Resume Tips for Contractors and Consultants

Posted on April 8, 2009. Filed under: Consulting/Contracting, Resumes | Tags: , , , , , , |

Independent contractors and consultants often find it difficult to prepare a resume because of their disjointed work history. They tend to have lots of short-term jobs, which usually results in a resume that violates two of the main principles of effective resume writing. They are:

1. Length: A candidate that has numerous contracts or consulting engagements over a 10-year period will want to capture all of them (particularly when they insist on including the month and year of the engagement), which can generate a resume that is five or more pages in length.
2. Longevity: Most job seekers will list the company the contract was with as the “employer” because is it often a company that many will immediately recognize. Although it is important to include brand-name companies on a resume, as they do carry a lot of weight to recruiters, HR reps, and hiring managers, the negative impact the apparent choppiness of experience can have far outweighs the benefit of listing the jobs in this manner.

How Do I Create a Resume for Contract Positions?

As a consultant or contractor, developing a resume for another contract-based position will be simpler than developing a resume for an in-house, corporate position. Recruiters and hiring professionals experienced in the consulting or contracting arena will expect many job entries that are short in duration on a candidate’s resume. As such, you can craft your resume in a manner that highlights your more high-profile engagements as well as those in which you have some special achievement to call out. Longevity should not be a major issue in this type of resume, just length. You want to be sure that the resume is not too long, which can cause the reader to lose interest and bypass you entirely.

How Do I Go from a Contract or Consulting Position to an In-house Position?

Developing a resume for an in-house position when the bulk of your experience is in consulting or independent contracting is the real issue at hand here. Don’t worry. There are ways to communicate your key strengths and accomplishments while meeting the length and longevity expectations of corporate hiring professionals. Remember, HR representatives are the first group to review your resume, and they look for certain “red flags” to eliminate candidates right off the bat, which is somewhat reasonable as they usually have hundreds of resumes to go through. Two of the major “red flags” are employment gaps and whether the candidate is a job hopper.

If you list only some of the contracts you have had, it could very well leave holes in your experience time line. Again, if you include everything, the resume will be way too long. To overcome both issues, list the consulting or contracting firm you worked through, or, if self-employed, the name of your firm (if you did not have a formal name, simply add “Services” or “Professional Services” after your last name to represent your company name) for the main position heading. This is an umbrella entry that should indicate the time period of your contracting history. Then simply provide a general overview of what you did, saving individual engagements for the bulleted list.

If you worked for many different contracting or consulting organizations, my recommendation is to make the umbrella listing with the date range for your position as a consultant. Then you can have a sub-heading that mentions the different consulting or contracting firms you worked with during that time frame. This way, you can combine most things, if not everything, into this one main entry. Provide a basic overview of your duties, like discovery, analyzing customer needs, developing solutions, recommending strategies, etc. and then list major engagements and their positive outcomes in the bulleted list.

This approach will help get your resume through the initial reviews performed by corporate HR folks by overcoming some of the “red flags” that derail so many contractors and consultants when looking to switch to an in-house type of position.

So who am I anyway? Why do I think my advice is so valuable?

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One Response to “Resume Tips for Contractors and Consultants”

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Hi Steve, thanks for the nice article, it was a lovely read and you offered some really good advice in there! Anyway although this isnt exactly contractor or consultant related, but if you have a moment, please also check out an article I created “102 Tips for the Perfect Resume”, I hope it will help your readers too regarding resums! Thank you, William

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