How does a CEO react to a resume?

resumeHow does a CEO react to a resume?   It depends.

I receive numerous resumes from linguists around the world.  I often read a little before handing them off to my Assistant for processing.

The majority impress me with their education, skill level and past performance.  (Of course, we verify those before going further with them.)

But there are some that absolutely puzzle me:

Numerous errors in the cover letter or even within the resume itself.  Particularly if the linguist represents herself as translating into English, this is unacceptable.  Linguists who translate from English should surely be aware of a cardinal rule within our industry:  Every document needs an editor.  Why would we hire someone who sends a resume with errors?  What does that say for their work product?
No educational credentials mentioned.  Tembua is certified to ISO 17100 which requires certain education and experience levels from the people we hire. It is a simple matter to log in to our website, note the certification and look it up.  If a translator can’t do that simple task, how can we expect him to do the research often necessary to complete a translation?

My favorite, however, is a list of specialties that is 3 paragraphs long.    A specialty is what you do most often and best, not everything you’ve ever attempted.  I play piano well. It’s one of my specialties.  But I certainly wouldn’t list flute, clarinet, tympani, guitar and trap set although I have dabbled in all of them.  A linguist might specialize in legal and/or medical documents, but not forestry, pastry, automotive, geology, etc.  That just begs the question: what have you actually done?

I’m certain that our industry isn’t alone in this.  In fact, everyone who has interviewed candidates for an open position, can relate to this example:

Some years ago a young man sat down across from me.   We had reviewed his credentials and checked the validity of his credentials.  He lost me, however, when the first words out of his mouth were, “So, what exactly do you guys do here?”

Do you have resume or interview stories to share? 

Patricia May


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Legislating through Compromise

capital-building“Can’t we just compromise, Mom?” snarled the teenage girl.
“We can compromise on a curfew, on how often you clear the table, on when you can take the car,” replied the mother, “but we cannot compromise on how you answer me. You will answer with respect.”
Repeat after me: You will not get your way every time. Some issues are zero-sum games, and some are not, but no one always gets exactly what they want. This is perhaps especially true in politics.
When laws are made, someone is almost always disappointed. A young, inexperienced legislator promises to deliver a policy, only to arrive at the Capitol to discover that other people want something that is diametrically opposed. Part of growth—as a legislator, and as a person—is learning the dance where one person takes a step toward the middle and the other person does the same. It often takes numerous repetitions. In the end, they meet in that middle, and neither is completely satisfied, but both have accomplished a bit of their platform. That’s compromise.
That works for curfew, clearing the table, and dividing up driving time. Everyone can give a little. But there are some things that are a matter of conscience or deeply held beliefs. Just as the mother in the anecdote above would take nothing less than a respectful answer from her teenager, lawmakers may also hit a point of conscience where any compromise is anathema.
That’s when the relationships built through previous compromises allow both parties to talk and perhaps find a solution both can at least tolerate.
Support our new Congress. Pray for them, follow them, and tweet or post. Even try email. Tell them you appreciate their efforts to compromise without bruising their conscience. And you understand when they don’t get 100% of what they promised. They have a difficult job!
Hopefully the 115th Congress will not run like the Netflix series House of Cards!

Patricia May


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What Do We Do Now?


The election is over, but the horrific campaign exacerbated the divisions in our country.

Rich vs. poor.

Black vs. white.

Male vs. female.

White vs. Hispanic.

Gay vs. straight.

Fat vs. thin.

Isolationist vs. globalization supporter.

