Just because you have left the world of formal employment to become a contractor does not mean that you don’t need a high impact CV. Similar to applying for employee positions, you will face competition for contractor roles and projects, so having a CV that stands out is crucial.
Most recruiters look at hundreds of CVs, and have a sharp eye for quality and organization of the CV. If you make their job easy and display the important information in a succinct and relevant way, your CV will rise to the top.
Here are five tips to make your CV excellent:
1.Tailor it the role
If you are applying for a specific role (rather than submitting a CV an agency to have ‘on file’) then it is wise to customize it for the position or project. You are basically marketing your services, and you need to tailor your CV to fit the role or skills needed. Identify the work experience that you have on similar projects and list those first, especially if they were recent jobs.
The rest of your work history (beyond the past 12 months) can be summarized, giving the reader exactly what they need to include you as a top candidate.
2. Highlight your skills
It may seem obvious to highlight your key skills and experience, but if you are used to writing an ‘employee’ CV you might make the mistake of listing unrelated experience and skills in a timeline format. The contractor CV requires a new approach, that considers the type of work, project needs and skills required.
Make it easy for the reader to know exactly what you do and how well. Simple assertive sentences that list your skills are preferable to vague and lengthy descriptions.
As this article describes very well, “Put all the good stuff on the first page. Recruiters decide within 6 seconds if your CV is worth reading to the end so make sure they know by half way down the first page that you have what they need. The best way to do this is to have a ‘key skills’ section where you summarize your skills.”
- Experience vs Education
Experience is more important than education for contractors, and the university you attended or awards are often of passing interest and wont be enough to get you the job. Sure, you want to mention your degrees and area of study, but after the skills section to connect it to your academic background.
- Project and Job Numbers
Share the number of projects or jobs that you have worked, to illustrate that you have been hired multiple times with successful outcomes. It is better to have numerous projects with a single client, showing that they rehired you over and over. Isolated, one-time projects with no rehires may be a red flag for some recruiters.
3. Quality, not quantity
CVs that are too long generally wont be read, and your key skills and experience may get lost in the pages. Be as succinct as possible, and try to keep the CV to two pages maximum for easy reading and access to important information.
Formatting may seem like an unimportant detail, but creating a visually appealing and readable CV will demonstrate you approach to work and awareness of the recruitment process. Using too small a font, long paragraphs, lack of sub-sections and bullets and poor organization might put your CV in the reject pile as just too much effort to read.
You can use either a PDF file or Word document, and it may be a good idea to do both since some recruitment agencies will want to put a digital copy in their CRM system.
5. Get a second opinion
Before you send out your CV you should let someone else take a look at it. Often, we have blind spots when it comes to presenting our skills and background. A neutral third party may be able to point out inconsistencies, redundant information or simple mistakes in the CV.
These tips should help you craft a compelling contractor CV, that you can customize and use for multiple job applications, and is easily updated as you complete new projects.