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?
Related resume examples: from independent work to engineering contracts
- Freelance Architect
- Freelance Consultant
- Freelance Project Manager
- Maintenance Technician
- Entry Level Engineering
- Electrical Engineering
- Manufacturing Engineer
- Product Engineer
- Engineering Project Manager
- Project Engineer
- Engineering Intern
- Industrial Engineer
- Civil Engineer
- Quality Control
- Systems Engineer
- Mechanical Engineer
- Mechanical Design Engineer
- Entry Level Mechanical Engineer
- Structural Engineer
- Electrical Project Manager
- Construction Manager
- Construction Superintendent
- Construction Worker
- Quality Engineer
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:
- 168,500 for construction workers and helpers
- 160,100 for general maintenance and repair workers
- 91,200 for carpenters
- 79,900 for electricians
- 48,600 for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters.
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.
Moving on from visual to content formatting. There are a couple of alleys you can go down here to curate your experience.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
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.
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
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.
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
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:
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.
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:
- 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
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?
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.
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:
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.
If you need some more ideas about some of the most popular contractor soft skills, make sure you check out our complete list:
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.
- 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.).
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.
- 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).