It’s up to sociologists and economists and historians to pinpoint the causes—but we get to decide what we do now.
Do we protest? Yes, of course! That’s the American way! But letting protests descend into violence accomplishes nothing. Help keep the people marching with you directed. Organize around a goal, not just around your anger.
Do we contact our senator and representatives? More people should. Write a letter or an email. Let it sit a couple of hours and review it. No one will read a boiling missive. Calmly, rationally express your disappointment. Remind them that they serve you and you are watching. Begin organizing now for the midterm elections. Remind them of that, too.
Do we take to social media? Why not? This is trickier, though, and requires three things from every participant:
1. Remember that you potentially have a large audience. Don’t stoke the flames, any more than you would run into a crowded building and yell, “Fire!” Someone reading your passionate post may take an action that would appall you. Think before you post!
2. Check your facts before you post. I know, fact-checking resembles work and social media is supposed to be fun, but in today’s social climate, it’s terribly irresponsible to put out something without checking its authenticity. Do you know the story of the feather pillow? A young student asked his teacher how he could learn to curb his angry words. The teacher told him to slice the pillow open and take a walk, scattering handfuls of feathers to the wind. When he returned, the teacher instructed him to retrieve all the feathers. The student responded that was impossible. The teacher nodded and said, “So is it with your words.” Once something is posted, it can never be fully retrieved. A post lives on. Repeat that to yourself before you hit Enter.
3. Check the facts before you respond to a post. Yes, more work, but do you really want to spread lies about someone or about an organization? There is enough true dirt out there to go around! Dig and find some of it, if that’s your inclination. Just check the facts you find.
Help keep your groups calm. Whether you interact via the Internet or at a rally, whether you promote a petition or hang up posters, be part of the force that produces calm so that change can occur.
Don’t forget: America shows the world how democracy should be done. You may not like the results, or you may be ecstatic about who won, but it’s time to behave like a citizen. Support your country. The Republic will endure!
Patricia May
President and CEO

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Lies, Exaggeration, and Fishing


My father was an inveterate fisherman. He’d rather have been out on the water with a pole in his hand than anywhere else. When he returned home, he would always say, “You should have seen the one I hooked. But it got away.” He’d hold his hands five feet apart to show the size of the fish and grin at us.

As a little girl, I remember asking my mother if Daddy was lying to us about the fish. She said, “No, your father is an honest man. He’s just exaggerating. Everyone knows his fish aren’t that big. A lie is meant to deceive, and your father doesn’t do that.”

As I grew, she helped me learn the finer points. Car commercials were almost always exaggeration, hyperbole. But they couldn’t lie—or at least, they shouldn’t. The dog ate my homework is a bald-faced lie, especially if that student has a cat!

As a business owner and an observer of the political system, I’ve learned the middle ground between lying and exaggerating: parsing the truth.

“I attended Harvard during the ‘80s.” That can mean one course, or it can mean a degree.

“Our company is an active supporter of the Red Cross.” That can mean one small donation, or it can mean years of regular contributions.

Sometimes it’s really hard to tell the truth, and in some cases the whole truth will hurt people.
The New York Times fact-checks politicians using terms like overstated, highly unlikely, grains of truth, mostly true, mostly right, misleading.
It’s up to us to always listen carefully and, if the topic is important, ask for details and check them.
And it’s up to us, even more so, to speak carefully and remember that one lie can tarnish a reputation forever.

Patricia May
President and CEO

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How Would You Handle an Angry Customer (Like Me)?


For nearly two decades, Tembua used AMExpress, an overnight delivery service, to run packets of certified documents to our clients in the Twin Cities. We bought the envelopes in advance, filled them, and dropped them in an AMExpress drop box. It was very efficient.

In July, we ordered 100 overnight envelopes at a cost of $785, but in September, the AMExpress drop boxes suddenly disappeared. When I called Dynamex, the company contact for AMExpress, I was told they were no longer “using” AMExpress.

No problem. But when I asked for a refund for the overnight envelopes we could no longer use, suddenly it was a problem.

First, the company service rep said we’d need to pay to mail them back to the company. I laughed and told them it was their fault we couldn’t use the envelopes. Finally, the service rep said they’d refund the postage.

But then she told me there would be a 10% restocking charge! I was mystified. A restocking fee is assessed when a customer decides they don’t want something they’ve ordered (and such fees are becoming very rare). We didn’t change our minds about the shipping envelopes. The company took away the opportunity to use them.

