Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Forgotten anything?

I've written before of how some translators could improve their résumés when they contact translation companies searching for jobs.

It is also important, however, to write a good cover message: short, polite, and to the point. The cover message should entice the recipient to ask for more information or to read an attached résumé. It should not be a  generic "Dear Sir or Madam".

The worst example I've received recently is this (reproduced here in its entirety):

Dear Madam, Sir,
Fnd attached the documents for me to apply as a freelance translator ENG to FR. If you need more infos, do not hesitate to contact me.

Never mind the "Fnd" and the "infos": the message does not mention any specialization, any reason why we should choose this particular translator (if we were looking for one), nor any reason for reading the various files attached. He even forgot to sign his message!

As translators we too often forget we are writers, and, as writers, we should craft our messages carefully, then edit them until they sound natural and look interesting (especially if they are sales messages). It takes time to write an e-mail so well that it looks as if it had been jotted down effortlessly.


Just to show that such messages can easily be improved, another one received today:

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am a full-time professional English <> Xxxxx freelance translator with over 15 years of experience in Financial, legal, technical, educational, and general subjects.

I am thorough, accurate and reliable, with good interpersonal, verbal and written communication skills. A perfectionist with great attention to detail, which makes me a very good proofreader/editor, I am committed to consistent quality and customer satisfaction.

Deadlines are always met. I am professional, flexible and easy to do business with.

I work with the following programs: Trados, SDLX, Wintrans, InDesign, Frame Maker, Illustrator,etc.

Please, see attached my CV for further information.

Look forward to hearing from you soon!

Best regards,

[Translator’s name, e-mail address and phone number]

Certainly not perfect - the message is addressed to “Sir or Madam”, the mention of “general subjects” is always superfluous, and there is a bit too much corporate-speak in “I am comitted to … customer satisfaction” – but this is much better than the first example.

For more on poorly crafted cold-call messages, and how to avoid some serious errors, see Judy and Dagmar Jenner’s "How Not to Manage Your Customer Relationships", in Translation Times.


  1. Great post, thank you!
    Any ideas on how to address e-mails when we don't know the addresse's name? Agencies' websites often include a rrhh@ or jobs@ but don't say to whom we should address our e-mails...

  2. In some instances, looking a bit through the agency's site can help you find that information (for example: in our own company's website we give the names of all four partners).

    In general, however, I suggest calling the company to ask what's their preferred contact method, whether it would be all right to send them a message with your information, and if there is a person in particular to which a message should be sent.

    If the translation company uses other methods to collect information from prospective translators (e.g., to fill in a form on line), it is pointless to write to them - the most you can get back, in those instances, is an invitation to fill in the form.

    If you attend translation conferences and meet translation companies representatives, there, get their business cards, and ask them what's the preferred method to submit an application to them. If they tell you to send it to them, you already have their names (in that case, remind them of your meeting in your message); otherwise, again, follow their preferred method for handling applications.


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