Contractor Resume: Best Practices For Listing Your Skills, Projects, and Experience for 2023

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Contractors are the unsung heroes of our times, performing many Herculean labors on a day-to-day basis. Like conquering leaking pipes, making accurate wood cuts, ensuring wiring safety, etc.

But there's one task they tend to avoid, as much as possible.

Writing a contractor resume.

And the truth is that any contractor's professional experience is a multiverse on its own, filled with projects, companies, and tasks.

Leading to the dilemmas:

  • Which contracts should you choose?
  • What tasks will be most relevant?
  • Or, even, how to avoid looking like an inconsistent job hopper?

Here's what you should keep in mind - perfecting your most effective tool (the resume) in your job application toolbox will take time.

We all know that Rome wasn't built in a day.

But it's an opportunity to show recruiters (and the Applicant Tracking System, ATS) that you can participate in the big picture of things.

Keep in mind that recruiters will be assessing how your contractor experience aligns with the organizational culture. Also, how the knowledge you've gained can be used to maximize profit margins.

Thus, consider what you'd bring to the table not only in terms of technical skills but also capabilities you've gained as a result of contract work.

Those very often include:

  • discipline and self-management
  • working under constraints and decision-making
  • project management and planning.

And if you're still wondering how to list your contractor experience and skills, get ready for our detailed guide.

What you’ll learn here

  • How to curate your contractor experience so that it makes a good first impression on recruiters (and you don't seem like a job hopper)?
  • How to land one of the +500K contractor vacancies in the next decade with a targeted contractor resume?
  • Six questions recruiters pose when reviewing your contractor experience.
  • How to list a few, many, or hybrid contracts on your resume?
  • The big question: is your degree a must to land that dream contractor role?

How to Write Your Contractor Resume: Basics, Formatting, and More

Consider this: according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, in the next 10-years, the contractor sector will grow. Resulting in the following job openings/ year:

Those +500K vacancies per year signify that one of these jobs could be your next opportunity.

All you need to do is complete your contractor resume with our how-to guide.

Whether you're a general; government; independent or self-employed contractor, use your resume as a sophisticated storytelling instrument.

Let's look at a couple of trade-focused narratives, which your resume could note:

  • Hero's Tale: How complex carpenter jobs were completed despite complications and restraints in time and budget.
  • Epic Adventure: Travelling underground to detail the successfully installed square footage of pipe run.
  • High Technology and Innovation: Defining the level of advanced electrical systems installed.

Take the narrator's seat and choose what aspects of your career journey you'd like to tell that'd best suit the position you're applying for.

Once you've jotted a few ideas down around your narrative, it's time to select your resume formatting.

Starting with visuals. Our advice is to choose a layout that's both ATS and recruiter-friendly.

Meaning that it's organized, easy-to-read, and emphasizes your experienced, skills, and strengths.

pro tip icon
Pro tip

Including colors on your resume could further highlight your personal brand.

Remember to just not go too out and stick with up to two variations of one hue to maintain your professionalism.

Moving on from visual to content formatting. There are a couple of alleys you can go down here to curate your experience.

  1. Functional resume - provides you with an opportunity to focus on skills achieved rather than past roles. It's the perfect choice if you have a lot or don't have enough contractor experience.
  2. Hybrid - a mix between functional and reverse chronological formats that highlights key skills and shows you have no gaps in your employment history. Grouping your experience by the skills you've used is a great opportunity to show more depth in your expertise.
  3. Reverse chronological - one of the most common formats that emphasizes key contracts and positions. Use this if you've a lot of big names in your contractor portfolio.

Here are a few other details to remember when writing your contractor resume:

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The five most important contractor resume sections:

  • Header: with full contact details and job-oriented headline
  • Summary: highlighting key achievements of your contractor experience
  • Experience: projects aligned to the contractor job requirements
  • Skills: mix between technical and soft skills to show expertise and character
  • Certificates: relevant for your industry.
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What recruiters want to see when reviewing your contractor resume:

  • What are the results you achieved during previous contracts?
  • How can you prove you did the job well?
  • Do you have the relevant clearance, certification, and experience that would suit the role?
  • What sort of new and/ or technical know-how could you bring to the project?
  • What is the additional value you'd contribute to the team?
  • Would you be a good character fit to the organizational culture?

Perfecting your contractor resume header

Let's get everyone on the same page with the basics of your contractor resume header.

