How to Choose an Interpreting Agency

How to Choose an Interpreting Agency

Imagine having to quickly and concisely repeat what somebody is saying with zero margin for error. It’s hard to do in a single language, not to mention two. Interpreting is an incredibly skilled job and takes several years to master.

Simply being bilingual isn’t the answer. Knowing a second language means that you are able to follow and respond to somebody correctly, but that’s where it stops.

A true interpreter will have a deep understanding of the culture behind the language. They are trained to provide more than just a relay of what somebody is saying – they are trained to also include the true meaning and sentiment of the original statement.

How to choose an interpreting agency

Interpreters have fantastic listening skills, focus, note-taking skills and will multitask effortlessly.  So, whether you need an interpreter for a conference, business meeting or legal proceedings, it’s important that you hire somebody with the skillset to deliver a professional service.

It’s difficult finding great interpreters, which is why you need to find an interpreting agency with a reputation for recruiting and training the best – hiring the wrong interpreter could seriously damage your reputation.

First things first, you need to work out what type of interpreting service you need. There are many different types so it’s best to familiarise yourself with them before starting your search for an interpreter.


This form of interpreting is commonly used in meetings with a smaller number of participants. The interpreter listens to a set number of utterances from the speaker and then gives their rendition in the target foreign language.


Also known as conference interpreting. The Interpreter sits in a booth in front of a microphone, receiving input from the speaker through earphones. Delegates can hear the interpreter speak in their language through the use of portable receivers tuned into specific language channels.


This method of interpreting is used in such meetings where a reduced number of participants may not warrant the additional cost of a booth and related technical equipment. The interpreter, positioned next to the listener, simply whispers to the listener precisely what the speaker is saying.

Help with choosing an interpreting agency

Finding a great agency

Now you’re all set to find your interpreting agency, here are a few questions to consider:

Are they a native speaker?

This may seem like an unusual requirement but it’s very important when looking for an interpreter. Native speakers will be able to follow and speak a language much faster than somebody who has been taught it as a second language. It will also dismiss the risk of any unnecessary accents which could be distracting or confusing.

Top tip:  Ask to see the CV of the interpreter the agency plans to send.

Do they have relevant experience?

Some agencies specialise in certain industries. You’ll need somebody familiar with the subject matter and terminology you require. Don’t be afraid to ask what experience they have, what particular situations they have worked in and for how many years they have been interpreting. Discuss your specific requirements and see if they have any similar experience.

Top tip:  Make sure you include any specialisation you need the interpreter to have right from the beginning – to avoid getting someone unsuitable allocated.

Training and development

Hiring untrained interpreters could pose huge problems. Important material could be added or omitted, original statements could be changed or misconstrued and unnecessary opinions may creep in. Be sure that your interpreting agency only hires interpreters with the right qualifications and training.

Top tip:  Ask what recruitment processes the agency has in place.

One last thing(…well two!)

If you’re planning an event that requires simultaneous interpreting, you’ll also need to need to consider equipment and how best to manage your interpreters. Ask yourself the following questions:

Do they have their own equipment?

Some agencies will have their own interpreting equipment that will be included in the cost of their services. Be sure to check if this is the case or if you’ll need to include equipment hire in your budget.

Top tip:  Find an agency with their own equipment to save hassle and any extra costs.

Do they provide an onsite interpreting coordinator?

If you need more than one interpreter for an event, it’s strongly advisable to use an onsite interpreting coordinator. Organising an event can be very stressful without having to ensure the smooth running of your interpreting services. The coordinator will manage your interpreters to ensure that everything from running times and reference materials are all in check.

Top tip:  Here at ONCALL, we understand the importance of having an onsite interpreting coordinator, which is why we assign one (free of charge) to every interpreting project.


Over to you.

Whatever agency you choose, the most important part is that you feel comfortable with them and confident that they can deliver exactly what you need.  If you’ve followed the above steps, you’ll be a lot more confident in your choice.

If you’re still stuck, feel free to get in touch – we’d love to help with your language needs.