CV Tips

This article is sponsored by Nixon Williams, specialist accountants to contractors, freelancers, consultants and interim professionals throughout the UK.


As a professional you have probably written and re-written a CV (curriculum vitae) more times than you can count, but re-writing your CV for contracting purposes is a little different.

A basic CV usually includes an introduction about yourself, your education and previous experience, with a small statement about your references. This typical way of writing a CV is perfectly fine when applying for permanent jobs, but as a contractor you are likely to need a bit more of an edge, so as to beat the competition.

A common way of finding a contract is through recruitment agencies or existing business contacts, but whatever method you choose you will be competing against other contractors for the position. So what can you do to stand out?

The first steps.

Firstly, make sure that your best skills are prominently featured at the top of your CV; this could be in an effective but concise summary. Most recruiters make up their mind about a CV in seconds, so it is essential that it catches their attention. You want to ensure that the message you are communicating is clear, concise and to the point. No one wants to read sentence after sentence of padding information.

Previous work structure.

Before we go any further, you need to be able to tailor and adjust your CV to suit the company you are applying for a contract with. A generic one-version copy of your CV won’t portray a tailored feel when reading, and by doing this you may be discarded for the position in mind. Wherever applicable you should try and include either the name of the company, the position and the department; this can be time consuming however, it could help you secure the contract.

Your most recent contract positions should have the greatest emphasis, including the dates of contract length; and a little tip is to not state ‘to present’ when mentioning the length of your previous contractors.  Most hirers are looking for someone who can start immediately and stating when you completed your last contract or a predicted completion date will show the recruiters your availability.

Another tip is, to ensure that older contracts are summarised as opposed to containing too much detail, this will save document space, as most do not need an extensive description.

I’m new to contracting – What should I include?

You may be asking yourself, ‘I’m new to contracting and don’t have any previous contracting experience, so what can I include?’

Just because you have yet to gain contracting experience, does not mean that your CV has to be a skeleton; there are ways of communicating your skills, through other means than your non-existing contracting experience.

Clearly state the previous permanent jobs you’ve had, but instead of compiling a description of what you did, include the skills that your permanent positions have given you, which make you a viable contractor.

Identifying what makes you a valued contractor should allow for a smoother transition from permanent to contracting.

The importance of structure.

In order to ensure that you are not mistaken for having separate employment positions, for each contract state your limited company as your employer, which will allow you to show your previous contracts as external consultancy work.

The structure of you CV should include:

  • Career overview
  • Specialist skills
  • Qualifications
  • Education

As a contractor you are not advertising yourself in a ‘here’s what I’ve done’ way, but more in a ‘here’s what I can offer’ way. It is more likely that you’ll win contracts if you outline exactly what you can provide for the position. The recruiter will be looking for exactly what skills you can contribute to their project, and although your past experience and achievements are relevant, it doesn’t help them with the current project at hand.

Grammar, grammar and more grammar!

A simple thing, which more people than you’d expect forget to do, is proof read. Spelling and grammar is key when writing a CV, these fundamentals if not done correctly can place you in the ‘No’ pile. Just think, would you hire someone if there were spelling and grammar mistakes?

Correct formatting, layout, legibility and presentation are other key components to a killer CV.

Putting your mark on it.

Whilst including a portrait of yourself is frowned upon, there is another way for the hirer to get to know you a little more.

Including a QR code on the top corner of your CV, which links to a professional web page or a LinkedIn page will portray an innovative edge. Even if you are unfortunate in obtaining the contract, they may wish to connect with you on LinkedIn, which will help build your network.

The final preparations

Most people miss out this step and give it a once over just to be done with it, however you should always, always get your CV checked by someone else. They may be able to pick up grammatical, formatting and even spelling errors that you have missed. Having a fresh pair of eyes can be a revelation on a piece of written work, as you yourself have become too familiar with it, which could result in missed fundamental errors.

By skipping this step you are leaving yourself to be open to scrutiny through such errors, which could affect the chances of your CV being discarded for the position in mind.

Following these simple steps will ensure that your CV stands out from the rest, and could land you that dream contract.


Author: Rachel Smith is a technical writer for Nixon Williams. When she is not writing for Nixon Williams she loves to visit art exhibitions and watch classic films.


[Image Credit: Shutterstock]

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