Contractors are you making these cv mistakes?

Author: Jane McNeill, Director, Hays Australia

As a contractor, you will be more than familiar with the many benefits that contracting brings, from the ability to gain a wide variety of experience and expand your network, to improved work/life balance. And because of these benefits, contract roles are always highly sought after. This means that you need to set yourself apart with a great CV if you want to compete.

I’m also mindful of the fact that, actually, there are some things this new generation of talent will need and demand from an employer in the future, which businesses aren’t currently aware of, and maybe can’t yet comprehend. I believe a lot of this will stem from the fact that this generation will work for a longer period of time than any other generation that came before them. As such, the ‘job for life’ is a concept that seems unfathomable to them - for most, quite frankly, this isn’t even on their radar. Instead, they are far more likely to experience what many call a ‘multi-stage’, or ‘portfolio career’. All of this will have an unprecedented impact on their future needs and expectations around their careers and their employers – how can it not? I can’t predict the future, but I do think it’s our duty as forward-thinking employers to start to think about what these future generations will need from us. We must work to try to anticipate those future needs, and this may mean we’ll need to change the way we’ve traditionally done things. So, below, I’ve listed a few of the ways I expect these demands to shift and evolve over time. Admittedly, you’ll notice that many of these are relevant to all those who are currently working, no matter how long they’ve been working for. But, I do believe the changing world of work that our future generations will be faced with will accentuate the need for these things even more:

Not making your availability for work clear

As a contractor, one of the most important pieces of information your recruiter will need to know about you is your availability. After all, their client will often be looking to get started on a certain project right away – all they need now is the right contractor/s with the right skills at the right time. Your recruiter will be looking to meet the needs of their client, and find that skilled contractor who can start when required. With that in mind, don’t make the mistake of not making it clear on your CV that you’ve left an organisation already, or when you are available to start work – after all, this is a selling point. I would advise that you clearly state your availability just underneath your name and contact details. Don’t forget to list the expected completion date of your current assignment in your career history too, otherwise an employer could assume you will not be available in time for their role.

Not explaining why you have chosen contracting

The next point isn’t so much a mistake but more of a missed opportunity in my book. As a contractor, it’s always a good idea to give a bit more context to your application, and add a couple of lines in your personal statement about why you have chosen contracting as a mode of working; whether this is because of the variety of experience you can gain from moving between different contracts, the skills you can develop or the people you will meet. Don’t forget to also add your unique selling points – be specific not generic though. For example, instead of “I’m a good team player” write “my last assignment was extended as I was asked to collaborate with the team on an XYZ project.”

Not including a summary of skills and technological capabilities

Under your personal statement, don’t forget to include a skills and technology matrix. A lot of CVs for contract roles fail to do this, but it gives recruiters and hiring managers a solid summary of your relevant expertise. After all, employers don’t have time to train up a contractor. You need to be able to add value from day one, so use this section of your CV to highlight exactly what systems and technology skills you possess and the tickets you hold.

Not making these skills obvious enough

As you know, contractors are usually hired to facilitate a specific need, and quickly. Therefore your ability to meet the hiring manager’s criteria must be obvious to the recruiter when they review the career history and skills section of your CV. Hiring managers spend much less time reviewing CVs for contract roles than for permanent positions, which increases the importance of ensuring you clearly and concisely list your most relevant experience and highlight achievements specific to the assignment you’re applying for. For this reason, don’t take up space detailing experience that isn’t applicable to the types of contract you are looking for. Instead, only list the roles, both permanent and contract, which are relevant to your search. As you talk about each role, quantify the responsibilities, skills gained and results delivered. It’s important to detail the volume of work completed in previous roles as employers look for contractors with experience working at the same capacity as their current assignment requires. Also use keywords listed on job descriptions for your ideal jobs. This will ensure that your CV makes it past any screening algorithms and grabs the recruiter’s attention when it lands in their inbox.

Not explaining if each role was permanent or temporary

A CV for a temporary role must make it clear whether previous roles were permanent or temporary positions. Write, in brackets, “(contract)” or “(freelance)” after each job title to give employers a clear indication of your previous contract experience. This is particularly important when you’ve held several assignments, as a hiring manager may otherwise assume you’ve left a string of permanent roles in quick succession and are therefore unreliable.

Forgetting to mention your soft skills

And whilst your more technical expertise is important, soft skills are also being recognised as a strong prerequisite for contractors. These are the less teachable skills which reflect your personality traits, and they can separate a good contractor from a great one. Here are some of the most commonly sought-after soft skills for contractors: Communication – e.g. the ability to communicate with other departments in a language they’ll understand rather than specialist jargon Adaptability- e.g. the ability to adjust quickly to new environments and integrate with a new team and culture Quick-learner – e.g. the ability to grasp new product knowledge quickly and hit the ground running So, when updating your CV, think about the soft skills which have served your contracting career well so far. If you still aren’t sure, you can find out more information on the most in-demand soft skills here. Your soft skills can be woven into your personal statement and key skills section of your CV. As I said in the beginning, contracting is becoming a more viable option for many skilled professionals such as yourself, and if you want to stand out against your competition when searching for your next contract, you need to be able to show the recruiter that you are a cut above the rest. This starts with optimising your CV for the contracting world, and showing off everything you can bring to your next assignment.

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