I asked to be escalated to a manager. I was not angry yet. The manager refused to budge, and I asked to be escalated to someone above him.

Even then, I was not angry. Many years ago, I was taught that the best—if not the only—way to handle a customer complaint is to apologize and ask how it can be made right. Often, the complaint is really a misunderstanding, and everyone goes away happy.

Whoever answered the phone at the next level must have been taking lessons from the political debates. I explained the issue, and he started talking and did not stop. Every time I tried to say something, he just talked over me. Again and again and again. That was when I became an angry customer.

After 4 or 5 minutes getting nowhere, I simply told him I’d go above his head. Dynamex is under the TransForce umbrella, and I sent their CEO, David Broome, a message via LinkedIn. It’s been a week, and he hasn’t responded.

It is not our fault the company decided to stop the service. We have always been satisfied with the service and would have used up the envelopes and ordered more.

After the last conversation, I refuse to pay a restocking fee. We had no control over the service being terminated. My next step is to dispute the payment with the credit card company.

What would you have done? How would you have handled my complaint? Am I being unreasonable?
Oh—the amount of money involved is $62.50. And I am definitely an angry customer.

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But I Saw It Online!


If you’re only looking to bolster your existing opinion, don’t read any further. Any tidbit you find that matches your own stance will do.

However, if you’re looking for facts to form an opinion, I have several suggestions:

  • Read publications by people on both sides of an issue. Read several.
  • Check that the writers have done some fact-checking. Obviously, someone presenting a single side of an issue will leave out information that doesn’t conform to that opinion. But everything in the piece should be verifiable.
  • Do some fact-checking on your own. There are many public sites where statistics can be verified. Yes, this is tedious and time-consuming, but don’t you want to know that your opinion is based on reality?
  • There are also sites like and whose mission it is to do the searching for you. They also tackle bogus chain emails. FactCheck’s old article about those chains is fun:
  • Look for half-truths and consider context. I was once told that tax spending in inner-city school districts is higher per student than in suburban districts with much better test scores. This turns out to be true. 
    However, this fact needs to be framed with information about unfunded federal mandates that the schools are forced to cover. For example, a higher percentage of inner-city students get breakfast at school, and that comes out of the school’s budget. It is likely that more immigrants live in the inner city, necessitating the need for translation and interpreting services. Some of that is covered, and some is not.
    To fully evaluate the fact about spending per student, we’d need statistics about many aspects of student life.
  • Look for the original source. Some internet rumors have their basis in publications like the Onion, which produces non-news as satire. And yet, people regularly pick up Onion articles and run with them as fact.
  • Listen carefully when someone denies an accusation. Are they covering the entire topic, or just the pieces that favor them?
  • Remember that sound bites and video clips can be altered, spliced to make the speaker say whatever the splicer wants. Double-check these, too, preferably from a transcript.
  • Repeat after me: Not everything on the internet is real! Appearing online doesn’t make a claim accurate, no matter how much you want it to be. That study claiming that chocolate will improve your complexion and help take inches off your hips is, sadly, not true.
  • Lastly, be aware that entire industries specialize in helping you form an opinion. Whether it is marketing or financial services or plain old politics, double-check what you read. If something seems too odd/silly/unbelievable to be true, it probably is.

One of my favorite quotes comes from the TV series Leverage. The team of con artists steals an election in a tiny island nation by manipulating online information.

Did you know—and I didn’t know this—four out of five people, they don’t get their news anymore from the television or the radio. No, they get it from their smartphone or a computer.
. . . Any lie can last, you know, 10 minutes. See, what we needed to do is, we needed to get everyone to believe the same lie for the same 10 minutes.

