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September 22, 2016

By Brian Livingston

You may worry your contracting history will make it harder when you choose to join a company full-time. And while hiring managers do have some concerns, I assure you your resume can alleviate many of those fears—if you do it right.

In my nine years recruiting and placing IT pros, I’ve helped many contractors transition to full-time employment—usually about 25 a year—and I’ve learned a lot about how to make that move. Here are my best tips for creating a resume that highlights your contract experience as an asset and addresses employers’ concerns. 

Can too many contracting jobs hurt your chances?

IT pros face a different set of expectations than normal workers—employers some contracting background, and many value it. But they’re often wary of hiring tech workers with a lot of contract positions on their resume for a number of reasons, such as:

  • You may be used to higher hourly pay as a contractor, especially if you have a niche skill set because those tend to draw big hourly rates
  • You may get bored easily and want to move to another job in six months

How to list contracting experience on your tech resume

Whom should you list as your employer? Many people think it’s the contracting agency, but actually, hiring managers just want to see the name of the company where you performed the work. It’s not dishonest as most employers assume shorter-term positions were worked as a contractor. 

Addressing shorter-term positions

Anything since 2010 or so—when the economy started to rebound—is fair game for employers to ask about. Hiring managers want to understand your reason for leaving every single position, and you better be ready to address that in interviews.

If you have a good reason for leaving (the position was outsourced, the startup lost funding, the project finished), you can state that at the end of the resume blurb. Of course, that only applies if you can address every single position that way.

Package contracting experience as an asset

Experiencing several project types and industries—and getting the chance to see what works and doesn’t—is a great asset. It allows you to act as a true consultant to many IT shops.

The best way to sell that asset is in your opening blurb (please don’t call it “objective” or “summary”—just write the blurb below your contact info). Talk about seeing multiple projects through to conclusion, name drop a little, give a couple of highlights. Also, this is a good place to show you’re serious about committing to a full-time job. Give one sentence: I’ve contracted and gained knowledge, now I’m ready to sit down long-term with a company and bring value, etc.

More tech resume tips

  • Write for HR first. Unless you’re working with a recruiter, your resume has to make it through the HR screening. Don’t expect them to be able to infer anything about your suitability; make it as easy as possible for a non-techie to understand how you fit the role by using the exact language from the job ad. And leave out things that don’t apply—even big accomplishments—to make it easy for the screener to focus on what does apply.
  • Don’t rush! I see resumes all the time with glaring typos and other mistakes—usually from people who unexpectedly found themselves looking for work. If you end up in this situation, don’t just blanket your resume to everyone without giving it your best effort. A great way to check your resume with fresh eyes is to print it on paper and read it aloud.
  • Closely proofread your supporting documents. Reference lists and thank-you notes will also be scrutinized.
  • Leave enough white space. You don’t need to list everything. Omit duties to leave yourself room to focus on results. Your resume can go two pages.
  • Think like a detective. Finally, IT hiring managers are scrutinizing your resume for fabrications, so make sure you check your CV against your LinkedIn profile and other online trails to be sure they match.
  • Omit technologies you’ve had minimal exposure to. If you can’t articulate how you used the technology on an assignment, how it’s best used, its features or functions, don’t bother! It’s only planting a potential pitfall in your interview.

What if your resume isn’t working?

You can only put so much on a resume. At the risk of sounding self-serving, IT recruiters can help tell your story better than a resume can. I can say to a manager, this person did a lot of contracts but they’re looking to take on a permanent role where they can impact an organization or grow their career in a certain way. That story can make all the difference for you.

Good luck!

Brian Livingston is a Chattanooga, Tennessee-based account manager with TEKsystems Direct Placement Services, and a board member of the Chattanooga Technology Council. Brian has worked in IT recruiting for nine years.

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