By Valentín Barrantes, HR and Global Vendor Manager
It’s now time for Nóvalo to have its own space on the Internet, a place to freely share all those issues we face on a day-to-day basis in our profession with friends, clients and colleagues, or even issues of any other kind. We now have the chance to do so through our recently released blog entitled “It depends on the context”. Firstly, I would like to take this opportunity to give my thanks to the entire Nóvalo team for the great enthusiasm they have shown every day as this shared project has grown.
Secondly, I would like to make my first contribution to this blog. After thinking about it a lot, I came to the conclusion that the most coherent approach would be to write a few lines about one of the main roles I have performed since our company was set up. By this I mean human resources and global vendor management. Once I decided this, it took me just a couple of seconds to choose the topic I wanted to address, as it is something I’ve had in my mind for some years and I have verbally described many interesting anecdotes about it.
Can anyone guess what it’s about? The post’s title is a hint in itself…yes, you’re right, the topic is how to send – or even receive (it all depends on your perspective) – email messages offering services. The emails that normally are sent with an essential bit of information attached: our curriculum vitae.
The title of this post has not been made up. It’s real, although rather coloured (impact must always be sought, you know…). This title could perfectly be the Subject field of an email sent by someone seeking a job or to collaborate as a translator. One of my roles as HR Manager is receiving and filtering out this kind of emails. It may be hard to believe, but I have received many emails with subjects lines similar to the one of the post, or even worse.
What could be going on in a professional linguist’s mind when he or she sends an email with a subject containing (only in the subject) more than three or four terrible spelling or typographical mistakes? This is the question I always ask myself whenever I receive these emails. I can imagine it is the same question other people suffering similar “attacks” will also be asking themselves. Receiving an email message with this kind of subject line is in fact an attack. Then you can’t stop thinking about what mess you’ll find later in email itself. This is somewhat like throwing a bomb at a linguist or professional translator. Even our eyes hurt! We can also suffer other “pains” whenever we read these “wonderful” words. Yes, yes…I am totally sure most of you will agree with me. We suffer from this kind of thing, we suffer quite a lot in fact.
How then is it possible that highly qualified people who devote their time writing and with the curiosity that translation requires turn out to express their ideas so badly? Could it be due to a lack of knowledge, a lack of attention, a lack of interest or even neglectful or provocative behaviour? To be honest, I don’t know how to answer this question clearly. My aim with these words is to help you reflect and also to put forward some advice that can help you avoid some recurrent mistakes commonly made when sending out emails offering your services. These recommendations might seem basic or obvious, but they will surely be useful for some people, otherwise this sort of incorrect emails wouldn’t still be finding their way into my inbox.
To start off with my suggestions, I would like to talk about a very basic question. You should always use a “serious” email address. By “serious” I mean professional, although it may belong to a commonly used free domain, such as “Gmail”. You should always try to avoid the use of email addresses you used at high school… for example, addresses like “firstname.lastname@example.org” or “email@example.com“. There can be no doubt that the image they convey to the person receiving the message will be totally contrary to you intended. From that starting point, let’s have a look at some other basic recommendations:
1.- It is sometimes necessary to send emails to several recipients, but whenever possible you should attempt to know the name of the person our email is addressed to. You should do some research and try to have the name of the person at hand. Thus, your message will be far more effective. You should not forget that the person on the other side is not a machine, but a professional like you and me holding responsibility for selecting your profile as a collaborator.
2.- There is no need to reveal if the email is going to be sent to a group of people. Please include those addresses in the hidden BCC field, as there is nothing worse than sending an email to multiple recipients with all the addresses unhidden. Well, as a matter of fact, it’s even worse to send an email to all those people, but addressing it just to one of them or other similar mistakes. Be very careful with this, as the impression it makes on recipients is extremely negative.
3.- You should also avoid keeping abbreviations such as “Re:” or “FWD:” in the subject lines, thus revealing you’ve forwarded or replied to an existing email.
4.- You should try to devise a descriptive, clear and concise subject line which highlights your background and what you’re looking for. If you are replying to a specific job offer, include the text requested in the offer in the subject line, and just that. Meaningless subject lines or very long ones should be avoided, as should any kind of spelling or typographical mistake. It is advisable to provide information on your working languages, areas of specialization or similar essential information.
5.- Once you start writing the body of our email message, do it as if you were writing a cover/introduction letter. That means using proper punctuation and just the right length. You should try to identify three paragraphs in the letter (although it always depends on specific needs, this can be used as a guide). The first paragraph should briefly highlight the most relevant elements of your background, the second paragraph should include your aims and in it you should clearly explain what you would like to gain. The third and final paragraph should try to state clearly why you are important for the company and the strengths that give you an edge over the rest. In this way, the letter will be well structured.
6.- Don’t forget to use the appropriate forms of address duly punctuated when opening and closing your cover letter. In English, you would not normally start a more or less formal letter just with “Hi:”, but probably use “Dear (Mr/ Ms XXX,”) instead. In English a comma (and even nothing at all) is used and not a colon, which is more typical in Spanish. There are different standard formalities you can use when closing a letter, such as “Yours faithfully,”; “Yours sincerely,”; “Kind regards,”; or “Best regards,”.
7.- There is something that really annoys me about letters: the use of different fonts throughout the text or even a variety colours or font sizes without any rhyme or reason. The overall impression it gives is not positive and it makes reading the letter a lot more difficult.
8.- You should make an effort to write the language you are using properly, without making any mistakes that can be easily be corrected with a grammar and spell check function. It would also be useful to do a final reading of the text before sending it out. If the result is satisfactory, save it as a template for future use.
9.- It’s always a good idea to attach an up-to-date curriculum vitae to your email message. Ideally this would be in an easily readable and non-editable format, such as PDF. I highlighted the fact that the curriculum vitae should be “up-to-date” because I receive hundreds a month containing obsolete information or information that has become irrelevant over the years.
10.- And before I forget…! Generally speaking, when you want to refer to your professional background, you use “Curriculum Vitae” or even “CV”. If you want to refer to a shorter version of it, or just a brief and concise copy of our CV, then you can use the word “Résumé”. There are regional or country-specific differences regarding the use of the terms referring to an overview of a person’s experience and other qualifications, but these can be found on the Internet.
I hope these basic “ten commandments” of personal recommendations can be of help to some of you to carry out a more effective job search. Of course, I also receive a lot of correctly written email messages and there are many positive and good things to highlight about them. However, these professionals do not need these suggestions, so I preferred to point out these simple but useful recommendations. I could also write a long and exhaustive post about the proper way of creating professional curriculum vitae for translators, but I will probably cover that topic in a future post on this blog.
Lastly, I would like to encourage you to post your comments. They will surely be helpful and enrich our knowledge. See you soon!