Over the years, I’ve seen thousands of IT contractors’ CVs. Some are good, and some are not. I know how hard it can be to know what to leave in or take out, how many pages your CV should be, and what order to put things in, so I’ve created a comprehensive list of things to think about when writing your IT contract CV.
When applying for a permanent job, you’re applying to work for that specific company, so you need the right skills for the job as well as being a good match for the company’s ethos and values. As a contractor, it is a far more transactional process. There’s less emphasis on whether they like you, as the focus is on whether you have the right skills for the job. Because of this, you need to highlight different skills and achievements in a contractor CV compared to a permanent CV. Perfect your CV with my tips and examples below.
Being a contractor is about ADDING VALUE. You are brought in and paid a premium to achieve a certain goal and potentially, you’ll only have a few months to achieve that goal. It has to be clear from your contractor CV that you can be trusted with that task.
When writing your contractor CV, try to get into the mindset of the hiring manager who will be reading it to help you decide what to put in and what to leave out.
Your IT contractor CV should include headings such as:
- Personal Statement / Profile
- Employment History
Remember, the order you put these headings in can make all the difference as to whether you get the job or not. Most hiring managers only skim read a CV to look for the last couple of contracts, they certainly won’t spend 10 minutes searching for the information they’re looking for, so all the important information needs to be clearly visible on the first page.
Every CV should start with a personal statement or a profile. To me, this is imperative because it is the most personal part of your CV, providing an opportunity to really express to the hiring manager your passion for the job.
Your personal statement enables you to share your mission statement for each contract. Good examples include:
- Delivering on objectives
- Committing to see the contract through to the end
- Being accountable
- Taking responsibility
- Quality of your work
- Technically knowledgeable
- Evidence of being up-to-date with latest tech
- Good documentation
There are lots of qualities that make a good IT contractor, so you need to think about what you want to be known for and include them within this section of your CV.
Note that I haven’t used common buzzwords in my list of suggestions, like “dynamic”, “enthusiastic” or “hard-working”. You need to present yourself as a trusted professional, so leave buzzwords for candidates with less experience.
Also, it sounds basic, but if you include something in your CV statement, then you need to stick by it. Don’t say you are committed to seeing each contract through to the end if you plan on jumping ship for more money at the earliest opportunity, or if you have done so in a previous contract.
This section is very different in an IT contractor CV, compared to a permanent CV. Usually the focus is about what you want to get out of your career, your passion for technology and what you think the next big thing will be. On a contract CV, you need to use this section as an opportunity to sell yourself and set out your stall as a committed and reliable contractor who delivers results.
Your IT contractor CV should be presented in a structured format that makes it easy for the reader to navigate. Think about how you will add value and highlight the skills, achievements and experiences that demonstrate your suitability for the contract within this section of your CV:
If you’re applying for a technical role, your technical skills should follow your personal statement. Your skills will add value in this contract, so why make the hiring manager search for them on your CV?
Include all of your technical skills on the front page so they can’t be missed. If you are applying for a C# developer contract and have 15 years of experience in C#, put “C# - 15 years”, not just C# - this highlights your experience and sets you apart from the competition.
If you have niche technical skills, like obscure frameworks or Xamarin, include them here, as you never know what additional skills are required for the role in addition to your main skill-set. I once had a contract developer get the job because he had experience of Aurelia – something the hiring manager hadn’t even mentioned to me or put on the job spec because he hadn’t expected to find someone with experience of it. Luckily he had included it on his contractor CV in his skills section.
Also think about who is reviewing your CV. Sometimes your CV will be reviewed by an internal recruiter who has no specialist knowledge of IT. They will often use CTRL + F to find key words, so make sure this section is up-to-date or your CV might not even make it to the hiring manager’s inbox!
If you’re applying for a non-technical role such as Project Manager, Business Analyst or Product Owner, then your achievements should be listed after your personal statement. These demonstrate your value, so put them at the top so they can’t be missed.
In this section include bullet points where you have added value to a project, for example:
- Finished a project on time or within budget
- Re-written processes to save money or time in the long-run
- Sourced new third party suppliers for cost efficiency and improved experience
Think about what type of IT contract you are applying for and be specific when listing your achievements on your CV. If you saved half a million pounds by changing suppliers on a previous project, put it in there! Facts, figures and timescales are key here.
What you can achieve in a contract will always be time sensitive so bringing a multi-million pound project in on time and within budget is a huge achievement. Be careful not to waffle though or you will lose impact. Use it as an attention grabber and then expand on ‘how you did it’ in the employment history section or in an interview.
Employment history is a key component of every CV. Some key things to remember for this section of your contractor CV are:
- Include the DATES you worked at that company to demonstrate how much you achieved in the timeframe.
- Add the word ‘contract’ in the job title and if your contract was extended include that information because it highlights the quality of your work.
- Write a short summary (no more than a couple of sentences) about what you were hired to do for that company. If a hiring manager is looking to hire you for a very similar project this can be key in securing you an interview.
