Contractors’ Questions: Are short contracts and A-levels my CV's mistakes?

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Contractor’s Question: The sense among my contractor pals is that it would be too small to count but in in the interests of transparency, shouldn’t a two-and-a-half-week gig feature on my CV? It was a civil not amicable parting of ways; perhaps that’s reason enough not to mention this brief contract.

Also, a CV consultant I’ve hired wants to remove all my pre-degree, academic qualifications. But I rather think that ‘A’ grade at Mathematics at GCSE and A-level is important for my clients to know. The consultant says it’s a mistake to include it as the degree implies I’ve got the A-level and GCSE too, and free space on my CV is at a premium. Please settle this!

Expert’s Answer: Your initial question is an interesting one, albeit a bit tricky. The second issue about qualifications is cut and dry.

As to the trickier question then, about including the 2.5-week role, I must first say that I am not a lawyer or able to provide any legal advice. The following guidance is strictly my opinion with a weighing up of the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of each course of action, informed by my professional experience in CV writing for contractors.

It might well stem from the fact that I hire people into my own business, but I’m personally all for CVs being 100% accurate. We all know that it is wrong to lie on a CV and there are many publicised cases of CV ‘lies’ resulting in an offer being rescinded. However, I don’t think leaving a very short role or contract off your CV would constitute ‘lying.’

If we lived in a world where recruiters and hiring managers took things at face-value then including this short contract wouldn’t be an issue. But people are inherently suspicious, and in the recruitment world, you are assumed guilty until proven innocent! A recruiter will likely assume that you have been sacked or terminated, which poses to them a reputational risk with their client (the end-user), so they will quickly move on to other candidates where this risk simply doesn’t exist.

In your case, I think leaving the short engagement off the CV is acceptable. But a caveat -- if someone in the recruitment process has some knowledge of you working at the outfit for the 17 or so days, then you may find yourself on a sticky wicket.

It might be a risk worth taking if there’s nobody immediately around with such knowledge, but nevertheless, the risk does still exist. Your query about this two-and-a-half-week stint is in the pile labelled ‘one person may see it as acceptable, whereas another may feel that it is a blatant untruth.’ My view is that it falls somewhere in the middle.

The alternative which you might like to consider is to add the short role as a one-liner so that it is still included on your CV, but with very little emphasis given to it. That may create a different psychology where the recruiter simply assumes it was a very short-term role that deserves little mention on the CV. Or you could add the position with an explanation of what happened but, beware, because I can’t see how that will ever end up positively.

On balance, I would recommend either omitting it, or adding the position as a one-liner.

Now let’s turn to your query about qualifications – whether it’s a mistake to feature those pre-degree. Firstly, remember that it’s quite typical for CV re-writers to focus on the most recent and / or highest qualification.

However, having worked in the banking sector, I know that many hiring managers consider A-level grades as important as a Degree, as some argue that they are a truer test of intelligence! I therefore recommend that contractors include on their CVs the qualifications that they feel add value, rather than following a hard and fast convention.

Personally, I might not focus on your GCSE but having an ‘A’ grade at A-level is certainly worth mentioning in the context that you -- and I, outline. Given that it only takes up one line or an even smaller space, I would err on the side of caution and include your A-level grade.

For more detailed advice on and around the CV writing process, why not join an exclusive, free ContractorUK webinar today -- March 27th at 7.15pm. It’ll be a real revelation, as the focus will be on the 10 biggest mistakes contractors make when trying to win work.

The expert was The CV & Interview Advisors' founder Matt Craven, an authority on personal branding and all things CV-related for the contract market.

Tuesday 27th Mar 2018