How to Write an Effective Contractor CV

Contractor CV

Your contractor CV is where you make a business case for why potential clients should be interested in you. Often the only information a client or recruiter has about you comes from your CV, so it’s an extremely important part of your work-sourcing process.

If you’re making a lot of applications and not getting many interviews, it’s likely that the issue is your CV. Even where there’s a lot of competition for a role, it’s your CV against everyone else’s, so if you’re consistently losing out it’s worth taking another look at it.

Reasons why your Contractor CV might be getting rejected

You’re failing the initial “sift”

The first thing the recruiter or client must do is to sift through all the CVs they’ve received and discard any that they don’t want to take forward to the next stage. This process is usually completed either by a computer program, or “applicant tracking system”, or by a busy person with an enormous pile of CVs and not much time to get through them. In either case, your CV can be rejected without being read if the relevant information is not in the right place, in the right format, using the right language.

You’re concentrating on the wrong skills when you describe yourself

Of course, the client wants someone who’s hard-working, personable and has good timekeeping. Many will indeed care about your tenaciousness and dedication, the warmth of your manner, and the cut of your jib. However, anyone can write about these things so putting them on your CV is not helpful. If the client is looking for particular personality traits or soft skills they’ll assess these for themselves at the interview, not take your word for it on your CV.

Include information about what you can do, rather than how you do it. This will give you a list of tangible skills, which should correlate with what hirers need for the roles you’re looking for.

One way to test this is to read your profile and imagine it refers to someone else, for example a colleague or friend in a different field. If it fits, you’ve probably used too many personality traits or soft skills in your description.

Your CV makes you look like an employee

This mistake is more common than you might think, possibly because so many contractors were employed in their “former life”. Clients looking to hire contractors want someone who’s experienced, independent and able to “hit the ground running”. If it isn’t clear from your CV that you’re a contractor, they won’t be convinced you’re what they need.

A contractor CV should refer to former hirers as clients, not employers. Jobs are assignments, and you don’t have an employment history because you’re not employed. It might also help if you mention your limited company.

How to structure your contractor CV

As a quick Google search will tell you, there are many ways to approach writing your contractor CV. In this article we’re going to show you two solutions, one for general use and one for use with recruiters and clients who understand the contracting world.

The Chronological CV

This is the kind of CV most people expect to see and it’s a safe default option for anyone to use. For contractors, it’s most useful when dealing with recruiters who usually deal with “temp to perm” arrangements, or otherwise don’t understand professional contractors.

This is also the best choice for the financial and banking sector, where a “case study based” CV can be problematic. This version is a little different from the employee CVs you may have seen, in that it starts with what you can do rather than going straight into your career history.

Page 1

This is an example of how you might set out the first page of your CV to give you an idea. You don’t necessarily need to set yours out exactly like this.

Notice that in this example your career history starts at the bottom of the first page. This means it won’t get in the way, but it’s easy to find when the recruiter/client want to read it. 

Profile/summary

This is where you list your skills and experience. This might be the only part of your CV that gets read, and it might only get a brief look so it’s important that you tell the recruiter/client what they want to know right off the bat.

Start with what you are, for example “expert in/specialist in [your field of expertise]” go on to what you do “providing/implementing/creating [difficult technical things] for [businesses like this client]” and end with the outcomes you create “to ensure/prevent/improve [the stuff this client needs ensuing/preventing/improving]”.

If you have space follow this with a list of your key strengths in a similar format, for example “Key strengths include: Doing [something really clever] to [make something really good happen] for [businesses like this client]”.

Key skills

This is a simple bullet list of your skills. Imagine the recruiter/client will put the skills they’re looking for into a search engine and design this list to make sure your CV appears high in the results. Order it by importance for the role you’re applying for and use appropriate key words.

Contractor CV

Career Highlights

This is where you provide specific examples as evidence of your expertise. This time start with the situation, explain the thing you had to achieve, explain the specific actions you took, and end with the outcome. For example, “[client’s name] needed to [do something really difficult]. I [list of specific, technical and extremely clever actions you took]. [Describe the enormous success the client enjoyed as a result].”

