Who cares when you were born?!

Today I am translating a CV of a person in the hotel industry.

I don't like translating CVs, and try to get out of it when I can. Sometimes I can't, because it's for a friend or relative. If the job offer comes from an agency, I usually decline. It's simply not worth it. CVs are usually a headache; they're badly written; they contain words that are difficult or awkward to translate; they require a lot of looking-up, etc. And whereas a private client may be willing to pay NIS 90 or 100 per 250 words, agencies definitely are not. And 250 words of a CV are usually far more of a headache than 250 words of run-of-the-mill text.

Since I live in Israel and not in some Utopia, I know that most HR companies and HR departments expect to receive CVs written in a very specific format which is convenient for them: with your name and vital data right at the top, including very personal data such as your I.D. number and date of birth.

All that is bad enough. But why do people feel the need to add their marital status, how many children they have, the kids' ages, and that the latter are named Tommer, Tamir and Tammy? (No, not Tammy… that's an old fashioned name. She's probably called Stav or Tchelet.)

Others – and not only men -- tend to go into great detail regarding their military service: I served as a PZKR (or some such obscure acronym) of Hativat Trumpledor on Halleluiah Base in the Negev and had 60 servicemen and 20 latest-model APCs at my command.

I can think of very few jobs that would require such a detailed description one's IDF service. For example, if you're applying for the position of Arms Dealer or Weapons Instructor for a foreign government…

When I was working for an agency, henceforth to be referred to as The Gang, I instructed "les girls" – the post-army girls who are the link between customers and freelance translators -- to ask CV writers what their CV is intended for. In cases where it was intended for overseas consumption, I suggested some changes:

- No, no one cares, at this point, about your exact date of birth; they are not going to throw you a surprise birthday party.

- No, if you've completed your master's degree, no one cares which megama (track) you were in in high school, and whether it was in Bat Yam or Holon.

- If your prospective employer needs to know how many children you have in order to help arrange accommodation for you – that's a different story. But in general, your children are your own business and responsibility.

- As for your I.D. number – a foreign company definitely has no use for it; if you're applying for a job with an Israeli government office abroad, they probably expect it. But if you're applying directly to any company in Israel – there's no reason on earth to include this information in a first letter. Do you know how much information anyone, yes anyone, can find out about you if they have your ID number?...

- Lastly: There's no point in describing your English as "very good" or "high level", when the interview, if it's to be carried out in English, is sure to prove that you exaggerated a teensy bit…

And on that not-so-happy note, I shall get back to the CV I'm translating, and try to find a way of getting around the writer's misuse of the word "charismatic" in his description of himself…


Yael shudnow said...

Entertaingly to the point!

Anonymous said...

Nina, I LOLed at your IDF service description. You probably heard me in Bat Yam, or Holon, or wherever you are. BUT I do take issue with a few items:
1. I tell resumè clients that their personal status is no longer necessary; in fact, in the US it's illegal for a prospective employer to even ask for it.

2. I like the "look and feel" of: haBarón High School, Bat Yam, Israel." Also makes it more searchable, in case an employer wants to make certain it really exists(ed).

Both sides know it's usually superfluous, but there's something credible-feeling about giving all the info, up front.

3. Feel free to send all Heb > Eng resumès on to me. I enjoy them: I find them challenging and good "extra earnings", plus I get satisfaction out of taking an ungainly document and making the person look professional. That's what we do!

Anonymous said...

Nina, one more thing: Battalions these days aren't called Trumpeldor. They have to have be edible...*duvdeván*, *egóz*...schwarma?

Unknown said...

Writing a CV is creative writing, geared to a specific audience, limited only by the necessity of not departing from the facts. Translating it to a different language means aiming it at a different audience with different expectations and different background assumptions. I find it almost impossible to do without sitting down with the subject of the CV and working out together with them what needs to be said and how to say it. Once, many years ago, I did one for a neighbor who paid me for my time. He didn't get the job because the CV made him look too good - they said he was over-qualified. I learned my lesson. Now I rarely agree to do them except for close family and friends.
Yehuda Berman

Jennifer said...

I couldn't agree with you more, Nina. I too generally find CVs both time consuming and no fun to translate (under statement of the year). I also got my share of unsatisfied customers who complained that all I did was translate the thing, rather than turn it into something better than the original! In short, I'd be happy to pass them ALL on to you, Miriam!
Jennifer Tommer

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