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What should I include/ not include in a cover letter?
Thread poster: Kate Major

Kate Major  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:35
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
Jan 28, 2008

Hello everyone,
I am just going through the process of becoming self-employed in Spain, and am currently compiling a list of agencies (mainly through yellow pages and then a thorough look at their websites to see if they could use me) that I want to apply to in order to get some work. Many agencies give an e-mail address to which I can send my cv and 'carta de presentación' or cover letter. My query is to do with cvs and, above all, cover letters.
I have a cv in English: should I send a Spanish version too? And as I have a tendency to be rather long-winded, I would very much appreciate any advice on what it is most important to include / irrelevant in a cover letter, especially any input from a Spanish translation agency point of view! Are there any major no-nos? I have a concise cv which I have adapted towards translation agencies (I believe), emphasising any relevant stuff (I am lacking provable, or full-time, or professional experience in translation, but I have been translating unofficially for years, I have a first class degree in literature and languages, experience in telecommunications and language/culture teaching, I can use and own TRADOS and attended a training session on TRADOS last year, based in Spain for the last few years...etc). I now need to write a cover letter, although I am sure I will also need to vary the information depending on the company.
So how much of what's in my cv can/ should I repeat in my cover letter? And do I need to be extremely formal, or should this be a semi-formal thing? I just really want to maximise my chances of getting some kind of contact from some agencies, as I believe -from what I hear from collegues and read in forums- that many agencies will never answer my e-mail or contact me for work, ever. I want to make sure I am not wasting my time or anyone else's, and that I am selling myself as best I can, despite perhaps not being a hugely experienced translator as yet. Many thanks to everyone in advance- any help is really very welcome!
Kate Major


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italia  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:35
Italian to German
+ ...
definitely write a cv in spanish Jan 28, 2008

Hi Kate,
I don't have any experience with Spanish agencies, but I think you definitely should have a target-oriented CV,i.e. in Spanish!
Maybe browsing through the cvs and profiles of Spanish colleagues could also give you an idea of how to present yourself to potential customers.
My 2 cents worth:)))
Good luck!


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:35
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Don't repeat yourself Jan 28, 2008


So how much of what's in my cv can/ should I repeat in my cover letter? And do I need to be extremely formal, or should this be a semi-formal thing?


Try not to really repeat anything at all. You should:-

take a couple of things that you've done that should particularly interest them - as you say, you've looked at their websites etc - and expand on them.

tell them that you'll do a good job (accurate, checked, on time etc).

tell them that you particularly want to work with them - good match in skills and needs; professional website; great BB record etc.

I always reckon that it should be a personal letter, addressed to someone with a name, so it's worth taking the trouble to find out if you can, but it should nevertheless be formal. No-one can be upset about a formal first contact, but some might be if it's too informal.

That's the advice I give the students at my job-seekers workshop, but don't take it as gospel because (a) it's all for an Anglo-Saxon readership and maybe Spanish readers are expecting something different, and (b) I don't get a positive response to 100% of the letters I write!

Hope that helps though


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Trudy Peters  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:35
German to English
+ ...
No more than one page! Jan 28, 2008

Make sure your cover letter doesn't exceed one page!

Trudy


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Alyona Douglas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:35
Member (2007)
English to Russian
Emphasize your strengths Jan 28, 2008

Don't even think about writing a cover letter 1 page long!

I work as a Project manager in a translation agency and can assure you that we don't have time to read even CVs, let alone cover letters.

So make it as short as possible - I would limit it to 1 paragraph. Emphasize your main strengths, e.g.: xxx years ot translation experience, Trados user, competitive rates, extra services provided (editing, DTP, etc.)


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Kate Major  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:35
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks everyone Jan 29, 2008

Thank you all very much for your input- it really is invaluable. To sum up, I should be writing a very short cover letter emphasising experience/ CAT tools, specialities, plus maybe some kind of more personalized comment aimed at the particular agency concerned. And a CV attatched, in Spanish if necessary, whilst bearing in mind that most agencies will probably not have the time to read it! I really appreciate the help- when you're starting out, it is so difficult not to feel a bit small and foolish and inexperienced! So, much appreciated. Let's hope that eventually all this groundwork pays off! xxx

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Joshua L
English
Another vote for keeing covers small and concise... and use some special sauce. :) Jan 30, 2008

If you find any unique differences in resume/cover letter culture let us know! That's a really interesting aspect I've not thought about.

As for keeping your cover letter concise, I wholeheartedly agree with that... go for simple, but potent. Consider putting a headline at the top to yank readers off of autopilot and grab their attention...

Here's a blog site I'm putting together exactly for cover letters. Check it out if you have some time.

Cover Letter For Resume


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Nancy Burgess  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:35
French to English
+ ...
Keep it short, keep it specific Feb 2, 2008

Hi Kate,

As a project manager, I'd say, yes, look at the agency and what sort of stuff they deal with: if there is an area in which you specialise, head for agencies which cover stuff you like. There is no point wasting time contacting technical agencies if you don't do technical.

Be clear about when you are available: the more time you are available for, the better. No-one wants to find the perfect translator only to discover they take 5 hours to reply to emails and never answer the phone.

Avoid sweeping grandiloquent claims with nothing to back them up. If you are having trouble providing evidence of your experience, there's nothing like simply showing people your work: this can be far more convincing than listing all of your alleged illustrious clients or projects. Create a simple website with a few sample translations, this may work wonders, it shows you are proud of you work and are not ashamed to show it to the world. (It's a good filter too: I followed a weblink to a possible translator last week, who had helpfully posted up some sample translations on her website, which were of execrable quality).

And yes, a CV in your source and target language, but get it translated by a native speaker and don't forget the value of a good proofreader: it's worth making sure your CV is impeccably written. I know it's obvious, but a badly-written CV is never going to impress.

Good luck!

[Edited at 2008-02-02 15:27]


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