What to Look for When Hiring an Interpreter

The following piece addresses what to look for when hiring an interpreter. Businesses and some social gatherings require the skill of an individual who can take spoken information and convert it into another language. Based on information provided by professional interpreter services, the most talented individuals posses a wide range of skills to enhance their job performance.

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Job Description

Some people confuse interpreters with translators. By definition, interpreters work exclusively with spoken words and translate material from one language to another. There are multilingual interpreters and individuals who use American Sign Language to communicate with the hearing impaired. Interpreter services should be available to anyone who requests them in a public forum, per the Civil Rights Act of 1964.


According to information provided by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), interpreters need to obtain a bachelor’s degree and complete extensive onsite training. Candidates must be bilingual and fluently communicate in both languages.

As of 2013, the United States does not have a uniform certification process for fledgling interpreters but individual groups do offer accreditation.

  • The American Translators Association, Translators and Interpreters Guild and National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators offer certification exams.
  • The United States Department of State provides a comprehensive exam that tests interpreter competency in one professional area.
  • A joint exam produced by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the National Association for the Deaf assesses the skills of aspiring sign language interpreters.
  • None of the previously listed exams is necessary to work as an interpreter, but certification does signify that employers are receiving the services of a capable individual.


Interpreters use three types of interpretation methods.

  • Simultaneous requires an individual to sit and listen to the material in a booth, interpreting information as it unfolds. The technique is optimal for meetings and media gatherings.
  • Consecutive allows the main speaker to finish before the interpreter relays any information. This approach works well in smaller gatherings like a dinner party or during phone interpreting.
  • Whispering is not as popular, but works well during short meetings. The interpreter whispers information into the receiver’s ear.

Hiring Process

Employers need to look at their individual needs before hiring an interpreter. People working with foreign dignitaries or in a hospital setting require a different skill set than people relaying casual conversation.

According to agencies specializing in professional interpretation, successful candidates have the following skill sets.

  • Interpreters need to be knowledgeable about the subject matter they work with. This means people working in a medical setting should be know basic medical jargon.
  • Candidates should be knowledgeable on cultures that fall within their linguistic umbrella.
  • Interpreters should be fluent in all their languages.
  • Potential employers should seek individuals who can express themselves in all working languages.
  • Solid note taking skills are essential for consecutive interpretation.
  • Experts recommend at least two years of prior booth experience for the best simultaneous interpretation.

Hiring a competent interpreter consists is more than finding a personable native speaker. Qualified individuals possess a unique mixture of education and efficient communication skills.

Potential employers may wish to seek out people who took private certification exams to reduce the possibility of working with an incompetent employee.

About Author

Nick Johnson is a freelance blogger who writes on business topics.  Nick enjoys playing golf and cricket.

Juan is a Design & Tech Blogger with strong interest in digital art, human computer interaction, enterprise system and system automation.

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