Ask a Recruiter: Nine Questions and Answers to Help With Your Localization Interview


Ask a Recruiter: Nine Questions and Answers to Help With Your Localization Interview

Even as the world economy continues to homogenize, localization continues to rise. The global language services industry is surpassing $60 billion in annual revenue; thanks at least partly to the fact that businesses using localization outpace their single-language competitors in foreign markets by a factor of 1.5.

This is a great industry to enter or advance in, but that entry or advancement is far from automatic. Localization is a complex field and topic, so careers in this industry tend to be competitive.

Read this article for insider tips on how you can prepare for your interview with a recruiter experienced in hiring language and localization-specific positions.

Q: Localization is a complex and nuanced field. How can you enter it without any prior experience?

The answer is surprisingly easy. Localization is what we might call an “and-one” field: most of the skills you will need come from other industries, like graphic design, writing, project management, or even translation. The critical additional component professionals in the field need is a deep cultural knowledge of the market.

So, candidates who can show their expertise in the core required skill, plus some evidence of that cultural knowledge, tend to stand out positively.

Q: We always hear that professional experience matters most. But can personal experience play a role in this field as well?

It absolutely can, and it probably should. Showcasing your knowledge of another culture and language can be challenging, and it only becomes more difficult if you limit yourself to your professional history. Adding a personal component can become that missing piece.

For example, you only have professional content writing experience in the United States, but suppose you have spent some time in Scandinavia or have some other personal experience in those cultures. In that case, you have at least a foundation for a localization role that connects U.S. and northern European markets.

Q: Describing your weaknesses in a job interview can be challenging. How should a candidate do that in the localization industry?

First of all, and this applies to any job interview in any industry, honesty is critical. No recruiter wants to hear about alleged weaknesses that don’t say much, like “I’m too much of a perfectionist.” Instead, be honest with yourself and the recruiter about areas to improve.

Regarding localization roles specifically, chances are your recruiter will expect at least some weaknesses. Especially for professionals just entering the field, it’s almost impossible to be an expert in every culture in question.

Acknowledge where you currently fall short, but pair those weaknesses with a specific improvement plan. If the company is looking for a localization expert for a market expansion into Southern Europe, describe how you’ll learn more about this market’s culture to create truly nuanced and relevant work.

Q: What basic localization concepts are crucial to know, regardless of experience? 

Great question! Of course, you must come into the interview with a basic understanding of localization, which means incorporating cultural nuances into translated content. That means you will need at least some knowledge of all the markets in which the company you are interviewing is operating or expanding into.

You must also understand how localization fits into the more significant market entry or expansion hierarchy. Refrain from using it synonymously with translation; instead, translation is just a component of localization. Localization is a strategic approach to adapting a product, service, or language to the culture of your target audience.

Q: So it’s about culture. But how far into knowing the cultures in question should a candidate get during the interview?

In most interview contexts, you will likely have limited time, which means leaving an in-depth exploration of your cultural knowledge to your resume, cover letter, and any professional samples. For the interview, focus on a few specific examples, including options like:

  • Slang and local colloquialisms
  • Nuances of local symbols, graphics, and visuals
  • Examples you know of other businesses bridging both cultures
  • Any legal differences and requirements you know of
  • Other relevant details

Answering any questions about your cultural knowledge with specific examples like these can go a long way toward convincing your recruiter of your expertise.

Q: What research should a candidate do about the company and industry before applying?

Do as much research as you can. The more you can direct your answers toward the specific situation into which you will step, the better. Try to understand:

  • Why the organization needs localization services
  • Which markets do they already operate in, and where are they looking to expand
  • How other organizations in the same industry have approached localization, etc.

Q: We are in a brave new world of remote work. How should a candidate approach, ask, or answer questions about work locations?

This is a relevant question for all industries, but it matters even more with these roles. Localization inherently means operating in multiple markets, which might mean working or spending time in one or both markets. It might also mean that remote work is more common, thanks to professionals from both markets having to collaborate without being in the same physical space.

Avoid saying or insinuating that you only want the job because you would get to work in a foreign country. Asking about where you will work or your preference tends to be fair. Be sure to outline why these answers help productivity and the organization.

Q: Reality check: what types of answers are frowned upon when interviewing for a localization role?

There are many ways to answer this question; however, the most important general statement may be to ensure that you keep it professional. With a role like this, it is immensely tempting to talk about personal benefits, like traveling the world or personal history, and neither of those approaches will help your case.

Worse, some recruiters specifically look for these types of answers to ‘weed out’ candidates who might not be a good fit. Instead, be careful to keep your answers professional and with an eye on your career and the organization’s benefits. Talking about personal passions is fine as long as you can directly connect it back to how those passions will make you a good fit for the role.

Q: Are there any questions a candidate can ask that make them more likely to get the job or advance in the search?

In most interviews, your recruiter will allow you to ask a few questions about the organization and position. The questions you ask will provide the recruiter with basic information and additional intel to the recruiter about your knowledge and interest in the job.

As a result, think about the questions you might ask beforehand. Ask at least one about the current situation and the need for localization services. You can also ask about the following:

  • The specific challenges this position will be expected to solve
  • The more extensive organizational infrastructure for the market in which localization services are needed
  • What success in your role would look like