Remember that when you’re reading online.
Patricia May

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People Don’t Read Anymore

booksWhile in conversation with a college professor, I was startled to hear her say, “I use a lot of pictures because they don’t read anymore.”
I blinked while she picked up her latte for another sip. Pictures? Who doesn’t read?
This professor teaches college-age students at a major university but also evening business courses for working professionals who range in age from 30 to 60.
At first, I thought she meant her students don’t read literature or current events. But when I asked, she said no, she meant directions, requirements, instructions.
On multiple-choice quizzes, she’s started putting a graphic of a pencil along with a starred checkbox next to the paragraph that says, “Check the best answer.”
She bullets assignment instructions with colorful emoji. “And,” she added, “I never put out anything that is single-spaced. That would be just too dense for today’s students to read. I even make sure to put a picture or a graphic between paragraphs.”
Is she bigoted against millennials? No—she told me that her older evening students suffer from the same condition. There was no censure in her voice. She was simply stating an observation.
I mentioned that sometimes we notice a similar issue when first-time clients request a quote. Even though the price is labeled PRICE and the proposed delivery date is labeled TIMELINE, it isn’t unusual for a new client with our quote in hand to request information on cost or ask how long the job will take.
One of my good friends runs a music group at her church and gives them a printed music list each week. Even though each song is listed with the book it comes from, which verses will be sung, and what key it will be in, she says someone asks those questions every week.
My conversation with the professor turned to the why of this phenomenon. It’s not age; we’ve seen the behavior in people from their mid-20s to their 60s. And it’s not educational level because, although our language-related skills usually reflect our education, we’ve seen both people with PhDs and those with only a high school diploma look at text and simply not absorb what’s there.
We’ve both noticed that websites today have much less text than those of 10 years ago. And they have many more pictures. (My own pet peeve is being forced to scroll past large images just to find the one line of text I need.) Perhaps we’re training people to expect all information to come in short bursts like social media posts and be as colorful and interesting as the ads produced for the Olympics. Or perhaps we are all so overscheduled that there isn’t time to absorb a dense text.
Have you noticed this phenomenon? In what situation? What do you think is the cause?
I’d enjoy hearing your opinion!
Patricia May
President and CEO

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LinkedIn Pro Finder


I’ve begun receiving email through LinkedIn’s ProFinder service offering me the opportunity to submit a proposal for some of the services we provide, such as translation, interpreting, transcription, and voice-overs.
Because I know that the services of a professional agency aren’t a good fit for everyone, I thought I might offer some advice to those using this feature.
1. By all means list what you are willing to pay for the work, but have some idea of what the work is worth. For example, an English to German translator can comfortably translate about 2,000 words per week, depending on factors like how well the text is written and how common the topic is. If you have a 10,000-word document, you are asking for a week’s work. Of course, today’s computer support often makes the work go faster, and well-developed translation memories definitely can speed delivery.
2. Do you want the work of one person or two? At Tembua, all work is done by a team of qualified linguists—translator + reviser/editor. But you may not need to have your work edited (for instance, if you only need to understand a document rather than send it to clients or investors). Then you should specify that a single translator is just fine.
3. Do you need a native speaker, and how much experience do you require? If you don’t care, you open yourself up to proposals from anyone who has taken a six-week language course. And that may be enough for your purposes.
4. Is your work confidential? You may want to prepare a confidentiality agreement before you send your documents anywhere.
At Tembua, we know that not everyone is our client, any more than every clothes buyer needs Versace. For some purposes, good enough is good enough. In fact, we don’t want our clients to pay more than they need to, and we direct them to free online services when appropriate.
However, I am passionate about languages and our industry, and I want everyone to have a good experience. If you have questions about any of my suggestions, just shoot me an email.
Patricia May
President and CEO

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Why Do You Write Such Stupid, Harsh, Asinine, Dumb-Ass Comments?

(Yes: stupid, asinine, and dumb-ass are synonyms.)

I came across a set of online comments from people who had visited Carlsbad Caverns a few years ago. Understand that this group of caves is considered a spectacular natural wonder.

