With so much conflicting advice online covering CV layout, length, content and appearance, we asked an industry expert for his thoughts on how best to draft the perfect document to capture the eye of prospective clients and recruiters.
In this article, Matt Craven of The CV & Interview Advisors and Linked-In-Credible describes 5 of the most common mistakes contractors make when it comes to drafting their CVs.
Having been in the recruitment and career development industry for nearly 20 years, I’ve seen all sorts of CVs from the good to the bad to the downright ugly, but I have a very clear view of the top mistakes that hold contractors back when pitching for work.
The first point really sets the scene and it’s all about the value that contractors place on their CVs.
I would suggest that your CV and arguably your LinkedIn profile, are your most important tools for winning work. It doesn’t matter how good you are at your job, if your CV isn’t communicating your abilities, your application will fall flat.
I would also pontificate that for every person that secures a contract role, there were 6 better candidates that never even got an interview, all because their CV didn’t sell them effectively.
I’m showing my age here, but it’s a bit like the old VHS and Betamax war; Betamax was arguably a better technology for home video, but VHS became the market leader due to a better business and marketing strategy. It just goes to show how marketing often trumps capability.
If you place huge importance on your CV, it’s likely that you will win regular work; for the roles you really want and for good daily rates. If you place little emphasis on your CV and merely see it as a historic list of where you have worked, you’ll more than likely lag behind those that have embraced the fact that their CV should be a business case that explains why a client should hire them.
Care & Attention
This really follows on from the mindset point; too many contractors (and job seekers) apply a somewhat unthorough approach to their CV. In fact, recent research by Adzuna found that less than 6% of CVs are free from basic errors. That’s right; 9 out of 10 CVs contain spelling and grammar mistakes!
If you work in certain areas of IT such as Software Development, it would be fair to say that attention to detail is key to succeeding in your profession. It would, therefore, be fair to assume that a contractor who doesn’t check their CV for spelling errors, doesn’t check their code for errors, and is, therefore, lacking in attention to detail.
This is clearly a fatal error, but something that is very easy to fix.
The more senior you get, the more likely it is that you will have more than one string to your bow. For example, my company has recently worked with a client who is both a Project Manager and a Business Analyst; another is both a Business Analyst and Product Owner.
This can lead contractors to conjure up rather woolly and ambiguous descriptions of themselves.
Even IT contractors with one clear target role in mind can fall foul of referring to themselves as “an experienced IT professional”, which frankly could cover hundreds of different types of roles.
My point here is to be specific and if you have more than one target, create more than one CV.
This usually applies to the Profile / Summary section of your CV, i.e. that first paragraph where you explain what you are and how you can add value to an organisation.
If you would like more information on how to create a compelling Profile / Summary with a well-positioned ‘go to market’ description, a compelling value proposition and some key strength statements that follow a features and benefits style, you might want to join our free Contractor Advanced CV Writing Workshop (one hour webinar) on Feb 18th at 1.00pm. Find out more here.
Here at The CV & Interview Advisors, we offer IT contractors a free CV and LinkedIn appraisal, and our first question after reading a CV is usually “how can I tell that you are good at your job?”.
Most people sit and ponder for a few seconds before replying with “oh yeah, you can’t can you?!”.
Quite why CVs are often devoid of achievements baffles me; demonstrating that you can deliver business benefits and make a difference is one of the most crucial aspects of selling yourself in the contract market.
For the avoidance of doubt, an achievement should be an outcome rather than a task (they might incorporate both to give a little context) and they should provide tangible and statistical evidence of success.
I was invited as a guest speaker for one of the accountancy associations last week and to demonstrate the technology advances that are prevalent in business, they had an AI robot called Pippa. It was great, but it slightly reminded me of The Terminator films where the machines had taken over the world. Now I wouldn’t quite go that far, but there is certainly a large non-human element to recruitment now, and as a result, your CV must appeal to both humans and machines.
Logos, graphics, PDFs, fancy side bars, cryptic headings and wacky layouts may look nice to the naked eye, but they are all likely to bamboozle the algorithm within the recruitment software (if it can read your CV at all) – as a consequence, no human will ever read it.
It is important to create a nice looking CV but within the confines of Microsoft Word and with minimal graphics. After that, the headings, structure, layout and keyword density become key to getting results.
Advanced CV Writing Workshop / How to Win Work
The Winning Work / Advanced CV Writing Workshop will talk in more depth about how to present your achievements on your CV, as well as how to use case studies to get more interviews, more contract offers and better daily rates.
You can register for free here.