How to Write a Contractor CV

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You’re ready to embark upon a fresh, rewarding career as a contractor, but how do you sell yourself to potential clients?

If you’re looking to move from permanent employment or are new to contracting and on the hunt for your first contract, the first thing to do is re-write your CV (curriculum vitae).

Permanent CVs vs. Contractor CVs: Know the difference and shape yours accordingly

The first thing you need to know is that potential clients are looking to buy your skills and industry knowledge, on a short-term basis.

As a result, unlike a permanent CV, your main priority is to highlight the skills you possess early in the document. The key is to get right to the point and make the reader know exactly what your core skills are, at the very start of the CV.

Looking to find a contracting role?

Our free guide to finding a contract will help you secure your next role.

What’s in the guide?

  • Finding the right contract – Agencies or job boards? We’ve got you covered.
  • Seven secrets to optimising your income – From experience to presentation skills.
  • CV’s, e-CV’s and CV databases – How to make sure your CV is picked up.
  • Five tips when writing your CV – why it is important to keep it up-to-date.

How long should my CV be?

There’s no definitive answer when it comes to this, however, we would recommend that you keep your CV to no more than three pages.

The length of your CV will depend on your career history and experience, so if you’ve had a wealth of experience it’s best to focus on your most recent work.

Make sure it’s simple to read

Use jargon and acronyms specific to your industry, that you think recruiters may search under. But do you know which keywords to use?

Search online for job descriptions and vacancies in the type of jobs you’re interested in; talk to people in the industry and research the companies you would like to work for.

Common CV mistakes to avoid

First impressions really do count, so watch out for these classic CV mistakes:

1. Spelling

Spelling mistakes in your CV will not help you in your search for a contract. Use a spellchecker to iron out any spelling mistakes.

2. Grammar

A spellchecker may not pick up grammatical errors, so it’s worth asking a friend to proofread your CV before sending it off.

3. Fonts

It’s best to stick to a common font (Arial, Calibri, etc.) when creating your CV. We wouldn’t recommend using an unusual font to stand out, as your CV could find its way into the bin.

4. Layout

Use a common presentation style throughout. Don’t leave unnecessary blank spaces between sections, and be consistent in your choice of font.

What should be included in a contractor CV?

Your CV is a sales document for your contracting business, so your main aim should be to make your key skills stand out on the page.

There are no clear-cut rules regarding the section titles you should include in your CV. However, there are a few titles we would recommend using as a starting point:

1. About you

You’re not a permanent employee anymore, so you don’t need to include every personal detail. Your name and contact details will suffice.

2. Skills summary

This is the most important section, which highlights your key skills and experience. Short, concise bullet points are more effective than longwinded paragraphs.

3. Past jobs

List your most recent or permanent roles in reverse-chronological order. You don’t need to go back to the very start of your working life, so only include relevant roles.

Again, bullet points can be very effective to show the reader, in a concise way, what you achieved at each of your past jobs.

Further information

Unlike a CV for a permanent employee, contractors typically list their academic achievements at the end rather than the beginning, as their current skills are more important and relevant.

Your academic achievements are important, so don’t miss these out. List your degree, A-Levels and any technical qualifications.

If you have anything exceptional to share, there’s no harm including it. Just don’t include anything else which isn’t directly relevant to your application.

LinkedIn for Contractors

Over the past few years, LinkedIn has changed the way people communicate. If you don’t already use it, you really should.

The site allows you to upload a live CV, and lets you network with past and present colleagues.

It may not yet replace the traditional CV, but it does allow potential clients and agents to find prospective candidates within seconds.

Do I Need a Covering Letter?

A covering letter can be a helpful companion to your CV and can benefit your chances of securing an interview.

If you put together a strong covering letter, your application could stand out from the crowd. Here are a few tips to get started:

  • Don’t rewrite your CV
  • Reflect your personality
  • Provide evidence of your qualities
  • Keep your points concise and relevant
  • Add their contact details if possible

Does everything add up?

One thing many contractors may not be aware of is the rising number of recruiters that use screening software to scan the web (and other places) for additional background information about candidates.

If you have an online presence, it may not be the best idea to use your real name as anything unprofessional could act against you.

Final words of wisdom

To summarise, here are our three top tips to help you build a stellar CV:

  1. Make your CV eye-catching and presentable
  2. Highlight your skills and experience at the top of the CV, and don’t include any ‘filler’ such as irrelevant hobbies
  3. Tailor your CV submission to each role, to show that you have taken care, and have a genuine interest in the job

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