CDI Corporation

Tips for Building a Competitive Contractor Resume

cv_october_2015As a contractor, your resume is extremely important. It showcases your skills, reveals past experience and acts as a branding document to sell you to potential employers. Creating the perfect resume can be a difficult task, as it needs to be brief, streamlined and informative all at once. If you are trying to construct your perfect contractor resume, use these tips to get started.

In today’s professional landscape, there are many different ways a job-seeker can present his or her qualifications. Because contractors have more flexibility within their careers, they also have more room to experiment when it comes to advertising their skills. While there are a few different resume formats, including traditional, business and narrative biography, the most popular – and the format preferred by CDI recruiters – is the traditional resume format. This type of document outlines your previous jobs, reveals your educational background and showcases any marketable skills you may possess.

How should you organize your resume?

It is important to organize your resume well so that it effectively highlights your greatest achievements and most marketable skills. While non-contractors usually just list positions chronologically, this does not often work for contractors, many of whom have lengthy client lists. If you listed every job you ever worked, your resume could greatly exceed the universally recommended length of 1-2 pages.

To showcase your impressive industry background without creating a cluttered resume, you need to focus on what is important. The source explained that you should tailor the document to the positions for which you are applying. While this may make applying for jobs more time-consuming, it will undoubtedly yield you better results. When refining your resume, first review your employment history from the past 10 years. Pick out the jobs that are most similar to the position you are applying for, and shelve the rest for future use.

Julie Swistak, Fulfillment Manager for CDI, recommends your resume start with a Summary of Qualifications which highlights your main skills and sell points. Be sure that anything listed in the summary is also detailed in the specific position experience which follows in the resume.

For each past job, include the dates you worked there and your most significant concentrations or achievements. Again, these descriptions should be written with your desired position in mind, so focus on aspects of previous work that would be relevant in your future job. List these jobs chronologically, but not by relevance. Employers want to see consistency in addition to applicable skills and experience.

It is important to clarify on the resume whether your previous positions were direct employment or contract employment. For contract positions, cite the name of the client for whom you worked, as well as the name of the staffing company, for example, “Ford Motor Company through CDI Corporation”. Swistak suggests using the STAR method when elaborating experience for a particular position, specifically if it was a temporary/contract project:

Situation – Worked at ABC Company & participated in Customer Improvement Software Project – goal of project: deliver a new front end system to improve customer online experience.

Task – Responsible for delivery of software changes within timeframe and budget. Team consisted of seven members.

Action – Managed the project team consisting of both direct and contract employees. Was responsible for project schedule and coordinated work between all team members. Coordinated with all stakeholders and was responsible for monthly project reporting. Took appropriate actions to control project budget and ensure quality.

Results – The end result was a new customer website with an improved user interface. This resulted in a 25% increase in sales due to improved ease of use.

Weak STAR Statement: Managed a customer improvement software project for ABC Company.

Strong STAR Statement:  Managed seven team members to successfully deliver new frontend user interface for ABC Company to improve customers’ online experience.  Responsible for all project scheduling, monthly reporting, and budgeting to ensure project was completed on time and within budget, resulting in a 25% increase in sales.

As a contractor, you may have holes in your resume that you would rather not display, however, you should ensure all time is accounted for on your resume. In fact, many of our CDI clients require all employment gaps be identified on the candidate resume so that a full and complete history is told. The Houston Chronicle noted that grouping experience under subheads like “self-employed,” “consulting” and “freelancing” can help smooth over these gaps. Continually checking out the career portal and staying in contact with your CDI recruiter can additionally help minimize gaps between assignments.

Cover letter

For several years now, there’s been much debate about whether a resume cover letter is necessary. Some say it’s due to the electronic age we’re in with resumes no longer being mailed to a prospective employer. Others say cover letters never go out of style and can be considered one of the most important parts of the job seeking process. In the end, one thing is certain – if you choose to use a cover letter, do not make it a generic letter which is included with every resume you submit. This approach will do more harm than good, giving the impression that you are just blasting your resume to multiple companies and are not specifically interested in the particular role.

If you’re going to take the time to develop a cover letter, it’s important that each letter be written with a specific position in mind and should include information applicable to the company to which you are applying. A cover letter is not intended to restate the experience that appears on the resume but rather adds a more creative and readable touch which builds interest about you and what you bring to the prospective company.