Writing Cover Letters to Companies (And What to Expect)
Let's continue our path toward becoming a successful freelance translator in 2023. Today, we're touching on an evergreen topic: how to write cover letters to translation agencies. Lots of newcomers in the industry tend to make mistakes that can be easily avoided, and don't have the right perspective on the person that reads the message in the first place. Let's dig into this further.
What's a Cover Letter?
So, the first thing you have to understand when applying to an agency is that you need a good resume. What? You'd like to have some tips in that regard, first? I already got you covered.
Now, when you send the application via a translation agency website, their email, or whatnot, the company POC (Point of Contact) will likely be a project manager, an HR specialist, or the CEO itself (this is true for tiny businesses). The POC will be the first person to read your email.
Sometimes, you're required to add a secondary file to your application along with your resume - the so-called 'cover letter'. A cover letter can be a short Word document or a PDF-saved Word document. Personally speaking, I find the second approach more professional.
Ok, but what should you write in your cover letter? There's not a single truth to that. I'll just tell you what works for me. I have a template for that already, which I usually take by mixing my professional profile description, both on LinkedIn and ProZ.com, and my resume short description.
Basically, I try to sum up my strengths and tailor the cover letter to get somewhat more personal with the agency. For instance, I tell where I found them, why I picked them, etc.
If the cover letter is in response to a particular role/job the agency is seeking, I also answer any questions the agency arises in their proposal - e.g., if they require audiovisual translators, I'll tell them a bit more in detail about my experience with streaming service vendors and projects; if they ask X years of experience, and I meet the requirement, I highlight that to leave no room for doubts.
The Perspective of the Recruiter
What's core to understanding is that whoever's reading your application must see your writing as confident. They need to see you as a professional. Moreover, you need to be clear about what you write. The reason is actually really concrete: usually, the agency POC has a lot of emails to check in a relatively short span of their time. Your time is just as valuable as the POC's.
So, contrary to popular belief, there's no need to write long narratives on your experience and the reasons you're applying. The recruiter needs to assess if you're fit, potentially fit, or not fit at all for the role they're looking for (or they might be needing at the company).
You may be educated to think otherwise, but I can guarantee you, also from the point of view of a recruiter, that international online businesses working with freelancers, that receive lots of applications from people of the most diverse backgrounds and skill sets, will appreciate ten to one a concise and truthful writing instead of a 'long speech' of your qualities. This makes the screening process clearer and easier for everyone.
Also, I already touched a bit on business writing tips in the second part of my previous post.
But What About Emails?
At this point, we should have a general idea of what a cover letter is, and what the recruiter's expectations are. But what if we have an email to write instead? In that case, I usually avoid a cover letter altogether - actually, I only attach that to a mandatory online form, if required. In my first email, I typically attach my resume and portfolio, along with a template message I sometimes tailor based on the receiver.
Naturally, for our first email, we can make use of the cover letter tips. Instead of writing in Word, in fact, we're sending a message via our favorite email client, with a bit less formatting and formality involved. More of that to discover in the next post. Stay tuned!