This section is virtually the first thing recruiters (or the ATS) read and refer to when trying to contact you.

So don't forget to include your:

  • first and last name
  • contact details (email and phone number)
  • address (needed to roughly pinpoint your location, so note city and state or country)
  • link (LinkedIn, portfolio website, or GitHub - your virtual platform to showcase your talent).

Moving to your resume's headline: this is the section which many contractors struggle with.

The headline is like the title page of any good book. It needs to be memorable, short and simple, and tailored to the particular reader (or in this case job opening).

A good headline stays as far away as possible from clichés, while including relevant job advert keywords.

When writing your headline, your train thought should align the job you're applying for with your experience. Include either up to three skill keywords, or quantify your biggest achievement.

Don't forget to include the word "contractor" somewhere to further define your experience.

pro tip icon
Pro tip

Need more inspiration to getting creative with your resume header?

Here's what you can do:

  • Use it as an opportunity to showcase where you want to go, "e.g. Plumbing contractor looking for opportunities in real estate sector"
  • Or include a character detail, something quirky and personal that's memorable. e.g. "Electrician by day, UNO champion by night: analytical problem-solving to making wiring 65% more secure".

For the second option, keep in mind that it is a good shout to do so only if it fits the company culture.

So now that you have a basic understanding of what’s required of you, let’s look at:

Two contractor resumes header examples: wrong vs right approach

Paul Rosado
Contractor
+1-313-956-4283
help@enhancv.com
LinkedIn/Portfolio
1082 State Street, Highland Park, MI 48203
WRONG

In this first resume header example, there are a few things amiss:

  • Address is too detailed - it should only include city and state.
  • Where’s the link to the professional portfolio (or LinkedIn)?
  • The title is very generic and doesn’t answer what the contractor’s niche is.
Paul Rosado
Carpenter Contractor: Cutting, Shaping, and Smoothing Lumber and Other Materials with 100% Precision
+1-313-956-4283
help@enhancv.com
carpenterpaulrosado.me
Highland Park, MI
RIGHT

This header section works pretty well as it:

  • Includes all relevant contact details
  • Showcases portfolio of work
  • The title includes many industry buzzwords (e.g. “carpenter”, “lumber”, “materials”) and also shows soft skill (“precision”). As a bonus, the word “contractor” is listed.

Now that you’ve perfected your contractor resume header, it’s time to look at the second most important section.

The dos and don'ts in your contractor resume summary

How do you reframe your whole contractor experience within three-to-five sentences?

Resume summaries are always a bit of a tricky situation.

They should tease your best qualities while meeting recruiters' expectations for the role.

As a first step, read in detail the job requirements and match those with your experience. The higher a skill or tool is listed in the advert, the more you should focus on it within your contractor resume.

After this initial cross-alignment, it's time to select your key achievements. For the resume summary, demonstrate tangible results via experience, achievements, and projects.

So, if you've just listed "constructed framework" this won't work.

Instead, include how many housing projects you've done and how you've guaranteed structure quality.

On a final thought, your summary is also an excellent section to mention any industry certificates you may have. Also, if you have clearance.

But we'll get about this in the next section.

Two contractor resume summary examples: electrical engineer

Summary
Strong practical experience in electrical engineering. Working on 50+ contracts at a time. Professional motivation, teamwork, and flexibility.
WRONG

While the above example contains a couple of keywords that could work, it doesn’t:

  • Specify achievements
  • Showcase results
  • Highlight best career moments

Here’s how more details could be woven into the resume summary:

Summary
Chartered electrical engineering contractor, working on 50+ contracts in the last year. Highly experienced in designing verification strategies and risk assessments for electrical systems to improve performance by 45%. Managing an engineering team of 6+ professionals in executing the validation of systems. Ability to adapt strategies to embrace changing or ambiguous requirements: flexibility leading to increase in system efficiency by 35%.
RIGHT

This section works as:

  • The very first sentence not only includes buzzwords, but highlights contractor experience
  • Showcases the professional experience with results attained.
  • Teamwork and leadership are illustrated within the tasks’ execution
  • The soft skill of “thinking quick on one’s feet” is nested within the big picture of things with impact.

Best practices to listing your contractor resume experience

Now that you've built your resume foundation, it's time to get into the framing or your experience section.

Even though your contractor experience can be in many different industries, e.g. construction and renovation, HVAC, and mechanical, there’s a rule of thumb.

