Blog Trekker

Are Your Applications Getting Lost in the Sea of Competition? Maybe Your References Are to Blame

Posted by Marion Rhodes on Translation Matters,

Have you ever applied to a translation agency and wondered why you never heard back? After all, you seemed to be exactly who they were looking for, with all the right specializations and a killer cover letter.

While there may be many reasons why you don’t get a reply from an agency, there’s one hurdle to landing that spot in their database you may not have thought of: your references.

Many translation agencies ask prospective “vendors” for references to verify their translation experience. So, you listed that project manager with whom you’ve been working for five years, who keeps coming back to you because of the outstanding work you provide. Certainly he will vouch for you. Well, don’t be so sure.

Three years ago, I filled out a registration form for a translation agency that was looking for translators with my specializations. I listed one of my best agency clients as a reference, someone with whom I had been working on a regular basis for years. I never heard back from the agency. I forgot about them. That is, until recently.

The other day, I was contacted by that same agency about a potential collaboration. They had found my profile in ATA’s online directory and thought I might be a good fit. I didn’t realize I had filled out their online vendor form long ago until a message popped up during the registration process saying a translator with my e-mail address was already in their system.

I e-mailed the talent manager (isn’t that term so much nicer than “vendor manager?”) who had contacted me, who quickly responded saying that I was indeed already registered. My application had never been approved because—wait for it—one of the references I had provided at the time never got back to them.

Of course, the translation agency had never contacted me to let me know about this. My application simply got lost in their system, stuck in a dead end due to a formality. I would have never known if it hadn’t been for this coincidence.

This occurrence has taught me two important lessons. First, always check with your references to make sure they are aware you listed them as contacts and get their approval to provide you with a testimonial. You may think they are willing to help you out, but they may be too busy to take the time to fill out an agency’s reference request form. Some agencies may even have a policy against providing references altogether. Always check.

The second lesson is: if you haven’t heard back from an agency after a week or two, contact them. This is especially important if you’ve merely filled out an online registration form rather than had contact with an actual human being. Write to the vendor (or talent) manager at the agency and explain that you have followed their online registration procedure but haven’t heard back. Then ask if there is any more information they need from you. This may not always result in a response, but it’s worth a shot.

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