Group Insights & Media

Ten CV Tips for Senior Contractors

by Adam Underwood - almost 4 years ago


For candidates, one of the most frustrating aspects of searching for a contract position is applying for a role but never hearing back from the Recruiter or the hiring company.

It’s easy to assume that the person at the other end couldn’t be bothered to reply, or the role never existed, but actually one of the major factors could be that your CV just doesn’t stand out or appear relevant - even if you think you can do the job you’ve applied for standing on your head!

It is well documented that the UK, along with Western Europe and North America, has a serious shortage of Software, Web & Mobile Development skills.

Factors such as the steady growth of mobile technology, the expansion & maturity of e-commerce, and a number of digital & technology start-ups emerging - coupled with an education system not fit-for-purpose for the modern UK economy - means that demand for Developers is increasing, but supply is not keeping up.

This status quo is likely to remain in place for at least another generation until the Government and the Universities develop curriculums and courses that reflect a modern economy.

What happens if your skillset is not one of those where demand outstrips supply?

In UK contract recruitment, roles such as Enterprise Architects, Project Managers & Business Analysts can often be oversubscribed, and any given advert on an Internet Job-board can easily attract in excess of 100+ applications within 24 hours. This is even before the recruiter delves into their own network, or goes through “hotlists” of similarly skilled candidates.

So how do candidates make sure that their CV stands out in a blizzard of CVs?

In an era where companies run recruitment campaigns behind layers of HR, in-house Recruitment teams and CV Submission Portals, getting a CV tailored for each application is now more essential than ever!

As one candidate put it to me the other day: “applying for a job is like responding to an RFI – you can’t give a standard response because each request is always different.”

My Top 10 CV Tips for Senior Appointments Contractors

1. Have a CV that's Brief, and another that isn't

Forget anything you have read about having a two page CV! As a contractor, you should have several versions of your CV saved. Some clients like a short CV, some want substance. There is no way an experienced contract PM can put everything into two pages!

2. Condense your CV

The client doesn’t want War & Peace either. It’s probably a fair assessment that only the last 4-5 years of contract work are the stuff that the hiring manager is interested in. Most technology, regulatory or change projects beyond the last five years have probably had something new come along to replace the work you did. Summarise older contract roles in 1-2 lines each at most. Roles from over 10 years ago warrant nothing more than dates, company name and a job title in most cases.

3. One size does not fit all

It’s long been said that you should tailor your CV to fit the role, but this is never truer than when applying for a Senior Appointment such as a Project Manager, Business Analyst, Interim CXO or Enterprise Architect. One-size-fits-all CVs just don’t cut it anymore! Each contract role has a purpose; for example, where a company is hiring an Enterprise Architect to review their IT strategy and identify future cost savings in it, then it’s important your CV quite clearly reflects similar experience, rather than just lists all of the technology solutions you delivered.

4. Make your CV agile for each role.

The willingness to tailor a CV for each role applied for reflects positive behaviours, which can score points with recruiters and prospective clients alike. It shows initiative, an intuitive nature, and a willingness to-go ‘above and beyond.’

Most Recruiters would probably agree that there is a direct correlation between people that tailor their CV and those that get the jobs. They also tend to earn the best daily rates in their respective markets as well!

5. Your CV is a reflection of what you have produced and will produce

You might not realise this, but your CV is also a reflection of other behaviours, such as attention to detail and your ability to succinctly communicate important points.

It is essentially a reflection of the quality of your documentation that you may leave behind for other Project Office staff to inherit, your communications with key clients & stakeholders, and your ability to pore-over & sign-off test scripts. Spelling and grammar mistakes are criminal, and a ‘waffley’ prose, poor font styles & sizes, badly aligned margins and a lack of spaces between paragraphs are also turn-offs.

6. Never use a text box

Text boxes are the bane of everyone’s existence – never use them!

7. Know the industry

Clients in sectors like Finance, Insurance, Digital Marketing & Retail tend to favour industry-specific knowledge. Certain industries have their own cultures, industry-specific terminology, regulatory requirements & working practices, therefore clients don’t want to pay for you to get up-to-speed. They pay a premium for contractors and expect them to hit the ground running.

8. Build from previous experience.

The same goes for the Projects or Programmes that you’ve previously been part of, or have delivered - be that in a particular software product or delivering against a certain strategy or objective. Clients are buying your knowledge of ‘pain points’ previously experienced and how to plan against them happening again. They are buying the experience of delivering change within an organisation and knowing how to get ‘buy-in’ from business users and your ability to engage with the ‘techies’ to get the best from them. They are not paying for you to be sat on an internet forum comparing the ‘benefits of Fuse ESB vs Biztalk,’ or trying to establish ‘what FACTA is.’ Apply for contracts with projects that are similar to what you have done before to get a stronger chance of getting to the interview stage.

9. Spread your risk. 

Remember that when applying for work, at least 100 others are often applying for the same role. Someone else might have the exact experience that the client wants, be available immediately, or live two minutes away. Having multiple contract offers is not a bad thing after all!

10. Change your CV.

Einstein once said: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” If your job applications are not working, then something has to change - like your CV. If you want to find out more about our Senior Appointment jobs or discuss how to improve your CV, our Contracts team are here to help. Contact us today on 0161 828 8140.

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