One of the comments complained that the caves were too dark and said they should turn on more lights if they’re going to take people through the caves. When I finished laughing, I did something I’d never done before: I began looking for other comments from the same reviewer. Guess what? S/he was negative about everything! In fact, not merely negative—just plain nasty. I wouldn’t take face-to-face advice from someone like that. Why would I give these posts any credence?

Sports sites are particularly prone to not only negativity but also questionable language. That might be something to be seriously concerned about, except that half the time, the commenters can’t even spell the insults they’re writing! It just makes them look silly; I want to pat them on the head and say, “Here’s a cookie. Go play somewhere else, honey.”

I don’t worry about the mechanics of writing in text conversations and quick online comments, and I certainly don’t worry about misspelling in a message to a friend or family member. But when my name or my company’s name appears with the message in a more public setting, you’d better believe I proofread. We are a language services provider, after all.

What concerns me more than correctness is the persistent and growing negativity. Pity the hotelier who has to constantly check online reviews and respond to comments like There was a spot on the carpet or I had to actually ask for more towels. As a frequent traveler, I’ve learned to read comments only from sites that make sure a reviewer has actually stayed at the property, and not to trust one reviewer’s uncorroborated negative opinion.

I also discount comments about issues over which the hotel has no control. I read one review that complained heartily that the guest couldn’t sleep because of the fireworks display outside. On the Fourth of July weekend.

In a broader context, the growing negativity surrounding current political campaigns and news reporting in general is becoming troubling. Unemployment is down, but people are stuck in jobs they don’t like. The candidate for City Council has proposed a great new program, but 10 years ago his wife’s cousin was arrested for shoplifting. The humidity has finally broken and it will be a lovely weekend, but the mosquito population is surely on the rise. Leading economic indicators are on the rise, but we could be on the verge of another recession because . . . .

I’m certainly not suggesting we all become Pollyannas—nothing but good news all the time. But could we are least take a breath before finding the dark side of everything? I’m sure anyone reading this has seen articles lauding the accomplishments of a particular political candidate, then heard the opposing candidate frame the exact same accomplishment in terms of a heinous crime. Yes, politicians are supposed to point out the distinctions of their own views, but this election cycle’s debate seems to be the most negative I’ve heard in years.

What do you think? Is the mood in the country particularly black today? Should they turn on more lights at Carlsbad Caverns?

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Politically Correct Language: Courtesy or Weakness?


I’ve heard several politicians sneer recently that they were going to tell it like it is and not be concerned with politically correct language.
Isn’t it funny how we come up with a label that spins an issue to suit our preferences?
Synonyms for politically correct include neutral, appropriate, unbiased, nondiscriminatory. Its opposite is offensive.
My mother wouldn’t have recognized the term politically correct language, but she certainly stepped down hard on us when our words were what she called not nice. She said that if our words hurt someone or were disrespectful, we should change them or, better yet, be quiet. Her admonitions included my working-class father as the country went through vocabulary changes regarding black citizens.
The phrase politically correct appears to have arisen during the 1930s to mean using correct language. But it was becoming ironic when the New York Times reported on Nazi Germany in 1934 that “All journalists must have a permit to function and such permits are granted only to pure ‘Aryans’ whose opinions are politically correct.”
The term has been associated with the left and with social movements, but today the term seems to have morphed into an insult.

As a linguist, I’m interested when a phrase becomes a cudgel to bash people on the other side of an issue.

The Urban Dictionary defines politically correct as A way that we speak in America so we don’t offend whining pussies. Only pathetically weak people that don’t have the balls to say what they feel and mean are politically correct pussies. That’s definitely beyond ironic!
There are even politically correct bedtime stories. The author is James Finn Garner, and here’s an excerpt from Little Red Riding Hood:
The wolf said, “You know, my dear, it isn’t safe for a little girl to walk through these woods alone.”
Red Riding Hood said, “I find your sexist remark offensive in the extreme, but I will ignore it because of your traditional status as an outcast from society, the stress of which has caused you to develop your own, entirely valid, world view…”
Now, see if you can find someone to insult by calling them politically correct. And don’t forget to sneer.

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