How to frame your CV in a downturn, for IT contractors

Like religious texts for their believers, CV writing guides for IT contractors have, for most of their lifetime, acted as affirmation that they're on the right path.

Gaining the edge from CV Writing Tips without worries about bench-sitting anytime soon was, to continue the analogy, reserved for the contractor's day of rest.

But an economic crisis and fears that IT jobs face the chop have cast a new (and yes; somewhat divine) light on the job-hunter's best asset - their CV.

With online hiring of IT staff falling, and a yearly dearth of IT jobs in London, the IT contractor's CV must now evolve from a back-up to a ready proposition.

To this end, three leading IT recruiters, a major client for IT contractors and a veteran IT contractor have all shared their wisdom with CUK on how to optimise the curriculum vitae.

Your CV is there to get you an interview, so give enough detail to get someone interested, but not enough for them to make a decision.

To achieve this, have a short personal profile and main skill set section at the top of the first page with relevant qualifications for the desired role. For example, Prince2 or CIMA.

Your CV is your marketing tool, so spend time getting the content, formatting, spelling and grammar right.

As your CV is also your first impression, use a font that is clear and easy to read like Ariel 10. Use bullet points to list your skills, to avoid large expanse of text – this is not inviting nor is it easy to read.

Provide a technical summary for each role (most recent ones first) highlighting keys skills used - but note, describe what YOU did not your team.

Providing this summary, helps your CV appear higher up and in more CV database searches. It will also provide a quick clear and concise summary for the person reading the CV, raising the chance you will be called first.

When inputting your details, be completely honest and double check dates to ensure they are accurate. Also ensure you fill the pages, so the writing goes into the corners but resist trying to squeeze too much into a page. Your IT contractor CV should not be over 3 pages long (at the most!)

Tips from Hudson, a global IT staffing firm

The look of your CV is how to fast track your application to the top of the pile. So set it out clearly and logically, using short sentences, bullet points and a single typeface.

Firstly, input your name, address and full contact details. This should be followed by a one-paragraph profile that sums up your professional and personal attributes.

To give such a statement high impact, you might include:

*key roles you've completed

*experience you have in a specific sector or industry

*any 'Unique Selling Points' you have. For example, any particular projects or assignments you've completed as well as any specialist skills you may possess

Be honest and accurate about the information you provide, remember – often clients will want to discuss your CV at interview stage and being able to talk confidently about any point on your CV will greatly boost your appeal.

Having input your profile, the next section is your skills/expertise or professional career breakdown.

Insert your main skills and professional/ specialist qualifications. Include any training courses or certifications relevant to the desired role.

Cite your professional experience – starting with your most recent role and including start and finish dates, your job title, client name, as well as your key responsibilities and achievements (CUK: If there's room, state the number of months worked/ renewals won).

Your education – (from secondary school onwards) with attendance dates and qualifications gained - your secondary skills, like software and your level of proficiency - and your overview, including remarkable interests/hobbies – should be on the last page (CUK: Education in one section, overview including secondary skills and hobbies follow in a second section).

Tailor your contractor CV to the role you're applying for by highlighting key skills or experience. Ultimately it must give a concise summary of your suitability – by concisely spelling out your skills, experience and qualifications.

Tips from Computer People, a UK supplier of IT staff resources

Be clear about what you do and what positions you are interested in and want to go for. Don't try and make the CV too generic in order to appeal to more people.

Be clear about what you have to offer and what differentiates you from others with the same skill set.

The personal summary at the top of the CV should be about four lines - it only needs to encapsulate who you are and what you do. For example, Senior Analyst Programmer with 8 years experience of C, C++, OOD.

It's not necessary to include personal details such as marital status, gender, date or birth and interests and hobbies - this information is irrelevant and should not form part of the hiring decision.

Underneath the summary - bullet point three or four key Work Achievements. Think about what you have achieved within each of your positions held, asking yourself "What has been the output of my efforts?"

Next, input your Employment History - include details such as contract start and end dates, client's name, position held. Include a short overview of the project or contract, your role and technology used. The most recent appointments and contracts should be the most detailed.

Don't make the CV too long. IT contractor CVs can be quite lengthy and recruiters and hiring managers won't read everything listed. CVs should ideally be 3-4 pages long.

Insert a list or summary of the technologies you've used and your level of technical capability.

But be careful not to overuse IT jargon and consider who might be involved in the hiring decision. Not everyone hiring IT professionals is technical themselves.

Don't forget to highlight some of the 'softer' skills and capabilities you might have. For example, commercial awareness, presentation skills, people management, project management. Organisations need technical individuals who can demonstrate good all-round capability. If you work in 1st or 2nd line support helpdesk support, customer service and problem-solving capability is equally as important to the technical capability required.

Finally finish with a summary of qualifications: it's not necessary to list all GCSEs and grades, but cite professional certifications or memberships (if relevant) and any relevant training courses.

CV writing tips from Spring Group plc, the UK's largest IT and technology staffing company

Corporate approaches to assessing CVs can vary. An employer's strategy could be making sure a CV hits 7 or 8 out of 10 of the criteria required.

A more flexible method may take into account a CV that shows an applicant has significant job experience, ensuring there is a clear link between CV skills and [contract] specifications.

It is important for employers to understand different markets, so give an overview and context of previous IT roles.

They take into account applicants' special achievements while ensuring there is consistency [between the CV and the answers to] interview questions

CV writing tips from BT Group plc, an ICT provider, voted the preferred client for IT contractors

Your CV must be machine and human-readable. It sounds odd, but if you apply for jobs through recruitment agents, as most IT contractors do, then your CV must show up top of the list when the agent does a keyword search. This should be treated a bit like Search Engine Optimisation for websites: make sure all the skills for each job are listed in full and in their regular and irregular mnemonics, short-names and abbreviations.

This can be achieved in two ways. Firstly, skills should be listed next to your roles. But secondly, add a skills-summary table at the end of your CV (or at least not at the very top which should be reserved for the usual human-targeted CV stuff) to allow computer searches to find you.

Make certain all your skills are mentioned for every role. Recruitment agents do not necessarily know which skills are the most critical for any position and put candidates forward based on simple matches to a requirements list, and not usually by common sense. You should not be upset by this, agents are busy people that are just doing a job in the best way they can – it is your job to make it easy for them.

Further reading: IT contractor CV template guide here and Content and example contractor CV here

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.

Printer Friendly, PDF & Email

Sign up to our newsletter

Receive weekly contractor news, advice and updates.

Every sign up will be entered into a draw to WIN £100 Amazon Vouchers.

* indicates required