Aim to supply 3-5 examples. Make sure your examples demonstrate the skills the recruiter/client are looking for. Have as many examples as possible pre-written so you can cut and paste to target specific roles.

Career History

We advise you to start the career history section at the bottom of the first page of your contractor CV. In this way you solve “last assignment syndrome” because the top of page 1 is targeted for this role, but it’s still obvious that you’ve included your career history and where it is.

Start with your current/most recent assignment. Most of this information will be on the second page but it’s worth including the first bullet point on page 1 so it’s obvious what happening before the reader turns the page

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Page 2

Page 2 is taken up with your latest 2 assignments. Use bullet points and keep each one to two or three lines. For your current/latest assignment, explain the role in the first half of the space and use the second half to pick out your personal achievements.

For your previous assignment, don’t worry about separating out your achievements unless you have something you particularly want to draw attention to. It’s ok if it doesn’t all fit onto page 2; you can finish it off in the last page.

Page 3

On page 3, if necessary you can finish detailing your previous assignment. This shouldn’t take up more than a third of the page.

Earlier career

Here you can detail your career history. Take one line for each assignment and just include the dates, the client’s name and the job title. One of the issues many contractors have with their CV is that their career history is very long, because they’ve done many different assignments. This method allows you to deal with your career history in a much smaller space.

Education and memberships

Here you can list any professional memberships, followed by your qualifications in chronological order. Don’t list all your school qualifications; you can deal with them all on one line.

Personal details

Next, provide your address and any other relevant personal details. If you have your own website, you can list the address here and you can include your limited company name too. If you’ll be driving as part of the assignment you might want to include details of your driving licence as well.

Recommendations

It well worth asking satisfied clients for quotes you can include in your CV, and this is the place to share them. Include two or three if you have them but collect as many as you can so you can swap them in and out depending on relevance to the role you’re applying for. Make sure they’re real and that you have permission to use them in case someone contacts your former client to check.

This is one way to create a chronological CV that solves most of the common problems contractors tend to have while fulfilling the expectations of many non-contractors. Next, we’ll talk about how to create a specialist contractor CV, using a “case study” model.

 The Specialist Contractor CV

This layout is most useful when dealing with recruiters and clients who are used to engaging professional contractors. If you’re applying for roles in the financial/banking sector, you should use a chronological CV instead.

The specialist contractor layout concentrates on what you can deliver, rather than the story of what you did and when. It has the advantage of establishing you as a serious professional contractor, and giving you some flexibility about what you include and what order you put it in.

Once again, we’ve created an example layout to give you an idea of how to construct yours. Obviously, you don’t have to do it exactly like this. 

Page 1

As you can see the top two sections are the same as on the chronological CV. As before, the aim is to put the information the recruiter/client needs right at the start of the CV, to give you the best chance of getting through the initial sift.

Current role/situation

This is where the specialist contractor CV starts to differ from the chronological version. In this section, you introduce yourself as a contractor, explain briefly what you do and name-drop any high-profile clients you’ve worked for in the past. Finish this section by introducing the section below, for example: “below is a list of example assignments completed over this period in no particular order. Not all are included”. This gives you the freedom to place the most relevant first, and to leave out any that are not relevant to the role you’re applying for.

Project/assignment portfolio

In this section, include examples as evidence of your skills and expertise, much like we explained in the “career highlights” section of the chronological layout. The difference is that here you want more of them. Include as many relevant examples as you have. Remember, they don’t have to be chronological order and you don’t have to include the dates so it doesn’t matter how old your examples are. Again, start with the situation, explain what needed to be done, the action you personally took and the outcome. If you’ve been contracting for a while we’d expect this section to take up roughly a third of page 1 and all of page 2

Contractor CV

Page 3

Page 3 is where you include your career chronology. The recruiter or client is likely to want to know your history, even though it’s not the thing they’re most interested in. Including it here as a list reassures them that you’re not hiding anything, while keeping the focus of the document on what you can do for the client, which is what they really need to know.

The rest of this page is identical to the chronological layout.

 

So, there you have it; two possible solutions to the problem of writing a contractor CV. If you have any questions about this or any issue, or if Orange Genie can help in any way, please contact our expert team on 01296 468483 or email info@orangegenie.com.

 

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