Honesty about your previous employment status - specifically which companies have contracted you and for which companies you worked - is key.

As recruiters will easily spot discrepancies, during eligibility verifications.

pro tip icon
Pro tip

When listing your previous employers, remember to note both the contractor company (if applicable) and the company that assigned the project:

  • Contractor Company / Project Company
  • Project Company via Contractor Company
  • Project Company in employer, Contractor Company/-ies in role description.

Now that we've covered the "Who" of your experience section, let's look at its actual essence.

You could use a few categories to sort it, including the importance of skills in the job advert, your years of experience, and types of expertise.

Within your experience section, you could answer some of the most popular questions recruiters will have about your expertise.

1. How should I write this resume section, if I have a limited amount of experience?

Shift the focus from years and amount of experience to what actually matters.

That being the quality of your work, skills, and technologies which you've attained as a result of your previous contracts. Thus, you'd be highlighting your competencies via key achievements.

The experience section could be structured as follows:

  • Role
  • Company and Contractor Company
  • Bullets: Emphasizing skills or technologies via outcomes.

If in the end, your experience section seems too light, you can use various other resume sections to feature your strengths (e.g. projects, certification, soft skills, etc.)

2. What if I have too much contract experience? How should I go about sorting it on my resume?

The most often-case scenario is that over time, your role doesn't change - only the contractor you work for.

So, here's what you can do:

  • Select three-to-five roles that spotlight your skills the best and also are aligned with the job specifications and requirements.
  • Highlight the greatest hits of your contract work, and then create an "other experience" section, listing the rest of your contracts. This will show recruiters you're consistent and that there are no gaps in your experience.
  • Group contracts under job title and seniority, starting with more senior (or leadership) positions. Within the description of each experience item, list all the contract companies you've worked for through the years.

3. What if my experience is a hybrid one? How do I denote this on my resume?

Remember that your resume is the perfect storytelling instrument.

If a contract has resulted in full-time employment, make sure you highlight the reason why this promotion happened. Also, don’t forget to note your key achievements.

You could also curate both contractor and full-time work by filtering what's relevant to the job you're applying for. The role name or description provides the perfect space to note the essence of your contract (e.g. full-time employee; government contractor; independent contractor, etc.).

Contractor resume experience: Best practices

Experience
Construction Contract
Tennessee County
Nashville, TN
Worked on projects across the state.
  • Prepared construction sites
  • Did framing, dry walls, and interior fixtures
  • Installed windows and doors
  • Managed 5 construction workers
WRONG

The above experience section doesn’t answer some of the key questions:

  • What was the actual employment status and was there a contractor company involved?
  • What did the construction contractor achieve?
  • How can this professional’s skills be qualified?
Experience
Construction Manager and Worker: Independent Contract
Tennessee County
Nashville, TN
Independent work on various sites was recommended to county representatives, receiving a 6-month contract.
  • Worked on 35 construction sites across the state: clearing sites, putting up temporary frameworks, and overseeing plumbing installation
  • Together with a 20-person crew, set up the sites’ construction framing to meet the 1-month timeframe
  • Negotiated with third-party vendors so that windows and doors fit budget constraints and 100% of all architectural-specifications
  • Oversaw the final stages of the work, performed by 5 construction professionals, to meet the time constraints of 6 months
RIGHT

This experience stays true to the details:

  • Providing more information about the contract work itself
  • Highlighting technical competencies, achievements, and soft skills
  • Showing an understanding of big picture things, mainly how important budget and timing are.

Don’t forget these details about your experience

There are a few more bits and pieces to keep in mind when writing your experience section.

If you have relevant contract experience, that shows your breadth of work but is under a year, you can still include/ or showcase it within your resume. It's a matter of shifting the focus from the length of the employment to the skill set you've obtained.

In some instances, having security clearance to perform a contract can be vital. Your experience section could note that you've previously passed the background check, allowing access to classified information or systems at a designated level.

Speaking of legal and compliance, for most contract work, you've probably signed some form of NDA. If you breach any of the clauses with your resume, you'd be walking on thin ice.

To avoid this, instead of listing company names, you could include:

  • the company you were contracted out of (remember to specify that this is who assigned you the project)
  • the relevant industry
  • a note that due to NDA, the company name remains confidential.

Curating your resume contractor skills

Dedicating a separate skills section within the top one-third of your resume would surely help with ATS keyword assessment.

