References: are they "compulsory"?
Thread poster: Silvia Barra

Silvia Barra  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 06:36
English to Italian
+ ...
Dec 18, 2008

Hi all,
since I'm receiving many requests of references from agencies, I was wondering if it is "compulsory" to list references in order to have a job.
I'm not so sure because of these points:
- If you also ask me a translation proof (that I make for free), this should be enough to have a proof of my translation skills.
- Not all my customers may be happy to become a reference for different reasons.
- I can have translated documents for important brands (that can be a great reference) but if I did it through an agency, I can not cite them.
- Maybe I don't want to let you know who my customers are, first of all for privacy reasons.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think it is wrong being considered for a job only after listing references (and sometimes many references).
What is your opinion?
Thank you
Silvia


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PeregrineFalcon
Croatia
Local time: 06:36
English to Croatian
+ ...
Hi, Silvia, Dec 18, 2008

I think you are right! For example, I work for an agency, and from time to time for some other people, too. There were times when the agency I work for didn't have anything for me (once it happened for several months). Since I am pretty reliable when it comes to work, they wouldn't like to get into a situation that they need my services and I am already working for someone else. So, I am not very sure that they would enjoj very much in recommending me to someone else.
Since they are also very reliable when the payday comes, I wouldn't like to lose them either.
And, by the way, they almost always have something for me:), so periods without work are very rare.


Silvia Barra wrote:

Hi all,
since I'm receiving many requests of references from agencies, I was wondering if it is "compulsory" to list references in order to have a job.
I'm not so sure because of these points:
- If you also ask me a translation proof (that I make for free), this should be enough to have a proof of my translation skills.
- Not all my customers may be happy to become a reference for different reasons.
- I can have translated documents for important brands (that can be a great reference) but if I did it through an agency, I can not cite them.
- Maybe I don't want to let you know who my customers are, first of all for privacy reasons.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think it is wrong being considered for a job only after listing references (and sometimes many references).
What is your opinion?
Thank you
Silvia


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 01:36
English to Portuguese
+ ...
They shouldn't be compulsory Dec 18, 2008

Ciao, Silvia,

References should be compulsory if you were expected to work inside the client's premises, to make sure you won't steal their notebook computers, nor ruin their coffee machine.

Otherwise it's often an attempt to snatch your clients, by having the means and a reason to contact them, and then turn the e-mail (or phone, if local) conversation into a sales pitch.

If you search the forums here on Proz, you'll find plenty about this issue, including my personal inputs, so I won't repeat them here.


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Stuart Dowell  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 06:36
Member (2007)
Polish to English
+ ...
Right or wrong is not the point Dec 18, 2008

I think it is wrong being considered for a job only after listing references (and sometimes many references).
What is your opinion?
Thank you
Silvia


Hi Silwia,

We are not working in a regulated industry; agencies are entitled to demand any requirements they choose. Therefore, I would advise not thinking about the issue in terms of right or wrong.

It is up to you whether you choose to be considered for certain jobs.

Stuart


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xxxLatin_Hellas
United States
Local time: 06:36
Italian to English
+ ...
Request more common in US Dec 18, 2008

It seems that such requests are more common in the US than in Europe.

I agree with José in the sense that I find it annoying in the context of an independent contractor relationship in the translation industry, and I usually ignore the request or simply decline and move on, though it would be more appropriate in an employer/employee relationship.


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Paul Merriam  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:36
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Use your judgment Dec 18, 2008

Silvia Barra wrote:

Hi all,
since I'm receiving many requests of references from agencies, I was wondering if it is "compulsory" to list references in order to have a job.
I'm not so sure because of these points:
- If you also ask me a translation proof (that I make for free), this should be enough to have a proof of my translation skills.
- Not all my customers may be happy to become a reference for different reasons.
- I can have translated documents for important brands (that can be a great reference) but if I did it through an agency, I can not cite them.
- Maybe I don't want to let you know who my customers are, first of all for privacy reasons.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think it is wrong being considered for a job only after listing references (and sometimes many references).
What is your opinion?
Thank you
Silvia

First of all, it's easy to ask for references. So I don't find it surprising that you're being asked for them. An agency can say that providing references is a requirement for working for them. You have no obligation to work for them.

Second, there's no guarantee that providing references will lead to a job. Some unscrupulous agencies will try to steal your clients (because the agency now has evidence that your references have some interest in translation services).

As a cardinal rule, don't give anyone as a reference unless you've obtained permission from that person to do so.


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Laura Tridico  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:36
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
One possible solution... Dec 18, 2008

I don't give out references simply because my I don't care to trouble my existing clients. Whenever an agency requests references I refer them to my ProZ.com profile where they can review several WWA ratings.

If that doesn't suffice, then I simply move on.

Laura


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Dawn Montague  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:36
German to English
+ ...
I used to supply references, but don't any more Dec 18, 2008

I used to supply references because I thought I wouldn't get any jobs otherwise. But the truth is, references may be useless and so may test translations (you can cheat on both). I believe the best way to test a translator's skills is a small paid job, done under the pressure of a deadline and reviewed by another translator whose skills are known and trusted.

It is hard to resist the request for references sometimes, but I would at least offer the possibility of a test translation or small job instead. If the agency has a website application that won't let you continue without putting in a bunch of references (I have run across a few of those), forget them. There may even be a confidentiality issue here. Sometimes confidentiality may include not just the contents of the translations you do for your client, but even the fact that the relationship exists. The WWA portion of your profile should be more than sufficient - those clients at least don't mind being known.

