More people are becoming independent contractors because they like having control over their time. Contract work can be a way to gain experience in a new field, earn a living while in between jobs, or expose yourself to different work environments. Contract work experience can also be a way for a job seeker to stand out against the competition.
This article explains why you should include contract work on your resume and your LinkedIn profile, how you should construct your overall resume, and how to integrate contract work into a resume so that it showcases your versatility. We also give an example of a resume that includes contract work.
It used to be the case that potential employers were leery of a candidate who listed contract work on their resume. Employers wanted to see steady full-time employment on a resume to be confident that the person was not a job hopper.
However, the stigma associated with contract work has largely disappeared with the rise of the gig economy and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the workforce. During the pandemic, many people lost their full-time jobs and turned to contract jobs.
Here are some key reasons to include contract work on a resume for your job search.
Contract work shows valuable work experience and skills like adapting to new work environments.
Listing contract work can supplement a resume that lacks full-time experience, for example, in the case of a recent college graduate or someone who is switching careers.
If a candidate has gaps in their full-time work history, short-term contract work can show they are resourceful.
Contract work is unique and can make you stand out to the hiring manager against other candidates.
That said, it is wise to construct your resume in a way that does not draw attention to frequent job changes. One way to do that is to organize your resume so that all your contract work is in one place on your resume.
If you lack full-time work experience, are a recent graduate, or are switching career paths, it is best to use a functional resume. A functional resume will emphasize your skills and core competencies rather than your work history and longevity at each firm.
To understand more about the differences between a functional and chronological resume, read “Which Resume Format Should You Choose?”
If you are writing a chronological resume, your work history will tell a story. For example, you started at entry-level, then became a manager or supervisor, and perhaps then a director or VP. Your experience tells a story. Try to do the same with your contract work. Here’s how.
List all your contract work in one section to separate your full-time work from your part-time work, and a recruiter can see what work you did in what context.
List the work by industry and job title and in reverse-chronological order with your most recent job first. You may have taken on increasingly complex work as you gained experience, so try to emphasize this. For example, a coder may have initially taken on very short, easy contract jobs but then progressed to more complex projects or multiple assignments.
List the company name or staffing agency that hired you as a contractor and each firm that you were contracted to. That’s important because the more companies you worked for, the greater your experience.
Your professional resume should be tailored for each job that you apply to so that you can align your skills and work experience with the needs of the position. Therefore, do not include contract work that is not relevant. For example, if you are applying for a job as a data analyst, working as an Uber driver is not going to beef up your resume.
The goal is to show an employer that you can add value to the company, so study the job description and research the position, so that you can find ways to apply your contract work to the job.
Here’s a quick example of one way a job seeker can list a single entry of contract work on their resume:
HEI Hotels, New York
Project Evaluator; Contract (July – Dec 2019)
Assessed potential hotel renovation projects. Evaluated concepts and produced financial budgets and projections to inform ownership group investment decisions.
Here’s an example of a resume that includes a series of contract work.
The same rules apply when adding contracting work to your resume as when constructing another type of resume. For example, you should always tailor your resume to each job. You should study the job posting and use similar terminology in your resume as in the job description so that applicant tracking systems pick up on keywords.
Use bullet points to describe your accomplishments in each position and use action words to describe your accomplishments with metrics to show measurable results.
For details on resume writing, read “The Ultimate Guide to Writing the Perfect Resume.”
The Cover Letter
Your contract work will be unique, and you can use that uniqueness to your advantage by emphasizing it in your cover letter. For example, in your cover letter, expand on your contracting experience and explain how it has advanced your skills and competencies. You could link your experience with the needs of the hiring firm. Here’s an example:
“Part of my contracting work with IT Staffing was with company XYZ. The company was developing a new tax returns software for large global corporations. I believe that this project is similar to one that your company is currently developing, and I would love to be part of your product team.”
For more on cover letters, read “How to Write a Cover Letter.”
Your LinkedIn Profile
A prospective employer will look at your LinkedIn profile if they are impressed by your resume. Therefore, your online profile should show similar information that does not conflict. Include your contract work on your LinkedIn profile along with your regular employment and list each contract position that you feel best showcases your experience.
Contract work is becoming increasingly popular in today’s work environment. It provides flexibility and is a way to earn income between jobs or to gain experience in a new field. Don't be afraid that including contract work is a sign that you might be a job hopper; contract work is important and should be added to your resume and LinkedIn profile.
Here are some summary tips.
Use a functional resume format if you have gaps in your resume or to emphasize your core competencies.
If you do not have one or two full-time jobs that show some career progression or longevity with an employer, use a functional resume and list contract jobs in a separate section.
Read the job description and align your contract work with the skills required.
Tailor your resume to each job.
Emphasize your valuable contract work in your cover letter so that you stand out.
Proofread your resume to avoid typos.