But choosing the specific skills which you'd like to include can be tough. These have to be ones you're most competent in and at the same time part of the job description.

Let's start with the contractor technical or hard skill set.

Technical skills are ones you've attained thanks to certification or on the job-experience.

They have more to do with technology (e.g. Designs, blueprints, and schematics in AutoCAD; project management via Oracle) or with role-specific knowledge (framework, wiring safety, etc.).

A couple of examples you could include on your contractor resume are:

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60 Contractor Technical Skills for Your Resume:

  1. Asphalt
  2. Assembling Scaffolds
  3. AR
  4. Automation
  5. Building Information Modeling
  6. Cabinetry
  7. Carpentry
  8. Computer-Aided Drafting: 3dsmax, AutoCAD, etc.
  9. Concrete
  10. Construction and Project Management Software (QuickBooks, Oracle, etc.)
  11. Data Collection and Analysis via Software
  12. Deck Construction
  13. Demolition
  14. Electrical Schematics and Blueprints
  15. Drilling
  16. Drones
  17. Drywall Installation and Texturing
  18. Electrical Wiring
  19. Electronic Equipment Maintenance
  20. Estimating Software (STACK)
  21. First Aid
  22. Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
  23. Foundation
  24. Framing
  25. Furniture Making
  26. Hand Tools
  27. Heavy Equipment Operation
  28. HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning): Installation and Troubleshooting
  29. Installing individual HVAC parts (pumps, pipes, fans, etc.)
  30. Insulation
  31. Landscaping
  32. Maintaining Air and Water Treatments in HVAC Systems
  33. Metalwork
  34. Minor Equipment Repair
  35. Mixing Paints
  36. Operating Painting Equipment and Painting Tools
  37. Paneling
  38. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  39. Pipe Fitting
  40. Plumbing
  41. Power Tools
  42. Preparing Operational Plans
  43. Prototyping
  44. Priming Surfaces
  45. Removing Wallpaper
  46. Repairs
  47. Robotics
  48. Roofing
  49. Safe Worksite Development
  50. Sanding and Scraping Surfaces
  51. Sawing
  52. Sheathing and Lathing
  53. Stonework
  54. Surveying
  55. Tiling
  56. Trimming
  57. VR
  58. Adhering Wallpaper and Aligning Patterns
  59. Welding
  60. Window and Door Installation

Just make sure that each skill can be qualified within your resume: meaning you’re able to pinpoint your key achievements in - for example - stonework.

And what about the contractor resume soft skills

Soft skills are the ones recruiters are looking for. They are personal traits, transferrable from one job to another.

Basically that added value which potential employers would get. Saying that you're "personable" and have "attention to detail" just won't work.

You need to show recruiters how your contractor experience has helped you build character.

So, you can create a separate strengths or achievements resume to highlight three soft skills, that would be most applicable for the role.

Strengths
Independent
Worked on 250+ housing projects, where was assigned to independently work on setting up HVAC systems to meet 100% of all architectural specifications.
holdingheart
Complying with all mandatory procedures, to achieve a 45% safer construction environment.
Planning
Designing HVAC blueprints, schematics, and risk assessment to miznimize future system complications by 13%.
RIGHT

If you need some more ideas about some of the most popular contractor soft skills, make sure you check out our complete list:

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61 Contractor Soft Skills List for Your Resume:

  1. Active Listening
  2. Communications Skills
  3. Documentation
  4. Emotional Intelligence
  5. Good Hearing
  6. Growth Mindset
  7. Hand-Eye Coordination
  8. Independence
  9. Marking and Measuring
  10. Memory
  11. Neatness
  12. Prioritizing
  13. Self-motivation
  14. Strong Eyesight
  15. Time Management
  16. Quick and Accurate Work
  17. Safety Procedures
  18. Aesthetic Vision
  19. Building Codes
  20. Compliance
  21. Labor Relations
  22. Quality Control
  23. Technical Vocabulary
  24. Worksite Management
  25. Building Codes
  26. Environmental Regulation and Compliance
  27. Zoning Laws
  28. Delegating Work
  29. Following Instructions and Directions
  30. Collaboration
  31. Conflict resolution
  32. Instructing
  33. Leadership
  34. Supervision
  35. Teamwork
  36. Training
  37. Willingness to Learn
  38. Arm and Hand Strength
  39. Balance
  40. Dexterity
  41. Endurance
  42. Fine Motor Skills: Motor Accuracy
  43. Lifting Technique and Heavy Lifting
  44. Physical Strength and Stamina
  45. Posture
  46. Detail-Focused
  47. Budgeting: Calculating Costs and Estimates
  48. Critical thinking
  49. Maintenance
  50. Ordering
  51. Organization
  52. Planning
  53. Precision
  54. Problem-Solving
  55. Project Management
  56. Scheduling
  57. Troubleshooting
  58. Customer Relations
  59. Customer Service
  60. Networking
  61. Price Negotiation

Is including an education section a must?

