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A how to guide for writing the best contractor CV
25 October 2016
Most people know the basics of writing a strong CV: no grammatical mistakes, list details of your duties, use clean formatting. But as a contractor, your CV is different from that of the general workforce. You will have a lot more ground to cover due to the number of roles you’ve held, and you may also have some gaps in your career timeline.
What can you do as a contractor to highlight relevant experience while still giving a comprehensive overview of your skills? Here are our top tips.
The basics: skills or chronology?
There are no hard and fast rules about how you lay out your resume, but most people list their jobs in reverse chronological order, outlining their skills as they go along.
You can follow this format if you choose, and it will reflect your career and the types of jobs you’ve taken on in the past. But given that most contractors have a non-traditional employment record, foregrounding your skills rather than your history may be a better approach. Rather than listing every single job you’ve had (which could result in a 10-page CV), focus on those that are most relevant to the job at hand.
It’s worth it to tailor your CV to each job you apply for. This may involve keeping a ‘Master CV’ and selecting the most relevant work to highlight and enhance your experience as you apply. You should always include a prominent section about your transferable professional skills, technologies you have training in and awards, certificates and other ways you’ve been recognised in your career.
Don’t skip the numbers
Make your CV as data-driven as possible. Focus on things you accomplished during a contract, and use quantitative data to support these accomplishments. Answer questions like:
• How many people have you managed?
• Have you reduced spending/increased profitability? By what margin?
• Were you able to implement new processes?
• Has your work positively influenced your employer’s business?
Hard numbers and facts like these are easier for employers to visualise, and they make a much stronger case than blanket statements like, “I have strong management skills.”
Emphasise transferable skills
Both your generalist and specialist skills become useful in marketing yourself as a contractor. Depending on the employer’s needs, they may be looking for an attitudinal or cultural fit for a broad job description, so transferable skills like communication, stakeholder management and even experience with certain software suites may be the make-or-break for getting hired.
Be sure you can prove your claims of transferable skills—either with a description of a specific incident, or with referees who know you well.
A recent Michael Page study of the global contingent work force found that a typical example of the expectations for a contract worker (in this case, an accountant) were:
• The ability to master IT and handle system upgrades
• Demonstration of ability to use information systems
• Readiness to take on new assignments and workloads
• Ability to operate in a team and to network
• A flair for languages
• Technical versatility
• Personal qualities including responsiveness, creativity, open-mindedness and the ability to manage change
As you can see, even for a job that is mostly technical and highly skilled, many of the traits employers are looking for are boarder and transferable. Keep this in mind when building your CV, no matter what sector you work in.
In a world of increased automation, it’s important to include keywords appropriate to your field: HR managers may use Boolean x-ray searches to whittle down a stack of CVs, so make sure that you’re using specific phrases and descriptive words near the top of your CV. That way, whether it’s being scanned by a computer or a pair of eyes, the right phrases will jump out.
If you’re unsure what keywords you should use, LinkedIn is a great place to start your research. Find individuals who are currently holding roles similar to the ones you’re vying for, and take note of the words you see in their profiles.
Michael Page can also help you build the ideal CV to get the job you want. Contact us today to get started.
• Make your CV attractive to recruiters by tailoring it to the field of work
• Use quantitative data to support your accomplishments
• Use keywords to showcase relevant skills