How to hire translators: 7 best practices to source top linguists
Looking to source linguists for your translation projects? Here are some key tips for getting it right.

Hiring talented and well-chosen linguists, like translators, editors, or transcribers, to work on your multilingual content can be really advantageous – not to mention strategic – in boosting the quality of your projects overall. That said, where can you find translators, how should you assess their skills, and finally, what’s the most effective way to collaborate with them? Read on for best practices that will help clarify some key concerns around hiring linguists.

1. Decide between working directly with linguists or with agencies

Companies have traditionally turned to agencies for translation because they have provided expertise and an end-to-end solution that has encompassed project management, translation, editing, and file reconciliation. However, many organizations have realized the benefits of working directly with professional translators, including:

  • Hiring transparency
    Hiring directly enables you to know the identity and professional profile of your translators.
  • A closer working relationship and consistency of quality
    With agencies it’s often a different vendor working on your content, so quality and consistency can suffer. When you work with translators directly, you generally know what to expect in their deliverables.
  • Subject matter expertise
    With agencies, it’s usually unclear who is actually working on your content. Direct hiring means that you can choose linguists with genuine expertise. You can also train them to get to truly know your company and product.
  • Knowledge of translator availability
    A common bottleneck in translation is a failure to source the right translators in time. With directly hired translators, you can get a much closer understanding of their availability in advance.

In a recent Smartcat industry report that questioned 150 enterprise companies spanning multiple industries and localization teams, respondents agreed on how direct access to translators helped them optimize the translation process:

  • 30% more likely to be satisfied with the translation quality
  • 20% more likely to be satisfied with process transparency
  • 15% less likely to complain about high costs
Results from the Smartcat Translation Industry Report on the Linguistic Supply Chain.

While some companies might not want to stop working with agencies altogether, many have started adopting a hybrid approach of working with both agencies and independent translators. To optimize your translation workflow, however, you should consider collaborating on a single translation delivery platform rather than using a mish-mash of unconnected tools and processes, such as email and spreadsheets.

As a result, you increase turnaround time, minimize misunderstanding, and enhance quality and process control.

2. Find the right balance of price and quality

Companies often favor working with translators directly due to their lower rates compared to agencies. Many traditional agencies charge a price markup, which can bloat costs.

Translator rates vary depending on:

  • Language pair
  • Specialization
  • Years of experience
  • Demand from other clients

In addition, translators and agencies alike will also usually increase prices for last-minute, urgent requests.

Pro tip: Human post-editing ⭐

When using AI to generate instant translations in seconds, you can hire a translator to post-edit the machine translation results. Post-editing usually costs half of regular translation fees and significantly speeds up the translation turnaround time. AI automatic translations with the right provider make use of industry-leading engines, algorithms, translation memories, and glossaries for 82% accuracy, which improves each subsequent human edit.

3. Hire specialist linguists with industry and vertical knowledge

When sourcing a translator, it’s important to ensure they have experience in your industry and relevant subject matter expertise. Without this knowledge, it’ll be hard for them to grasp the essence of your content and bring over a believable, trustworthy, and authoritative translation. You may also require a new subject matter expert translator to redo the original translation, if it fails to meet your standards.

When searching for a translator, take a look at what they list in their profile. They might also list some previous jobs or showcase their work.

The industry is important but also the vertical within the industry. For instance, the industry might be finance but a translator with deep knowledge of banking may not necessarily have the requisite subject matter expertise to translate a document on institutional investment.

Or in another example, translators with experience in IT will be able to understand the technical explanations in your content and translate it without having to spend too much time researching each word – they’ll simply know the equivalent.

Ultimately, each department comes with its own unique tone of voice, style, and terminology, so having specialized translators for each can be beneficial.

According to the translation industry survey, most translation requests within companies come from marketing, engineering & HR departments:

Results from the Smartcat Translation Industry Report on the Linguistic Supply Chain.

Pro tip: Location matters ⭐

You can also check where each translator lives. The essence of localization is truly understanding the culture and reality of a specific country or region’s people. Working with someone who has such first-hand knowledge can make your translations shine. A local translator will have a great grasp of the culture, current trends, neologism (newly invented words), different dialects, slang, and more.

4. Work with vetted linguists

Next to the required language pairs and specializations, reviews and ratings will help you select the best translator. When you work with someone who has a track record of success, you’ll have more confidence that they can deliver quality translations from the start.

Check the reviews and ratings for your translators, like here in the Smartcat Marketplace.

5. Test translators with industry-specific tests

Some companies require translators to undergo a translation test. With that said, you also need to be fair when asking translators to do one for free. Usually, localization/translation managers will only ask the candidates to complete a test with a 200-word count. If you are willing to pay them more or offer recurring work, you can also potentially ask for 300 to 500 words, though you’ll need to include the appeal in the job offer as well.

If you end up testing translators, keep in mind that you should test them with your industry content so they can not only show their grasp of the target language but also of your industry and vertical. You can judge them based on grammar, style, and correct use of terminology.

6. Review your current talent pool

Working with pre-vetted linguists is one part of the equation. Next, you’ll want to also make sure you constantly check that the linguists deliver quality consistently. This means having a system in place to review their competencies and record for you so far.

There are many ways to ensure quality, including:

  • Using automated language quality assurance tools to pinpoint typos and inconsistencies
  • Using a multi-stage workflow with an editor and/or a proofreader
  • Leveraging your company’s in-country expertise by having a native-speaking LQA specialist review the translation

Quality is the most important criteria when it comes to translations. Organizations also want to do more to ensure it. In the aforementioned translation industry report, 50% of respondents said that they would spend more on improving quality assurance and reviews.

A key part of this, as mentioned above, is constantly checking the quality of your hired human resources.

Results from the Smartcat Translation Industry Report on the Linguistic Supply Chain.

7. Work with the right translation platform to effectively manage and work with multiple translators

40% of companies say they don’t have an easy way to scale their pool of human translators. While there are so many platforms and networks to find freelancers – ProZ, Translators Cafe, LinkedIn, Facebook, and elsewhere what first seems like a true wealth of translation talent quickly becomes an impediment. None of these solutions are connected to your company’s existing tech stack or a translation management system.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) translation solutions now eradicate the workflow bottlenecks that traditional methods have generated for decades. These include working with multiple, disparate programs and tools to get your translations done and a long supply chain.

Pro tip: Centralized workspace⭐

With this in mind, your company can consider working with a SaaS translation services provider or cloud-based translation management tool that provides a high-value marketplace. With the right marketplace provider, you can source pre-vetted translators and add them to your workflows and tasks instantly, and in one centralized place. This also generates a significant improvement in collaboration within your internal team, and also with external translators.

Discover the all-new way to translate your content with Smartcat

Smartcat allows you to evolve from the disjointed Google spreadsheets and back-and-forth email workflows with an all-in-one and end-to-end translation platform. It uses AI and human-adaptive workflows so companies and linguists can fully harness the potential of today’s latest technology for improved speed, quality, and cost savings.

Smartcat houses the largest global network of 500,000+ pre-vetted linguists for all language pairs, verticals, and specializations. We use AI sourcing to match you with the right linguists based on your content needs and volumes. This is a part of our unified procurement approach, which lets you hire and pay all suppliers under one agreement and one invoice.

Source pre-vetted translators on a unified translation platform

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Loie Favre
Loie Favre Loie is the Head of Content at Smartcat. With a strong background in localization, she aims to help companies fulfill their multilingual potential. In her free time, she cycles in Berlin.