Contractors’ Questions: Am I right to never want to write a CV again?

Contractor’s Question: I am never writing a CV again. There, I’ve decided!

Every time I send my CV somewhere, nobody gives a rat's bottom about my qualifications.
Because they think:

  • Why are there gaps in his work history?
  • Why did he drop out of university halfway?
  • Why did he leave his last job?

Unfortunately, a CV cannot tell them:

  • About the breaks I took from work to salvage my mental health.
  • About the lack of funds at university that made me quit.
  • About the toxicity of my last job.

In my view, your CV – a contractor CV like mine or not -- will always let you down because it lacks the most important part: YOUR STORY. This is why I post on LinkedIn instead, and will be looking for work there instead. I am not defined by a piece of paper! End of rant. Agree?

Expert’s Answer: This is a really interesting question from you -- a contractor who is obviously experiencing some challenges winning work!  

You have my sympathies but...

When I read through your plight, I had feelings of sympathy.

But I also feel compelled to provide you with some no-nonsense guidance. Because, believe it or not, ALL of the issues you bring up can be overcome with the RIGHT tactics.

My first thought is that you may be looking at this from the wrong perspective by trying to tell YOUR story rather than the story that your prospective clients want to hear.

It may feel counterintuitive given it’s your CV, but pitching for contract work isn’t about YOU, it’s about THEM. It’s about what their needs, wants and desires are. Like any service or product, your offering needs to appeal to the buyer’s psychology, not your own. So don’t think about YOUR STORY, think about THEIR NEEDS! You’re a contractor, delivering a service, not an employee looking for a long term job.

Not deal-breakers

Secondly, I’m not convinced (and I don’t think all agencies will be convinced) that leaving your last job and /or dropping out of university are deal breakers!

Be aware, they are obvious questions to ask -- and you may need to bite your tongue to not start off your explanation of those issues in a defensive manner.

Keep in mind, if you were going to pay someone a chunk of money to perform a role within your business, you would have every right to do your ‘due diligence.’ And that means asking them about areas which concern you.

It’s then up to the ‘service provider’ to appease any concerns that the ‘buyer’ may have.

Red flags you probably don't need to raise

That said, maybe your CV is giving off red flags that is doesn’t need to. Look at it coldly; detached; would you agree?

My guess is that your CV isn’t delivering a compelling enough message to overcome these minor red flags.

If the CV demonstrated a stellar career with a track record of delivering business benefits, then very often, nobody cares about a uni-related pull out several years ago.

Quick CV wins

Instead, focus on achieving ‘yes’ answers to the following when you review your own CV:

  • Does the CV include case studies, around impressive projects with tangible and impressive outcomes?
  • Is it at least 30% focused on achievements?
  • Does it have a strong opening pitch that explains how you can add value to a potential client?
  • Is there a clear value proposition that makes it clear what value you are proposing to deliver?

If your university days are still niggling you. Ask yourself, another question:

Does your CV really need to indicate you dropped out?

How to put on a CV you didn't graduate

My recommendation is that you phrase your higher education experience something like this:

1994 to 1996: Anglia University: Studied Degree in Business Administration.

So your CV doesn’t really need to say anything about a precise qualification, let alone dropping out. Leave it ambiguous but factual, and hopefully it will be a non-issue. It will especially be a non-issue if the rest of your CV is heavily dotted with compelling evidence of delivering business benefits. Similarly, does your CV really need to divulge that your last job was left early? Probably not.

You may have been a permie previously. But gaps in a contractor CV shouldn’t matter. Surely any proper contractor recruiter would expect some gaps?! So do look at the agencies you’re using.

Final considerations, including CV review by an expert

Finally, where we agree. I’m totally with you that LinkedIn provides more scope for adding some narrative and personality around your professional experience. But usually, a recruiter and client-organisation also wants to see a CV. Refusing to send a CV is like trying to win a large government contract without being willing to write a RFQ! As I said at the start, it’s about THEM and not YOU. Good luck!

Very finally, if you or any other Contractor UK reader would like a free 1-2-1 critique of your CV, please use this URL and one of our team will be in touch to discuss in detail:

The expert was Matt Craven, managing director of The CV & Interview Advisors.

ContractorUK has partnered with the UK's leading authority on contractor CVs to provide a FREE review of your CV and LinkedIn profile. Contact The CV & Interview Advisors and one of their team will get back to you to discuss if your CV and LinkedIn profile matches up with industry best practice.

Thursday 18th Aug 2022
Profile picture for user Matt Craven

Written by Matt Craven

Matt is the Founder of The CV & Interview Advisors and Incredibly Linked. He is considered to be a thought-leader in Personal Branding and is regularly engaged as a public speaker to deliver advice and guidance to global audiences on all things related to CV authoring, career advancement, LinkedIn, personal branding and thought leadership.
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