See more
Tom, Silvia is talking about applying for an inhouse position, not about testing for freelancers. I believe most of the forum people here are freelancers (correct me if I'm wrong), so the experience with applying for inhouse positions might be limited. But I imagine that the assessment for inhouse people is different and more strict than the assessment of freelancers. Hiring an employee involves more risks than contracting a freelancer, you can always drop a freelancer at a moment's notice if things don't work out. And the selection process for an inhouse position is also stricter because in most cases, you are hiring only one person, while it might be quite feasible to accept more than one freelancer if you find several of the candidates to your liking.

Anyway, simply refusing to do such a test might not be the ideal method to land the job...

Silvia, I believe that you are on the right track, you simply should not allow those results to discourage you. When people tell you that another candidate was just a little better, that might be the simple truth. If possible and permitted, you could ask another translator to check your test, to make sure that there is nothing wrong with your translation abilities.

At the same time, you might test the waters for actual freelancing. If you did volunteer work already (did you get any feedback on that?), you will probably have worked within some kind of projects managed by others, just like you would do when freelancing for agencies. Any particular reason why you are looking for an inhouse position instead of freelancing? With inhouse positions, you are restricted to employers within physical reach, while as a freelancer, you could work for the whole world (and you could start right away too)
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Lucien Rousseau
 

Tom in London
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Nevertheless Aug 19, 2018

Kay-Viktor Stegemann wrote:

Tom, Silvia is talking about applying for an inhouse position, not about testing for freelancers.


Nevertheless I think the same criticisms, often voiced in these forums, still apply. We never know who is assessing the test, whether they are competent to do so, and whether their assessment is objective; whether they themselves have proper mastery of the language, etc.


Robert Forstag
Trinidad Barranco Ruiz
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
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My understanding Aug 19, 2018

Kay-Viktor Stegemann wrote:
I imagine that the assessment for inhouse people is different and more strict than the assessment of freelancers. Hiring an employee involves more risks than contracting a freelancer, you can always drop a freelancer at a moment's notice if things don't work out. And the selection process for an inhouse position is also stricter because in most cases, you are hiring only one person, while it might be quite feasible to accept more than one freelancer if you find several of the candidates to your liking.

Unlike freelancers, who tend to specialise as far as possible, I believe employers almost always need an all-rounder. For them to see maximum ROI, they need that one person to be able to turn their hand to many things. They'd want someone who can handle several language pairs, translate in both directions, in just about any subject area that comes along, and handle the associated PM and DTP sides of things too. Of course, there would be a difference between the duties of an in-house translator at a major end user, and one in an agency. Agency jobs often mainly involve proofreading/QA, client sourcing and negotiation, and project management duties, I believe. It's the agency's network of freelancers who do the actual translating .

Any particular reason why you are looking for an inhouse position instead of freelancing? With inhouse positions, you are restricted to employers within physical reach, while as a freelancer, you could work for the whole world (and you could start right away too)

It is strange to hear someone looking for an in-house position nowadays. I can see the value as an internship during or directly following studies, as a form of mentoring, but it's difficult (for me, at least) to see any advantages after that - and easy to see a whole long list of disadvantages.


Evgeniya Khegay
 

Teresa Borges
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@Silvia Aug 19, 2018

Your approach isn’t necessarily wrong. In this profession we have to learn to handle multiple rejections with grace and ease, and be patient. I’m a freelancer now but I worked in-house as a Portuguese translator for 20 years, not in the private sector but in a European Institution. I took part in a rigorous open competition involving various stages of exam and tests that lasted over 5 months. Applicants who passed all these rounds were then placed on a reserve list from which the institution... See more
Your approach isn’t necessarily wrong. In this profession we have to learn to handle multiple rejections with grace and ease, and be patient. I’m a freelancer now but I worked in-house as a Portuguese translator for 20 years, not in the private sector but in a European Institution. I took part in a rigorous open competition involving various stages of exam and tests that lasted over 5 months. Applicants who passed all these rounds were then placed on a reserve list from which the institutions drew recruits as and when they needed them. I waited and waited till I lost all hope of being called, 3 years went by and then one day, out of the blue, I got a phone call…Collapse


 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:31
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Feedback Aug 20, 2018

My experience of translations tests is fairly similar. On the occasions when I have completed tests for agencies, if my test has not been successful, feedback has never been given. Before sending a test, one agency warned me that they do not provide feedback and that the reasons were quite straightforward. Having decided that the applicant did not match the criteria they were looking for, providing feeback simply generated an exchange of correspondence by e-mail that took time on both sides and ... See more
My experience of translations tests is fairly similar. On the occasions when I have completed tests for agencies, if my test has not been successful, feedback has never been given. Before sending a test, one agency warned me that they do not provide feedback and that the reasons were quite straightforward. Having decided that the applicant did not match the criteria they were looking for, providing feeback simply generated an exchange of correspondence by e-mail that took time on both sides and that would not change their decision. Basically, they had started out be giving feedback but ended up spending so much time when applicants contested the corrections to the test, that it was much better to be clear from the start that there would be none.
Years ago, I did get feedback from an agency that rejected my application. The correction had been done by a non-native speaker of English. Some very basic legal terms had been replaced by some very typical false friends that only a native speaker of French could have suggested. I was disappointed but realised that we could not have had a trusting and respectful working relationship anyway.

