As a professional interpreter, it is vital that you always look and act like the experienced, well paid pro that you are. Interpreters who dress too casually are seldom taken seriously by the agency or the client and can be judged as “unprofessional” simply because they were not dressed to impress.
Interpreters are very well paid individuals; most make in a few hours what a well-paid, middle class individual makes in a day, so why shouldn’t they look like it? Dressing to impress is not the same as showing off or making yourself look more important than others; it is simply a way to show that you are a dedicated professional with high standards and that you take your profession seriously.
To help you avoid common pitfalls, here is a short list of DO’s and Don’ts
- Always dress in business attire (the style can range from business-casual to formal, but never dress in regular clothing unless specifically instructed to do so).
- Never wear flashy colors or jewelry, or dress provocatively in any way. Good interpreters are inconspicuous, great interpreters aren’t even noticed. Avoid flashy ties, overdone make up, pinky rings, wigs, wearing sun glasses indoors, bringing lap dogs….you get the picture.
- Never wear jeans, regardless of how fancy or expensive; it can still be deemed as disrespectful, unorganized and tasteless.
- Never wear tennis shoes or sport shoes, unless specifically instructed to do so. Ladies, never wear very long heels; this too can be considered tasteless; you are there to interpret not to find a rich boyfriend.
- Clothing must always be pressed and look relatively new. Wearing a suit from the 80’s (I don’t care if it’s Chanel) can (and does) give the impression that you are down on your luck. Down on their luck interpreter = doesn’t make enough money = must not be that good = maybe he overcharged me = I’ll have to check around to make sure he really is a pro.