[Edited at 2008-12-18 15:32 GMT]

[Edited at 2008-12-18 15:52 GMT]


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xxxwonita
China
Local time: 01:36
Not a reason for a (no) job Dec 18, 2008

Silvia Barra wrote:

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think it is wrong being considered for a job only after listing references (and sometimes many references).
What is your opinion?
Thank you
Silvia


After offering references you still don't get a job,
Then you start to believe that you are new to the branch;
After being here for several years you still don't get a job,
Then you doubt if your rates are too high;
After lowing down your rates you still don't get a job,
Then you wonder if the global down should be made responsible ...

There are so many reasons why you get or don't get a job. You will never know.

I've provided references only once, to someone who has never been my client. I regret it and will never do it again.


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Piotr Bienkowski  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 06:36
Member (2005)
English to Polish
+ ...
References and credentials Dec 18, 2008

Yesterday one client in my language pair asked for professional credentials, while they don't have any - their BB record is empty. Funny, eh?

Regards,

Piotr


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Christina Courtright  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:36
Spanish to English
+ ...
Remind them of BB Dec 18, 2008

Piotr, your reply reminded me of something - when an agency contacts me out of the blue to ask if I am interested in working with them, not only do I look them up on BB but also let them know that I have done so. For example, "Thank you for your inquiry. Your agency comes highly recommended by my colleagues..." and so forth before engaging in the rates & terms negotiations.

Of course, if the agency has a lousy reputation on the Blue Board, I just don't go any farther with them.

We should be thankful to all our colleagues who take the trouble to speak up on the BB. You are an invaluable resource for all.


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Silvia Barra  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 06:36
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yes, more from US Dec 18, 2008

Latin_Hellas wrote:

It seems that such requests are more common in the US than in Europe.

I agree with José in the sense that I find it annoying in the context of an independent contractor relationship in the translation industry, and I usually ignore the request or simply decline and move on, though it would be more appropriate in an employer/employee relationship.


Thank you all for your answers. In fact most requests come from US, while from Europe are more frequent the translation tests.
Until now I did not give my references for many reasons (like you I've seen). I think too that references are more useful for in-house jobs, even if I've never been asked for during my years of in-house working.
So I'm more reassured about not giving private customer informations to other potential ones.
Thank you for sharing your experience as usual. It is very important for me.
I wish you all merry Xmas
Silvia


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Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 11:36
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
My latest case: Politeness? Dec 19, 2008

Three days ago I was told by a US agency to give it three reference just only for proofreading jobs:
1. I sent it 7 email addresses of my 7 existing business contacts.
2. I sent emails to notify the business contacts regarding this reference issue.
3. Next, one of my business cintact told that it needed at least one week to reply to reference questions. I should have had told it with scheduling in advance, it said.
4. Next, another business contact phone me, saying that it was very angry with questions for reference. I was shown with the questions. Of course, the reference questions were very aggresive, compulsory, demanding [and rather impolite, seeing into my long-standing professional service].
5. Next, I wrote the the agency not to expect much for replies about reference.
6. Next, the US agency told me that one business contact told the agency that it never worked with me before.
7. Next, I wrote to the agency about hardship to obtain reference information. I told the agency to seek another service provider, not me. I also gave it my Proz webpage information and sample translations in Proz.
In my conclusion, stop giving references to new agencies unless they are verious serious to give you a continual contact.

Soonthon L.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:36
English to German
+ ...
Why I don't provide references Dec 19, 2008

Firstly, I am asked to serve as a reference quite often. Something that I am always happy to do for all those excellent translators who I have been working with.

BUT (and that's where the fun stops):

- Agencies send you idiotic online-forms, containing smart questions such as: "Have you worked with this translator before?"

- An agency (where the IT-specialist translator applied for an IT project and gave my address because we have shared tons of IT text previously) asks: "Do you think he can do medical text as well?"

- An agency had the nerve to send me two reminders to fill out their form because I didn't respond within minutes

- Last but not least: Never, ever misspell my name. Repeatedly after correction.

Why on earth would I do this to my own clients? I like them too much.

[Edited at 2008-12-19 03:13 GMT]


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:36
Member
English to French
My view about references Dec 19, 2008

I don't provide references. On online forms, if a mask makes a reference email address compulsory, I put Idontprovide@referenc.es or a similar tweak.

My own reasoning is that an agency's PM (project manager) should hear from a translator as little as possible. I ask as few questions as possible, try to consolidate issues into one email, request deadline extensions/special queries as rarely as possible, don't even mention that I am free unless I am asked, etc. Following this approach, I don't give away contacts that may disturb an agency's PM. In other words, once the relationship with an agency is established and mutually profitable, I try to leave the smallest footprint on an agency's schedule. I have reasons to believe that such an attitude is one of the features that PMs seek in a translator. I respect their time and they respect mine.

If I were a PM, I would be grateful for being left in peace for non-mission-critical queries, because I may be dealing with masses of translators and projects, and I wouldn't like it if any of them consistently interfered with my workflow to ask stuff, including references. A PM's working day is probably already hectic enough as it is.

This doesn't mean that PM-translator relations should remain stiff and boring. But only when the PM is open to banter and casual chat.

FWIW,
Philippe


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