Getting It Right! Inspiring Hiring Strategies for the Translation Industry

Roman Zelenka

Roman Zelenka

9. 11. 2017

ZELENKA Events: Bringing our VIP clients, translators and well-known industry experts together to share experiences and make the translation process smoother for everyone.

This year we went “back to basics” with 70 industry experts, colleagues, vendors, and VIP clients from some of the world's top brands (Google, Lenovo, Adidas, Continental...). This meant dividing into 5 groups, each focused with exploring the human-to-human approach in a specific aspect of the language industry. And what did we find?


"Sometimes you have to look to the past to redefine the future." - Roman Zelenka


This expert group, led by Neil Payne, focused on Vendor management and HR and is the inspiration for our fourth article in this five-part series, after our articles on Language and IT tools, Project Management and Sales and Marketing.

Take a look at what we got out of this one!

The group came together to discuss various ways to source suppliers and the most important aspects to consider when sourcing a team for specific projects. The traditional requirements and qualifications were first to come up: experience & references, education, availability, IT skills and all the other “usuals”.

But what then? Once you’ve got your short list, where to from there? The group’s conversation lead to company culture and the overall values and traditions represented within the company. This created room for some really interesting perspectives on the importance of knowing what personality traits and qualities are essential for the seamless integration of new team members into your business.

Some examples of the qualities we look for when considering our hiring needs for ZELENKA:

  • Passion
  • Proactivity
  • Friendliness
  • Can-do approach
  • Traditional values
  • Family ethos
  • Open-minded, willing, loyal and energetic

This is where each company differs in company culture and vision. Define the qualities and personality traits that best represents your company and you will find the right people for your business.


Identifying hiring needs

These are all necessary steps to finding the best candidates to join your team but without knowing what you need, you simply can not find what you need. In the translation industry, simply seeking a “technical translator” is not enough.

This becomes even more relevant when trying to put together a new team of translators for an industry-specific client. How do you find the right people for the job? Is that even the right question to be asking? Probably not. What we should be asking is:

How to go about finding the right people for the CLIENT?

Simple, find the translators that have a passion for the type of projects in question.


Action plan for hiring

Though the ultimate focus for HR is on the translator, the first part of your recruitment strategy should start with the client. The more detailed information you have about the projects, the more tailored your search for the right vendors will be.

The automotive industry provided the perfect example of how to simply and practically implement this approach and use non-conventional methods to do it. Don’t be afraid to get creative.

Here are some ideas that stood out from the workshop group discussion:

  • Find translators by going after car enthusiasts
  • Get your client involved in the process by coming up with a shortlist of reliable people that used to work for the company
  • Search groups on various social media avenues for people that belong to car clubs
  • Find translators through online car forums and websites

Translators are people too, and like the rest of us, they have hobbies and special interests and sometimes are even straight-up fanatics. In this case, you would basically be looking for car geeks, because at that point the ultimate motivation would actually be the work itself.


Revved up motivation

There are many ways to influence someone's interest in a project. These could be financial rewards or special perks, but for a car geek working on a passion project, these won’t yield the best results. Instead, engage them as a person—appeal to their passions. The group came up with some interesting ways to accomplish that:

  • Get your translators out in the field whenever possible, into the clients’ factories
  • Get them involved and give them a chance to touch and feel the things they are going to be translating about (this will also give them first-hand knowledge about the production process)
  • Allow them access to the client rather than keeping a PM between them
  • Bring the translator to car events and run a workshop involving the client & translator(s) to talk about the job moving forward

This approach maximizes engagement for the translator, which can only serve to benefit everyone involved. On top of that, though, it also humanizes the translation process and opens communication channels, which will always produce a better end product.


Closing in with few more ideas on hiring (and a pub!)

The ideas kept pouring in throughout the day. One idea was to ask for personal references, rather than professional ones, as they are more likely to incorporate a translator’s personal interests.

Another idea involved creating a specialized recruitment program with universities that would include career-development training sessions as well as open houses in the company’s offices.


Have a party in the pub to get to know your potential translators on a personal level.


One fun idea (and one of our favorites) was instead of just going to google to research for translators, why not invite freelancers to the pub and ask them to bring their CV’s along.

Stand in front of them, talk to them and get to know them. This is the best way to find out if they have the same values and can fit into the team dynamics. We liked this idea because it perfectly illustrates our “back to basics” approach.

Starting the search for the right candidates, finding them, and engaging them will be more difficult if we don't first clarify what is crucial to focus on in every project: the client, the project, the vendor’s satisfaction and, ultimately, a superior end product.


Don’t miss the other four articles packed with knowledge from language all-stars on how to improve your business! ->

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