As a new contractor with lots of permie experience, do I need to bother much with a CV?

Contractor’s Question: I’m new to contracting and keep seeing a lot of posts about CVs and fretting about what’s right or wrong. Having been an employee for over three decades, I find all this CV fretting a bit much!

In my successful tech career, I’ve not needed to bother much with a CV. Certainly I've never attended a CV masterclass and I’ve got away with typing just a few new lines about where I worked, what I did and often, only after the many internal promotions I’ve received. When I did move jobs externally, it was often thanks to just knowing someone at the company who put in a good word for me!

My view is that a CV is there to just highlight where a person has worked, plus a short description of what the jobs entailed, mainly to get the decision-maker interested. Surely people don’t have time to read pages and pages?

Expert’s Answer: I’d wholeheartedly recommend a big shift in your mindset!

Contractors are not job-seekers, so the dynamic is slightly different and a different approach is needed. That’s partly why you’ve see lots of posts, probably on LinkedIn and elsewhere I bet, on the subject of contractor CVs.

So yes, it’s important to get your CV right!

The first thing to say is that a CV is crucial if you’re going to be as successful as a contractor, as you have been as a permie.

Alongside your LinkedIn profile, a CV is the only channel you have to explain to a potential client that you have the skills, experience and track record that they are looking for.

Any business that wants to sell itself to potential clients needs to make sure that its ‘sales and marketing’ materials are as professional and compelling as possible. In your case, that’s your CV and LinkedIn profile (and perhaps a website if you are seeking only outside IR35 work).

Remember the plumber

A good way to highlight this is to think of your local plumber (N.B. you can read about mine here!).

Some plumbers will drive around in a beat-up old white van, but many will have invested hundreds of pounds in having their van sign-written with graphics, logos and telephone numbers.

Most self-employed plumbers rightly see themselves as a business, and as a consequence, invest in their marketing collateral. You should think the same!

Think of your CV like the plumbers van - do you want to promote yourself by turning up in a beat up and rusty old van, or would you prefer to be the one that drives around with a highly professional-looking vehicle that promotes your business?

If your local plumber can invest a few hundred quid in making their van look professional, surely you can spend some time ensuring your CV represents your business in the right way.


It’s also worth giving a quick thought or two to IR35 if you’re new to contracting. As you are hopefully aware, the crux of IR35 is to operate as a ‘true’ business i.e. do things that proper businesses do rather than operating as a job seeker / employee.

Proper businesses invest time, effort and money in their sales and marketing efforts and if you are seeking outside-IR35 roles, so should you. Thinking like the local plumber that has had their van sign-written would be a good start!

CV tactics

A good contractor CV should have an opening paragraph that explains WHY a client should hire you (aligned with that particular opportunity); a list of skills that you / your business offers (aligned with that opportunity); a selection of client engagements or projects that you have delivered (aligned with that opportunity); a description of previous roles (with outcomes), and a selection of client testimonials – again, both ALIGNED WITH THAT OPPORTUNITY!

Hopefully by now you’re seeing why contractors put so much time and stock into getting their CVs tip-top!

Also remember, a successful contractor CV invariably includes a number of value proposition statements; mini-case studies, and a description of tangible business benefits that you delivered, plus social proof. And the CV is always (ALWAYS) optimised for recruitment software (ATS). If any of these points are lost on you, or your understanding of them is just foggy, you definitely should join us on Monday and we can get demystifying. By the time we’re through, you won’t recognise your permie CV from yesteryear!  

Aligning with ‘that’ opportunity

Just finally, you will have noticed the point I made for each CV section to be ‘aligned with that particular opportunity.’

This is crucial! Going back to what businesses do - if we are writing a tender document to bid for a contract, we make sure that the tender addresses the requirements of that particular opportunity. We don’t send the same tender document each and every time; not if we want to actually land the deal we don’t!

The expert was Matt Craven, contractor CV expert at The CV & Interview Advisors.

Saturday 23rd Apr 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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