Guess what - some contractor jobs require specialized education, others don't.

Creating an education section for your contractor resume is entirely up to you.

Our advice:

  • spotlight any relevant diplomas (in engineering, architecture, electronic, etc.) or if you're in the process of obtaining such
  • briefly note degrees that are irrelevant to the job you’re applying for, signifying your have an academic background
  • focus on certifications, if you haven't continued your higher education.

Once again, it all comes down to the job expectations and requirements.

Including your contractor resume’s certificates

Having that job-specific contractor certification may in some cases be as relevant as a higher education degree.

Receiving a specific license is a very strict process during which you have to prove at least 4-years of experience in the trade.

Relevant certifications and licenses would show recruiters that you:

  • have invested in your own training and willing to always progress in the field
  • have a more serious approach to the contractor work you've been doing
  • deliver services to a nationwide standard.

In most cases, contractors don't take the time to gain relevant experience and complete the exams. They just aim to get as much work as possible.

Your license and certificates would certainly set you apart from everyone else, highlighting how you practice the trade following ethics and a code of work.

Make sure to also include any machinery training, pertinent to the role you're applying for (e.g. scaffolding, forklift, bulldozer, etc.).

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Top 18 contractor certificates for your resume

  1. Certified Professional Contractor (CPC)
  2. The Federal Acquisition Certification in Contracting (FAC-C) Program
  3. OSHA Safety Certificate
  4. EPA Amusement Operators Safety Certification (EPA)
  5. National Association of Safety Professionals (NASP)
  6. Project Management Professional
  7. Master Project Manager
  8. Certified Agile Developer (CAD)
  9. Building Performance Institute (BPI) Certification
  10. Certified Construction Manager (CCM
  11. Associate Constructor (AC)
  12. National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET)
  13. Solar Professionals Certificate Program
  14. Certified Energy Manager (CEM)
  15. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP)
  16. Certified Planning & Scheduling Professional (PSP)
  17. Project Risk Management Professional (PRMP)
  18. EPA 608 Technician Certification
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Top 11 contractor licenses for your resume:

  1. Landscaping Business License
  2. C-33 Painting & Decorating Contractor License
  3. Roofing and Sheet Metal Contractor License
  4. Plumbing Contractor License
  5. Fire Protection License
  6. HVAC Contractor License
  7. Electrical Contractor License
  8. General Building Contractor License
  9. General Engineering Contractor License
  10. Responsible Managing Officer License
  11. Responsible Managing Employee License

Considering your best contractor work with projects

Projects is an excellent resume section to highlight key achievements in your portfolio of work. It'd also help you cross align job-relevant skills with your current trade of work.

Recruiters use the project section to get in-depth knowledge of:

  • your level of expertise and skills
  • your work standards and ethics
  • the kind of projects you'd like to be involved in the future.

Just remember that your resume offers a limited space to make a good first impression - so choose between one-and-three projects.

Here are a few more tips of what to include in the projects section fo your resume:

  • Project name, company and contractor company, dates started to completed
  • Project description up to two sentences-long, focused on what you delivered in the end and key achievements
  • Woven in two-to-three skills keywords
  • Relevant links.

So, be smart about choosing and highlighting your best work on your resume.

Key takeaways

  • The resume header is the perfect opportunity to show what you’d like to achieve in your next contractor role and what value you’d bring to the organization.
  • Use your resume summary to highlight key skill, achievements, and certifications with tangible results.
  • Chose your contractor experience that would be most relevant for the role you’re applying for and that can show your skills, niche, and expertise.
  • Include on your contractor resume your technical expertise, but also some of your personality/ character traits to better highlight your growth and achievements.
  • Don’t forget to list any relevant certifications, licenses, and trainings you may have as it may be just as important as your education (in some cases even more so).

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