Sign Language Interpreter Selection Process

How do you decide which interpreter is right for a specific assignment?  What makes one interpreter a better pick than another for a specific appointment?  Why should I not just choose the cheapest interpreter?  Many businesses and interpreting agencies ask these questions when going through the sign language interpreter selection process.sign language interpreter selection process

But how do you filter through all the questions, all the interpreting agencies, and all the available sign language interpreters?  Businesses should focus on choosing a reputable sign language interpreting agency while agencies themselves should focus on choosing appropriate sign language interpreters.  Finally, sign language interpreters themselves should encourage ethical and successful exchanges for each available assignment.

Business Hiring an Interpreter/Agency

Businesses include hospitals, medical offices, law offices, schools, and other various companies.   Typically their specialty is in something other than sign language interpreting.  Therefore, they must rely on a sign language interpreter or interpreting agency to recommend and assign the most appropriate interpreter for a specific event.  Choosing a firm can be overwhelming.  Most businesses’ first thought is their budget.

Cost is forefront in everyone’s minds.  This, however, can blur the importance of selecting a reputable sign language interpreting company.  When searching companies, businesses are encouraged to ask questions beyond pricing such as what is your interpreter selection process?  Also determine the quality of customer service.  Businesses need to be confident their interpreter will arrive on time, be qualified, and allow for a successful appointment.  With these aspects, interpreter cost rapidly becomes nearly irrelevant as your business will be more profitable with satisfied clients.  Sign language interpreters play a large role in your ability to reach your Deaf and hard-of-hearing clientele.

Interpreting Agency Assigning an Interpreter

When determining the appropriate sign language interpreter to send on an assignment, there are several things to consider.  If the assignment is a first time/one-time event, all interpreters may receive the request and be assigned on a first come first serve basis.  This of course must be done within certification and experience parameters.

If the assignment, however, is a repeated event, consistent interpreters will lead to success of the assignment.  Sending the same interpreter to each event will allow for familiarity in the setting.  The clients will feel comfortable because they will know what to expect from the interpreter each time.  Instead of trying to adjust to someone new each time, the client(s) will be able to focus on the real reason they are there.

Sign Language Interpreter Role

Finally, the interpreter themselves has a role to play in the sign language interpreter selection process.  If they do not feel comfortable or know they are not qualified in a specific setting and/or with specific clients, they should stick to their ethical guidelines of not accepting the assignment.

On the other hand, if they have worked in a setting and/or with specific clients in the past and feel they are an appropriate match, they should encourage all involved to keep them as a consistent interpreter for future appointments.  Similarly, if they are aware of another interpreter who would better interpret an event, they should recommend them so as to allow for the smoothest and most successful outcome.


We all play an important role in successful interpreted events.  The Deaf and hard-of-hearing persons involved have a valuable perspective as well.  Read more in our article about “Deaf Request Sign Language Interpreters.”  Contact a reputable interpreting company for more information on how to encourage an ethical and appropriate sign language interpreter selection process.

Enjoy the following video produced by Communication Service for the Deaf about choosing an interpreter.  Ask your Deaf partner/coworker/employee/customer to be a part of the selection process.


Additional Resources:

How to Select the Right Sign Language Interpreter

Selecting an Interpreter


Photo Credit:

MT & Associates | Sign Language Interpreting Practice BBB Business Review