A CV may be just two pages long, but it’s one of the most deceiving documents a translator can work on. People often underestimate the complexity of making a good CV in another language. They think it’s a straight translation. The truth is, making a high-quality and effective CV in another language goes beyond translation and involves many steps that are often overlooked.
In this article I share four things you need to bear in mind when requesting the translation of your CV.
It’s not translation.
What we often refer to ‘CV translation’ isn’t translation; at least, not just translation.
Making a CV in another language (if made well), involves many tasks. These are, for example, the usual steps I take when translating a CV for a client:
1. Reading job descriptions of the role(s) you want to apply for.
If you want your CV to be effective, it needs to be specific and relevant to the role you’re applying for. A general CV listing everything you’ve done so far, from casual summer jobs to your latest managerial position abroad will look random. It won’t impress employers, as it will include unnecessary and irrelevant details. It will also make your CV longer, which is something you should always avoid. Reading job descriptions against your current CV helps me choose only relevant information and get acquainted with the specific terminology used in your field.
2. Selecting the information to include in your CV, and check if the current information available is sufficient.
Your current CV may lack some important information or details or may be poorly written. If that’s the case, I’ll need to contact you to clarify any points and ask for further details.
3. Finding equivalents for job titles, tasks and responsibilities, qualifications and specialised terminology in the target language and culture.
Not all the job titles have direct equivalents in another country. A job may be carried out by one person in the UK, but it may be carried out by two people under two different roles in Spain, for example. A translator needs to do extensive research to find equivalents or alternative translation solutions for job titles, tasks, qualifications, CPD courses, and abbreviations.
4. Translating the content to be included in your CV.
Once the key terminology has been researched, it’s time to translate the selected content into the target language.
5. Creating a comprehensive, yet brief and appealing profile description.
The profile section is probably the most important part of your CV and the first thing an employer sees. It needs to be concise while being comprehensive enough to encapsulate your experience and knowledge in 2-3 lines of text. It needs to say ‘I’m the right candidate for this position. Keep reading.’
6. Adding extra elements and information required or expected.
CV in different countries may include different elements. For example, the convention in the UK is to not include a photograph on your CV (recruiters want to avoid the possibility of any discrimination claims), any Spanish recruiter or employer will expect to see a picture of you on your CV.
7. Adapting the format, font, colours, etc.
To make your CV stand out, it may be necessary or advisable to adapt the format, re-arrange sections or change the font and the colours.
8. Re-writing and cutting out information or specific sections.
Your current CV in English may be two pages long but bear in mind the text may be shorter or longer when translated. For example, Spanish translations are usually 15-30% longer than the original English texts. Your CV in Spanish will run over two and a half pages now, so your translator will have some tough work to do here reading, cutting out and re-writing sections to shorten your CV. Sometimes, cutting out isn’t enough, and it will be necessary to tweak the font type or size and to play with margins and spacing.
9. Sending a first draft and receiving feedback.
10. Reading the client’s feedback and making any changes.
11. Reviewing the CV.
Once I’ve made any required changes, it’s time for review. I generally do several different reviews – one to check all the content is correct and terminology has been translated correctly; a second one to check the style and consistency; and a third one to check punctuation, spelling and key information (names, dates, contact details).
12. Sending the final version.
When your Spanish CV is ready to go, I send the final version in the agreed format, together with a list of the changes made to the first draft, and any comments or suggestions.
It’s not a quick job.
As you can see, translating a CV involves many tasks, and they all take time. Let’s use the process mentioned in the previous section to make a rough calculation of how long it can take (as an example) to translate a 2-page CV:
•Selecting the information to include in your CV.
•Research specialised terminology.
•Translating the content to be included in your CV.
•Creating a profile description.
•Adding extra elements and information required or expected.
•Adapting the format, font, colours, etc.
•Re-writing and cutting out information or specific sections.
•Sending a first draft and receiving feedback.
•Reading the client’s feedback and making any changes.
•Reviewing the CV.
•Sending the final version and comments.
This is just an estimate. It could take longer, if the CV is for someone looking for a highly-specialised role (think of engineers, IT specialists or financial advisors), but it will very rarely take much less, if all those steps are followed.
It’s not an easy or cheap job.
CVs may generally have two pages (or even one), but they’re the most deceiving two pages you can imagine. They’re packed with all sorts of specialised information requiring research and translation. The translator may need to contact you to ask for more context, clarification or information. Then there is the actual translation, formatting, re-writing, reviewing and so on, as seen above. Needless to say, you should stay away from automatic translation tools.
Don’t underestimate the time and effort needed to produce a high-quality and effective CV in another language and beware of surprisingly cheap (< £60) quotes. We’ve seen above that translating a two-page CV can take 6 hours, so do your sums when receiving quotes. And remember: the amount quoted doesn’t go straight to the translator’s pocket. It’s gross income, and taxes must be paid.
Getting your CV translated is an investment.
Poorly-written texts, typos, grammar and punctuation mistakes, Comic Sans, low-quality or inappropriate photographs, irrelevant personal details… I’ve seen them all, and I’m still surprised at how many people undervalue the importance of a good CV.
I give you an example:
Last year, I got contacted by a recent graduate with no professional experience, apart from an internship. She had been applying for entry-level jobs in the hospitality industry for several months, to no avail. She blamed her lack of experience for not receiving any calls for interviews, but I disagreed. She was applying for the right jobs, but with the wrong CV. It was poorly-written, poorly-formatted and it lacked essential information.
During a consultancy session, I went through her qualifications, experience and interests, and made a list of all the skills she had and that she didn’t include in her CV. She didn’t need a long CV. A one-page professional and relevant CV would work well.
I made a new CV in Spanish for her almost from scratch, and after only a week, she called me unbelievably excited to say she had been called for 3 interviews at good companies. She eventually got hired from one of them.
Have you been sending your CV to hundreds of companies, but it hasn’t got you far? Then, you need to try a different strategy. Focus on a specific role and make a CV that is relevant and to the point.
IRENE CORCHADO RESMELLA is a Spanish translator based in Oxford. A Chartered Linguist and member of the CIOL, she is also an English-Spanish sworn translator appointed by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Irene specialises in sworn and legal translation (particularly in wills and succession) and is an Affiliate member of STEP. ICR Translations is registered with the Information Commissioner's Office and has professional indemnity insurance.