Feb 18, 2022

How to Hire a Great Interpreter

3 min read

If you ever work with clients or patients whose first language isn’t English, hiring a great interpreter can help you communicate, provide better service, build stronger relationships, mitigate legal risk, and much more.

In other words, hiring an interpreter is one way to invest in your business. But with any investment, you want to know you’re making the right choices.
You want to know that you have found the right interpreter for the job.
Right now, there are about 56,920 translators and interpreters in the United States. The following 6 steps and considerations will help you choose the right one for your business.

1. Know Your Options and Needs

There are many types of interpretation services available. Knowing which you want to invest in will help direct your search and narrow your options.
For starters, there are in-person and remote services available. We have detailed their differences in the past, but what works for you depends on your budget and needs. In-person interpretation is the ideal choice, but it can run a bit more expensive and may not be an option 24/7. Meanwhile, telephonic interpretation is always available but lacks the face-to-face connection.
You’ll want a provider who can meet your remote and in-person preferences, even if that’s a combination of the two. Some providers offer video, phone, and in-person interpretation like we do at iLingo2.
There are also different styles of interpretation: simultaneous and consecutive.
Simultaneous interpretation is when the interpreter talks at the same time as the speaker, translating their last sentence and listening to what they are saying simultaneously. This style is often used during conferences and speeches so that the speaker can continue without noticeable pauses.
Consecutive interpretation—often used for meetings and when people are having a discussion—requires the interpreter to memorize everything the speaker says and wait until they pause to translate it.
Then, of course, you will want to know what languages you need to hire an interpreter for. As a business, it’s common to need an interpreter for several different languages regularly. In this case, hiring an interpretation company over an individual will provide you with the most options and flexibility.

2. Assess General Qualifications

Just like any other employee or service, you’ll want to assess an interpreter’s experience and education. Ideally, look for someone with a good balance of both.
If you have never hired an interpreter before, consider using an interpretation company, like iLingo2. A company verifies their staff’s and contractor’s qualifications and skills for you. They also have a better platform for testing an interpreter’s abilities. (It can be hard to test someone’s ability to interpret conversations when you don’t speak the language).

3. Ask About Specializations

Whether you work in construction or workers’ compensation, you want an interpreter who specializes in your field. A specialized interpreter knows the industry practices and terminology necessary to translate niche concepts. This mitigates the risks of mistranslation or miscommunication.
Even if you can’t test the accuracy of an interpretation yourself, consider holding a test conversation in English to make sure they can keep up with the concepts and vocabulary.

4. Check Compliance Certifications

In many industries, especially workers’ compensation and healthcare, breaking personal privacy laws poses a real threat.
For this reason, we recommend asking every interpretation provider you consider about their compliance processes, certifications, and how they manage quality control.
We specialize in workers’ compensation, for example, so we have a variety of compliance certifications in AICPA SOC, ISO, HIPAA, and more.

5. Look Into Their Reputation

A provider’s reputation says a lot about their ability and ethics, and you can learn a lot from a few detailed customer reviews.
A reputation check doesn’t need to be exceptionally thorough unless you spot red flags. It can be as simple as asking for a list of past clients and recommendations. You can also reach out to past clients to ask about their experience for yourself.
Take special note of providers that have positive reviews and whose clients’ services align with your own.

6. Evaluate Personability

Personability is not the most urgent trait on this list, but it’s great to look for when hiring an interpreter. They represent you and your business, and it’s their job to come across as professional and informed and to help you build client relationships.
When you meet with an interpreter, consider the pace of their speech and how well they enunciate their words. Evaluate if they gesture excessively as they speak. Overall, a great interpreter should be easy to understand and comfortable to talk to.

Prepare Yourself to Work With Interpreters

Once an interpreter or interpretation service has passed this 6-factor check, you can feel confident that you have made the right choice. But choosing an interpreter is only the first step.
If you plan to use remote services, you may need to make sure you have the technology and WiFi in place to do so.
And if you’ve never hired an interpreter before, there are some best practices for working with them that will help you get the most out of your investment. Read up on them in Tips for Working With Interpreters in Workers’ Compensation.