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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Getting Started – Testing Tips

Hopefully you've used Shaina's super advice to write up a stellar résumé and an attention-getting cover letter and now have transcription companies banging down your door to contract with them. Okay, so maybe you just received a nice email from one inquiring if you'd like to test. Either way, I've got some great tips to help you put your best foot forward and turn in the best test you possibly can.

1.) Be professional in all communications with the company. This means using complete sentences in correspondence, no shorthand IM speak, using a closing, and so forth. If you have any questions about the testing process, it's best to communicate directly with the company. Companies do frequent message boards, and no matter how secure you feel that you can't be identified, you're probably not as anonymous as you think, so asking questions on them is not acceptable. If you feel like you won't be able to complete the test after all or within the specified time frame, it is common courtesy to notify them of this.

2.) Before starting your test, read the testing email and any documents regarding the testing thoroughly. It helps to become familiar with the style guide (if they provide one) and any templates before starting to type. If you are provided with a template, I would recommend that you save it as a new file and use it to type your document. Not only will you save yourself a lot of time in setting it up, but you can be assured that your test will exactly conform to their specifications. Be sure to name your test file exactly as per their instructions.

3.) The first time through the audio, just type it out. You can go back and research and re-listen when you have already given it a first pass, but do your best to maintain proper grammar and adhere to the style guide at this time.

4.) When you go back through, research any terms you're not familiar with, as well as ALL names. I can't tell you how many times I've thought I had a name spelled correctly only to find out I was wrong after all when I looked it up. For example, I had a transcript the other day that mentioned someone named John Reese; however, when I took the time to research it, I discovered it was actually John Riesse. I can't stress enough how important details like this are.

5.) If you are having trouble making out what has been said in a certain area, it often helps to take a break and come back to it. If you still can't make it out, I would recommend that you attempt to spell what is said phonetically and indicate this in whatever manner the company specifies in their style guide. Marking it as inaudible, unintelligible, or leaving a blank should always be your very last resort.

6.) Review your style guide again, and make sure that you have adhered exactly to it throughout your test document. If you are unclear on something, again it is best to contact the company directly. They may tell you to just use your best judgment, and in this case, do just that while taking into account the information that you do have available to you.

7.) Always, always, always spell check your document one final time before sending it, and make sure that there are no extra spaces between words.

8.) When sending back your test, make sure that you are sending it to the email address that they have specified, and included any information that they request in the body of your email. Title your email as per their instructions, and don't forget to attach your test document.

Now it's time to wait. It is important to remember that company may be testing a large number of people at one time, so you may not hear anything back immediately. In fact, some companies do not respond at all unless you are hired. It's hard to be patient, but nagging them for results will probably only result in you being blacklisted. If more than three weeks have passed without a reply, a polite follow-up email would be acceptable. I would not recommend that you call the company requesting your test results under any circumstances.

Finally, if you are offered a contract with a company, know that they are going to expect the same degree of quality in your everyday work as you presented in your test. So I guess you could say that these are more than just testing tips. They can be looked upon as guidelines for maintaining a contract as well.