E.g., 03/30/2020
E.g., 03/30/2020

Recruiting Freelance Translators: the SDL Approach

By: Peter Dann (SDL International) - SDL plc

19 February 2007

As one of the largest suppliers of localization services to the IT, engineering, e-business and multimedia sectors, SDL is always looking for the best freelance translators to join its translation team. Read about this member company's approach to recruiting translators.


It is important to use a wide variety of sources in order to maximize the reach of your search and ensure that you are making contact with the best candidates with relevant skills and subject knowledge to match your requirements. SDL uses not only its own website to advertise the types of translators it is currently looking for, but also works in conjunction with numerous independent industry websites and databases to refresh and increase the pool of freelance translators available for the company’s projects. Over time, the company has developed a wide network of sources, to ensure it can access the best translator talent.

The Internet

The Internet facilitates contact with a larger number of potential candidates based around the world than ever before. It has created a virtual network in which location is becoming less important. In order to maximize the advantage delivered by the Internet, as part of its regular freelance recruitment activity, SDL makes use of the www.translationzone.com directory where freelancers register their profiles. The details of registered freelancers can be accessed by any language service provider or corporate language department, not just by SDL. Currently, there are over 27,000 translators registered with the site.


Once a potentially suitable freelance translator has been identified as a result of the search, or from those profiles submitted to the company, SDL determines the strength of their skills before they can be registered as freelancers within SDL’s internal resource database. SDL has a comprehensive translator testing procedure that forms an integral part of its company-wide quality system. A key feature of this procedure is the translation tests, relevant to their areas of expertise, that freelance translator candidates are required to translate and submit.

Rigorous Quality Standards

SDL’s quality standards are rigorously upheld throughout the company’s activities – and not least where qualification and evaluation of its freelance translator candidates are involved. The tests submitted are evaluated according to a rigorous and consistent set of criteria. The evaluation provides a crucial picture of the candidate’s linguistic skills, reliability, attention to detail, competency and suitability for the kind of work involved in SDL’s translation projects.

Key elements we check as part of the evaluation include:

  • Linguistic skills
  • Grammar
  • Spelling
  • Terminology
  • Style
  • Subject matter knowledge

Technology and Certification

Almost all SDL projects require the translator to be familiar with translation memory software. Since the introduction of the SDL Trados Certification program, it has become easier to establish whether the candidate has a full knowledge of the use of the software, thus SDL Trados Certified status has become a key criterion in the selection of the translators.

Centralization of resource data

Once suitable candidates have been selected and qualified according to this system, it is important to ensure that any project manager and any office within the company is able to access their details quickly for use on any relevant projects where freelance translator resources are required. SDL uses a comprehensive in-house designed database system to maintain and share access to the freelance translator resource assets, including full details of each individual’s skill set and capabilities.

To conclude, technology plays a very important part in the recruitment process of freelancers at SDL. The Internet has revolutionized the process of finding new talent from all four corners of the world. Solid processes, a wide network and SDL Trados Certification help ensure we get the best people we need for each job.

Peter Dann is Vendor Manager at SDL International and he is responsible for the recruitment of freelance translators on a world-wide basis. Peter has worked within the translation and localization industry for 10 years, in a variety of roles from translation to project management and recruitment. Following his BA (Hons) Degree in Applied Languages and Translation, he started his career as a translator working for a translation agency in Ireland, moving on to recruitment and management roles there during his two years in Dublin. He then spent two years with a translation agency in the UK as General Manager before joining SDL International as Vendor Manager in 2001.