The importance of a well-written CV cannot be understated. Given that the attention span of recruiters and clients is notoriously short, we asked an expert for 10 concise tips on how to craft the perfect contracting CV
Matt Craven is Founder and MD of The CV & Interview Advisors.
1) Professional Summary
Include a Professional Summary at the start of the CV. This should explain what you are, what your value proposition is and a description of your top 4 strengths that your clients are most interested in. When you write the key strengths, describe the strength followed by the benefit this strength will bring to your client’s business. The profile is your 5 seconds to get the readers attention and will bring the rest of your CV into context. Note: avoid clichés such as “working in a team” and “excellent communication skills”.
2. Focus on achievements!
Clients want to see evidence that you are good at your job. An achievement is an outcome not a task so think about the business benefits that you have delivered and provide statistical evidence that you succeeded. For example, delivering a global SAP implementation isn’t an achievement; delivering it 3 months early and driving efficiency savings of £3M per annum is.
3. Don’t get hung up on CV length
Within reason, don’t get too hung up on sticking to a certain number of pages. Up to three pages is fine for a more senior level person and up to four pages for a seasoned Contractor. Often Contractors produce an overly short CV that fails to sell them because they were more worried about the length of their CV than they were about including their key selling points. Find out more about the 2-page CV myth.
4. Choose strong statements
Use powerful words and statements backed up with evidence rather than passive terminology. For example: “Through effective Issues Management, reduced a critical issues backlog from 289 queries to minimal levels within only two months.” How much more powerful is that opposed to “Responsible for reducing an issues back-log”?
5. Write in the third person
Avoid using the word “I”. This will prevent you from sounding self-appreciating or boastful. If a CV is written in the third person, you can be far more robust in expressing achievements and skills. Typically, the reader will read the CV as if someone else has written it about you.
6. Don’t be shy
Don’t be too modest! A CV is a sales document and should be written in such a way. When writing your CV, view yourself as a product and consider your CV to be your glossy sales brochure that you will give to your customers. If you do this, you are more likely to include all your personal selling points that are going to appeal to your potential clients. A CV with just a list of jobs and half a dozen bullet points describing the role isn’t going to give people any clue as to whether you are good, bad or average at your job.
7. Case studies
Use case studies to present your biggest achievements on page one so your CV is front loaded with your biggest and best and most relevant projects / achievements. We recommend writing these achievements using the STAR model which is an acronym for Situation, Task, Actions and Result.
8. Go easy on the personal details
Don’t put half a page of personal details on page one. By all means have a mobile and landline telephone number and your email address on page one but the rest of your personal details should sit in a personal details section towards the end of your CV. After your name, the Professional Summary should be the first thing that people read and not the fact that you live on Moonfield Avenue in Chalfonts St Roger.
9. Adapt your CV to each role
Change your CV for each role so that the most important skills and experience feature more prominently. Having multiple Professional Summaries and a broad portfolio of case studies (focused around different types of projects) allows you to do this within minutes rather than hours.
10. CV keyword optimisation
Optimise your CV for key word searches and think about CV SEO. Somebody somewhere will be doing key word matching on a job board or recruitment database or your CV may be subject to scrutiny by an applicant tracking system or other type of recruitment software; if your CV isn’t key word rich and mentioning all the skills expected of someone in your profession then you may not get past the ‘machine side’ of recruitment in order to have your CV reviewed by a human.
Would you like a free CV appraisal?
If you would like Matt’s company, The CV & Interview Advisors, to evaluate your CV free of charge then please submit a free CV appraisal here.
The company has written over 7000 CVs, many of them for contractors and work closely with companies such as IPSE, Contractor UK, the Chartered Institute of IT (BCS) and of course, IT Contracting.