What permie staff recruiters hate about your contractor CV

As private sector IR35 reform is almost upon us, there are plenty of contractors keeping one eye on the permanent jobs market, writes Matt Craven of The CV & Interview Advisors.

With this in mind, here are some insights into the mindset of the first decision-maker contractors are likely to come across – the agent providing the full-time or 9-to-5 position. And in the interest of you not winding them up on day one, let’s look at their pet hates too.

Watch your length

Experienced recruiters in the contract market appreciate that a seasoned contractor doesn’t stand a cat-in-hell’s chance of creating a CV that’s anything less than three pages! Don’t worry, in 2020, it’s perfectly acceptable to contract agents for a CV to hit the four-page mark.

Unfortunately, recruiters in the permanent job market think very differently, with three pages being the upper limit, and a fair old percentage still thinking a CV should never stretch beyond two pages.

Interestingly, I read some recent research which indicated that 83% of job-seekers think that their CV should be no more than two pages -- yet 76% of recruiters disagreed. Anyway, ignoring the glaring misunderstanding on the part of many job-seekers, the good news, then, is that three-quarters of permie agents are happy with three pages. Of course, that still leaves a not insignificant 24% of full-time staff recruiters believing that, when applying for work, a CV should be written on the back of a cigarette pack; in effect. A tall order for the average contractor!

My recommendations is to get your CV down to three pages and keep your fingers crossed the recruiter is in the 76% pot. To do this, you will have to be ruthless with the volume of bullet points – I would stick to providing a description of the company, a summary of your role, very few duties and responsibilities and home in on any outcomes / business benefits that you have driven in each “role.” So yes, you’ll need to think about your terms and language too, so that if you want a permie position, you’re not conveying your ‘in business on own account’ background too strongly.

To lump or not to lump?

As a contractor, it is recommended that you list individual contracts as separate entries on your CV. Let’s say you worked for a company for five years in which time there were four contract extensions; it might be tempting to lump it all together under one master heading. But actually, this just makes you look like a disguised employee and wouldn’t be the CV you would want HMRC to get their hands on!

The contract market would favour four individual jobs presented completely separately. Conversely, a recruiter in the permanent job market would find a CV written in this way unfavourable.

There’s something within the psyche of perm agents that gravitates towards stability. And anything that indicates otherwise would put you at a disadvantage. The full-time jobs market would prefer the client’s name as the master heading, with each individual contract presented as a mere sub-section, rather than a completely separate role.

Editing your ‘job-hopper’ look

Recruiters specialising in payroll jobs for employees also have a hang-up about anyone that appears to be a job-hopper. If a candidate has had only short stints within each company, a recruiter will apply the ‘guilty-until-proven-innocent’ logic. In their mind, leaving a position after less than 18 months indicates a lack of loyalty, a lack of stickability or even poor performance. In short, a propensity for job hopping!

So when you, as a contractor, come to write your CV, it’s inevitable that you will look like a job-hopper (even a quitter!), unless you clearly indicate that each role was a temporary contract. By doing this, you at least take away any of the aforementioned concerns. Simply add, after your named skill/client-assigned job title, the word (‘Contract’) in brackets. Hopefully, that will do the job!

Forget what I told you

Next on the list of considerations is IR35. Unfortunately, too few recruiters in the 9-to-5 jobs market will have IR35 on their radar – if they know what it is at all! This means all the tactics you might use to make your CV ‘outside-IR35 friendly’ will fall on deaf ears.

So the case study-style CV (great to help keep IR35 at bay) without a traditional ‘Career History’ is definitely out of the question. Staffing agents sourcing candidates for straight employment will accept nothing but a chronological CV – meaning putting your limited company name at the top of your CV is not a good idea! Similarly, referencing your limited company in the main body of your CV is a definite no-no. And (as mooted earlier) those IR35-friendly phrases such as “engaged to” and “client engagements” become alien language to this audience. It might even be isolating!

When in doubt, do both

If you are undecided what the rest of 2020 holds for you, and applying for permanent roles might be on the cards (research due out today, unrelated to us, is set to show exactly that in terms of contractors’ work plans), I would recommend having two CVs.

So one for the permanent jobs market and an outside IR35-friendly version for the contract market.

Help is at hand

For more guidance and information about creating either a contractor CV or a permanent jobs market CV (-- i.e. a résumé to apply for full-time positions), regardless of your sector, you can request a free CV appraisal here: https://cvandinterviewadvisors.co.uk/contractorukfreeappraisal

For further information or help with creating an effective Contractor CV that will win you more independent, temporary, freelance work at better rates -- and promote your outside-IR35 status, you can register for the upcoming Contractor UK webinar here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2906652851068561665

Friday 6th Mar 2020
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Written by Matt Craven

Matt is the Founder of The CV & Interview Advisors and Linked-In-Credible. 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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