Your contractor CV: Is it victim to the Dunning-Kruger Effect?

Something I’ve come to realise from working in the career and recruitment sector for 25 years is that people seldomly think their CV is anything but AWESOME.

I guess it makes sense though – if they didn’t think it was any good, they’d probably change it, writes Matt Craven, founder of The CV & Interview Advisors.

And that’s what I want to talk about here – the overestimation of your (CV’s) ability. It’s known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Some would disagree your CV smashes it

In contrast to what the subjects of CVs invariably think about the staple document to win work, recruiters and clients are usually quick to comment on how bad the general quality of CVs are.

A good friend of mine who is a director in a leading UK recruitment business, reckons that 80% of the CVs they receive are in DIRE need of attention.

So where does this disconnect come from? Contractors think their CV is great, but their target audience thinks otherwise.

Watch out Picasso!

I’m coming to realise that it’s no different to when my son, George, used to come home from school with some scribbles and paint blobs on a piece of paper thinking he’d just surpassed the artistic genius of Picasso.

The lack of honest feedback, his inexperience, and his sense of achievement all contributed to his over-inflated assessment of his ‘masterpiece.’

Move over Gaudi…

And full disclosure, I was exactly the same when my attempt to build a kid’s playhouse escalated into the construction of a full blown ‘no-walls’ shed!

At the time, I was convinced I would win some design award that would rival the accolades of Antoni Gaudi, who we have to thank for the arresting architectural beauty of Barcelona. But looking back on it now, my ‘playhouse’ was rubbish. All I’d managed to do was deplete the rain forests of further precious natural resources, and add a monstrosity into my back garden.

Fortunately, George loved it and got a few years of pleasure from the construction (it didn’t fall down so at least that’s something). But my own sense of achievement clouded my judgement. And that led me to believe I’d built something far superior to what I actually had.

What is the Dunning-Kruger Effect?

This feeling of accomplishment and cognitive bias falls into the category of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. It’s perhaps what you might call illusory superiority.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect (named after the two professors who coined the term back in 1999) refers to the cognitive bias where individuals overestimate their abilities or knowledge in a particular domain, despite evidence to the contrary! In other words, people may think they are better at something than they actually are, due to a lack of self-awareness or accurate feedback.

This can lead to a false sense of confidence and the perception that they have achieved a high level of skill or competence, when in fact they have not.

Fooling yourself?

Apologies if this bursts your bubble, but this same cognitive bias happens when contractors write their CV -- it simply cannot be helped.

In my experience, the grand sum of what even the most highly skilled IT contractor achieves is something that appeals to their own psychology -- including likes, dislikes, sensibilities and even aesthetic preferences.

You’ll think you’ve created a masterpiece. ‘My CV is now awesome/infallible/the business/just what every client will want.’ But the acid test is how effective it is in generating high-paying contract opportunities.

The solution

The trick isn’t so much becoming an expert-CV-writer for the contract market, it’s more a case of acknowledging your own limitations and reaching out for help.

After all, I’m sure you don’t cut your own hair, service your own car or build your own playhouse (with some exceptions of course).

You might want to resign yourself to also outsourcing the important task of creating your contracting business’ most crucial marketing asset i.e. your CV.

As a starter for ten, perhaps reach out to my team for a free and no obligation CV appraisal 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.

Monday 24th Apr 2023
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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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