I know your context is different, as you are applying for an in-house job. However, I imagine that the basic principle is the same. Feedback might not help you understand much anyway as it is possible that your test has been assessed by a non-native in which case the correction would be more frustrating to read than instructive. Some agencies grade the test; maybe they all do, I don't know. When my tests as a freelancer have been accepted, I understood that the grade of the test can represent the extent to which the agency expects to have to revise the work when submitted for proofreading.

Perhaps you are not far off yet and the lucky break is just around the corner. Maybe timing is bad, as at this time of year, those having completed their courses are all just coming onto the market, so I suspect there are a lot more applications at this time. Why not apply to smaller agencies a few months from now?

The awkward reality is also that among candidates applying, there may be a number of candidates who are more experienced. It is very tough getting a foothold, but keep trying, perhaps targetting agencies who specialize in your specialist fields.

[Edited at 2018-08-20 09:00 GMT]
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Silvia B.
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Thank you Aug 20, 2018

First of all, thank very much for having devoted some of your time to reply me.

My aim in the future would be to work as a freelance translator, but it is difficult to start, especially as a career change. It takes time (when not ages!) to gain a number of (reasonable) clients in order to live with this job, for this reason I am looking for an in-house position. This way I can have a salary at the end of every month, pay my bills, and meanwhile gain experience in the sector.
... See more
First of all, thank very much for having devoted some of your time to reply me.

My aim in the future would be to work as a freelance translator, but it is difficult to start, especially as a career change. It takes time (when not ages!) to gain a number of (reasonable) clients in order to live with this job, for this reason I am looking for an in-house position. This way I can have a salary at the end of every month, pay my bills, and meanwhile gain experience in the sector.

As freelancers, I understand your point about refusing to do tests, but usually these tests/assessments are part of the hiring process for in-house positions and if you refuse to do it, you are automatically rejected. Honestly, I don't mind to be assessed this way, as long as I can have a (detailed) feedback; however, I understand the employers's point that giving feedback to every candidate is time consuming for them.

@Nikki Thank you very much for telling me your experience, which helped me a lot to have an idea about how things work. I will follow Kay-Viktor and your suggestions and I will apply to small agencies, trying to get some small freelance jobs, although I am aware that there is a great competion in the field. Will see what happen.

Would you all suggest me to take advantage of the Proz Mentoring program service?

Ancora Grazie mille a tutti

Silvia
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John Fossey  Identity Verified
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Freelance vs in-house Aug 20, 2018

Sheila Wilson wrote:

It is strange to hear someone looking for an in-house position nowadays. I can see the value as an internship during or directly following studies, as a form of mentoring, but it's difficult (for me, at least) to see any advantages after that - and easy to see a whole long list of disadvantages.


Freelancing is definitely not for everyone. Many of my clients (not agencies) are large companies with an in-house translation department. Their in-house translators are corporate employees, and enjoy the relatively stress-free environment of a corporate job, along with the job security, social benefits and steady hours that result. They outsource their overflow so their in-house translators have a steady workload.

[Edited at 2018-08-20 14:30 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
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There are many ways to enter the translation world Aug 20, 2018

John Fossey wrote:
Freelancing is definitely not for everyone. Many of my clients (not agencies) are large companies with an in-house translation department. Their in-house translators are corporate employees, and enjoy the relatively stress-free environment of a corporate job, along with the job security, social benefits and steady hours that result. They outsource their overflow so their in-house translators have a steady workload.

Yes, I suppose it works for some. Personally, I was reasonably happy working for Shell for over 10 years when I was young - not as a translator - but I actually found it incredibly stressful, with the rules, the office politics, the commuting, the inability to get the smallest non-job thing done that had to be done in office hours, etc. Once I'd experienced being my own boss, I would never, ever, have gone back to employment. I'd rather deal with a type of stress that I can manage in some way. But I do of course accept that we're all different.

I didn't think any large companies had translation departments nowadays. I do remember Shell outsourcing everything at one time. Maybe that trend passed and big companies have brought such service departments back in-house.

Silvia B. wrote:
Would you all suggest me to take advantage of the Proz Mentoring program service?

If you can find one who has work to outsource to you and contacts to share with you, as well as critiquing your work, that would be a great way to start. Some mentors outsource work; others don't. Another alternative is to find part-time work to supplement income from translation - anything to bring in regular income. My own "in" was by teaching part-time in local businesses and translating part-time - doing both jobs on a freelance basis - until the translating was taking most of my time. Nowadays, a teacher can check their smartphone in lesson breaks, so they're never completely out of touch with clients.


 

Richard Purdom  Identity Verified
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Try freelancing Aug 20, 2018

Silvia B. wrote:

First of all, thank very much for having devoted some of your time to reply me.

My aim in the future would be to work as a freelance translator, but it is difficult to start, especially as a career change. It takes time (when not ages!) to gain a number of (reasonable) clients in order to live with this job, for this reason I am looking for an in-house position. This way I can have a salary at the end of every month, pay my bills, and meanwhile gain experience in the sector.

