The test file is something all transcribers are used to. But what is it, and why do some freelancers expect to be paid for completing it?

When recruiting for new transcribers or translators, we often send out short extracts of audio transcription – called test files – in lots of different languages, ranging from the most common European languages right through to Japanese and Chinese. One of the most frequently asked questions is “will I get paid for completing my test file?” In short, the answer is no, but let us explain why.

We do not pay transcribers to undertake a test file as this is a crucial part of our recruitment process, just like an interview or assessment centre is part of the recruitment process for any other job. The audio in the test file doesn’t change, the same one is sent out to all transcribers and it is marked or assessed according to the performance of the individual transcriber when it is returned to us. Most importantly, it is not something that we send to clients, and therefore we don’t make any profit as a result of the same test file being completed over and over again.

I have read lots of scare stories on the internet about agencies using the test file as a way of obtaining free work, that transcribers think it is unfair to perform something for nothing and that we must be benefitting from using the work. To make it clear, we don’t financially benefit from test files, we only use them to assess the ability of the transcriber and to see if they can grasp five minutes of audio. We check for spelling mistakes, truth of content to the audio and whether the translation is too literal, amongst other things.

Once again, this step is a vital part of our recruitment process, as we never allow a new transcriber to start work on live work without being assessed. After this initial stage, we give detailed feedback, and if a transcriber is good enough they can progress to working on live pieces of work. After this stage, each piece of work  is fully monitored and proof read by qualified in-house staff in accordance with our ISO 9001 accreditation. This is a standard we have in place to ensure only high quality of work is returned to our clients.

We can completely understand transcribers being protective of their work, but we hope that they can now see how test files actually help to protect our industry, that by assessing transcribers in this way, we actually increase the value of their work.

Image credit: Phil and Pam