- Use bullet points to show what you did, but don’t just list your day job.
- What will set you apart from the competition, and what have you done to add value?
- Show the scale of projects you have worked on and the scope of your role to set you apart from other candidates.
If you are applying for your first IT contract role, highlight relevant projects you have undertaken. Don’t think of your role as business as usual, instead think of all the transferrable skills you would take to a new role, such as:
- When you have picked things up quickly with little handover. Include detail about how long the handover was, e.g. “My manager was signed off sick suddenly, so I picked up the project in his absence with no handover and ensured we still hit the deadline on time by doing X, Y and Z”.
- How you have dealt with change, e.g. “My team went from seven to three due to a restructure and I still managed to hit the delivery deadline, or “I partnered with the Finance & HR stakeholders to implement a new Salesforce system, overcoming X, Y and Z challenges”.
- Call out any large gaps in your CV – you’re going to get asked about them anyway so tell potential employers if you took six months out to renovate your house, care for a relative or spend some time with your family after a high pressure contract.
- If you have been out of work because you’ve been travelling (I don’t mean a holiday, I mean actual travelling to multiple countries) then include the countries you’ve visited – this can spark conversation in an interview.
Your education should follow your employment history in the contractor CV. If you have any relevant qualifications also include them here. If you have qualifications that are key to you securing the job (e.g. Qualified ScrumMaster or ISTQB Qualified, etc.) you should include that information clearly on the first page – either in your personal statement or your skills section, as well as here. It doesn’t matter how old your qualifications are, if they are relevant to the contract then make sure they are visible.
Your hobbies section is the only other part of your CV where the hiring manager gets a glimpse into your personality. This is another way to stand apart from the competition, so I recommend that you think of this section as your “achievements in your personal life”, so include hobbies that show your commitment, perseverance and success.
If you do anything in your spare time that adds to your skill-set then you should include it here. For example, “I have a keen interest in AI and Machine Learning and have attended two conferences this year centred around AI to broaden my knowledge” or “Following my contract with Boots I wanted to learn more about Salesforce so have completed a couple of Trailhead projects this year to broaden my knowledge”.
If you don’t have any time outside of work to attend tech conferences etc, what hobbies are best to include? My rule of thumb is, anything interesting. Have you run a marathon or are you a treasurer for a local charity that’s close to your heart? Do you have any world records or a you tube channel? These types of hobbies are always worth including because they show you are committed, plus they are a real talking point at interview.
The contract world is different to the permanent world; I reference you when you first register for a job with me because I need to know if you’re as good as you say you are. Once I have collected a good reference for you I will send that reference alongside your CV as part of your application to show the hiring manager that you are better than the competition.
If you already have a reference from a previous manager / co-worker / key stakeholder to attest to the quality of your work or times that you have added value (ideally something that backs up the personal mission statement that you called out in your Personal Statement) then include it here. You can also add it to your LinkedIn page or send it to me and I will send it alongside your CV to strengthen your application.
Think about who your referee is – HR will usually only confirm dates, and if you contracted somewhere through an agency, then that agency won’t know if you were good or not. During your contract, think about this and ask someone to be your future referee to provide a personal account of the value you added whilst in that post.
If you’re in a technical role and you have an active GitHub or Stack Overflow account that will positively add to your brand – include the link! If you’ve written your own web page and you’re proud of it, include the link!
Inclusion of examples can make securing an interview really easy because it proves you are as good as you say you are.
Warning: Make sure all your links are up to date – if you haven’t added to your GitHub account for six years, don’t include it. And if you’re tailoring your contractor CV for a role and you include a link to your LinkedIn profile, make sure your online profile matches up with what’s on your CV or it will look like you’re lying about your experience.
Although you are a contractor, most potential employers will still google you, so if there is anything online that you are not happy for them to see it then make sure your accounts are private. This sounds basic but it’s so easily overlooked.
I once had a contractor refused an interview because on their Twitter account they were constantly commenting their support for Britain First, and the line manager didn’t agree with their views. The rule of thumb here is if you have to ask yourself “is this okay?” then it’s not okay to include.
As the recruiter, I will speak to you at length about the role before I put you forward for it. I then usually write a covering letter about you when I send your CV to the hiring manager to explain to them why I think you’re relevant for the role. Often this includes achievements from previous contracts that are relevant for this one, but if there is any other relevant information that’s not on your CV, I will include it here, such as if the company makes a product and you use it, I’ll include it here, or if you love cars and the company are a car manufacturer, I will include that here. So please mention it on the phone so I can include it and give you the best chance of securing the role!
If you tell a white lie here or there to try and make yourself look good, and you’re caught out at interview, then the client will wonder what else you’ve lied about and will lose trust in you instantly.
I guess my final recommendation is to remember that the purpose of your CV is to secure you an interview for an IT contract role, so always leave the hiring manager wanting more and give them things to ask you about at interview.