As freelancers, I understand your point about refusing to do tests, but usually these tests/assessments are part of the hiring process for in-house positions and if you refuse to do it, you are automatically rejected. Honestly, I don't mind to be assessed this way, as long as I can have a (detailed) feedback; however, I understand the employers's point that giving feedback to every candidate is time consuming for them.


Silvia


Hi Silvia, I really think it would be easier for you to get some freelance work than an in-house position. The outlay is low, you'll find out if the job's for you, and you can keep looking for in-house work while building up your CV.

Unlike others, I'll usually do translation tests and don't mind at all. It's mainly useful for getting new clients, updating rates (!), and getting a wider choice of work. Only once have I had a negative response and no feedback, which I reckon is the utmost in disrespect.
I suggest you carry on as you are, but state when asked about doing a test that you don't mind as long as you get some constructive feedback. It's a great way of finding out what others expect. Maybe it's difficult to get on the first rung of the ladder, but still absolutely possible, irrespective of your age.
Good luck!

[Edited at 2018-08-20 15:42 GMT]


Jessica Glanz
Kay-Viktor Stegemann
 

Jessica Glanz  Identity Verified
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Using freelance work to show you're ready for in-house work Aug 21, 2018

The benefits of a job as an in-house translator are unfortunately not much help if you can't get your foot in the door!

As Richard says, it may be worth trying to get some freelancing work while you apply for permanent positions. While you're unlikely to get rich, it'll still add a little to your income*, and you'll be able to talk about your freelance work in interviews. Hopefully, it'll show employers that you have experience working with agencies and have an idea of what their ne
... See more
The benefits of a job as an in-house translator are unfortunately not much help if you can't get your foot in the door!

As Richard says, it may be worth trying to get some freelancing work while you apply for permanent positions. While you're unlikely to get rich, it'll still add a little to your income*, and you'll be able to talk about your freelance work in interviews. Hopefully, it'll show employers that you have experience working with agencies and have an idea of what their needs are - not just in terms of the quality of translations but also things like turnaround and cost.

The no-experience barrier is tough when you're new, but it sounds like you've done the right thing by volunteering and developing your skills. Some agencies have "Junior Translator" programmes aimed at translators who are still studying or just starting out. The rates will be low, but in return you can expect to get feedback on your work - which might be just what you're after. And as you're studying, it may be worth approaching one of your tutors for feedback if interviewers won't give it.

It could also just be that you're applying for a very specific type of role. I would imagine people with an advertising background have an advantage over translators without one, even if their work is top-notch. With the background you've described, I would have thought you'd be quite attractive for more general translation work - you might need to broaden your search a little before specialising again once you've found a less specific job in an agency.


* To an extent this does depend on where you live - it's possible that things like having to cover your own health insurance make it really expensive to start out.
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Georgie Scott  Identity Verified
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No feedback is often good feedback Aug 22, 2018

It may be that your translations are fine and someone else simply seemed a better fit. Finding a job is really hard. A lot of it can come down to luck, especially if the company has to choose from a number of qualified candidates. Keep working on perfecting your CV and cover letters, and developing your skills, and don't let it affect your confidence.

I suspect that the translation test is one of the least important parts of the hiring process. Irreproachable organizational skills,
... See more
It may be that your translations are fine and someone else simply seemed a better fit. Finding a job is really hard. A lot of it can come down to luck, especially if the company has to choose from a number of qualified candidates. Keep working on perfecting your CV and cover letters, and developing your skills, and don't let it affect your confidence.

I suspect that the translation test is one of the least important parts of the hiring process. Irreproachable organizational skills, strong interpersonal skills, the ability to work under pressure, mediate and make difficult decisions are presumably all far more important. I'm fairly certain that most PMs I work with only take a cursory look at the work they send and receive.

Asking for advice here is a good start for working out what you need to do. Also try and go to some trade events, where you will be able to meet people working in agencies and ask them what sort of thing they are looking for. Just asking that question will increase your chances of getting work.

I think the three most important things a potential employer wants to know about you are: Has this person listened to and understood what I need from them? Are they capable of delivering that, if not immediately at least in the medium term? Will they fit in with the rest of the team? Then you just have to hope your profile catches their eye. I once got a job because the director - a fellow cyclist - wanted to know why I cycled the length of France but abandoned the trip once I crossed the border into Italy. Pure chance. Few people have taken an interest in that since.

Lastly, there is no harm in giving them a call and politely asking what you can do to improve your profile. It's a mistake to assume this isn't part of recruiters' job description. Lots of people do it. Just don't ask in a way that makes it sound like you were in some way entitled to the position.

Edited to say: you can press them a little on "more aligned experience", asking questions like, "What do you feel is the most important quality in an employee?" and "What sort of background do you normally recruit from?" "What could I do to make myself a successful candidate for your company in the future?" Of course, lots of people won't take the time to give that much detail but there's no harm in trying. You seem to have a good head on your shoulders, I doubt they are just "silken phrases".

[Edited at 2018-08-22 08:51 GMT]
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