And Make it Easy for Clients to Choose Your Services
There are oceans of information on the internet and in other resources for writing an employment curriculum vitae (CV) or resume (see Figure, 1), but a search for information about a consulting resume will draw fewer hits. This article will address that gap by providing insight into the similarities and differences between these two types of resumes and will also offer some practical ideas for preparing an effective resume that makes it easy for clients to choose your services.
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a consultant as a person who gives professional advice or services. If that is your occupation, then shouldn’t your resume clearly demonstrate your professionalism? If it does not, then you may be making it easy for clients to not choose your services.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
As with any writing, it is of paramount importance that it is done with the audience in mind. That means you need to use their terminology to describe the solutions or services that they need. The purpose of an employee resume is to make a strong first impression and to be selected for the next step in the hiring process—an interview. The purpose is not to dazzle the reader with your previous employers and work history. When a consultant is hired however, there may be a personal or telephone interview, or no interview at all, depending upon the need.
This is because a consultant may work as a self-employed contractor, through an agency, or as an employee for a consulting company. A consultant may also work on one or more assignments, either full or part-time, for short or long-term. The location may be at the client’s workplace or job site or another location such as at their supplier’s facility. The consultant may be an entrepreneur, technical specialist, subject matter expert (SME), or a retiree who wants to continue working full or part time.
For anyone who has only submitted resumes, the process of reviewing submissions and choosing candidates may be hard to imagine. When a consultant’s services are needed, usually right away, how is the best candidate selected?
This process was vividly illustrated to me by Colin McDougall during a communications class in the SAIT Welding Engineering Technology (WET) Program. He said that resumes are like plastic containers of food. Before eating anything from your fridge at home or the office, you may ask yourself what is it, or when did I it put here, and will it be OK to eat?
The result is often that the food is discarded and fresh food is prepared or purchased. Reviewing resumes often takes the same approach: if in doubt – throw it out.
The referral is a preferred hiring method for employees and consultants, but it is not always possible. In many cases, resumes are required for the initial consideration of candidates. For that reason, both employee and consultant resumes must be focused and polished.
An unprofessional resume can be deleted in one mouse click. With that in mind, what decision-maker would want to interview or hire someone with an unprofessional resume that has:
- Mistakes and proofreading errors?
- Busy or fancy formatting?
- Audience not targeted?
- More than two pages?
- Dated appearance?
What the reader needs to know is that you can successfully provide the services that they need. There are significant differences however, with how your information should be presented for consideration as an employee vs. as a consultant.
In the article Resume Style for Consulting, Charlie Rossiter states that a functional resume emphasizing skills and accomplishments is better for a consultant than the chronological approach of summarizing background and experience. He says that someone hiring a consultant wants to see evidence that the consultant can produce results and recommends using a services section in the resume. This would be used instead of a professional profile or summary that is used in an employee resume. He also recommends using skills, accomplishments, and past clients sections to complete the resume.
Moreover, detailed job descriptions do not belong in a consultant’s resume. Instead the focus must be on applying your skills to the client’s needs. Someone with a long employment history and vast experience may find it difficult to condense their qualifications into one or two pages. A one-page corporate format may be used instead (see Figure, 3), with a two-column layout that highlights education, certifications, memberships, major projects, and accomplishments. This will neatly summarize your qualifications by highlighting only the relevant details that the client needs to know. This also serves to hide any gaps in your employment history. A professional photo and company logo or name may also be included.
In the article Retiring From Retirement – Resume Tips For Candidates Re-Entering the Workforce After Retirement, Stephen Van Vreede also encourages that you consider your target audience by using terminology that will be valued and understood. He recommends against attempting to explain anything in your work history (e.g., gaps); this information may or may not be discussed later during an interview.
Another difference is that a consultant may not be recruited through a career ad describing roles and responsibilities. Instead, a consultant may be recruited through a referral or business resource with a request for a specific service. Finally, if you work as a consultant through an agency or consulting company, the resume presented to clients should never be the same resume that was used to get the consulting job, and it must show either some consulting experience or the consulting services to be provided.
A client may not request a cover letter, however if appropriate (e.g., first or large contract), a cover letter should accompany the resume to promote your services and demonstrate your professionalism. In the article Cover Letters – Purpose and Structure, Ford Meyers describes the cover letter as a sales presentation in disguise, but if it says hey, I need a job and here’s my resume it is not impressive. Think throw it out. The cover letter must be a concise but personal introduction, addressed to a specific individual and company to highlight your qualifications and the services to be provided.
Another important element of any consulting business development or career search is an online profile that connects you with colleagues, clients, and opportunities. This may be either on a website, or a professional network such as LinkedIn, or both. The purpose of an online profile is different than a resume, which means that it may contain much more comprehensive information about your experience, qualifications, and services, including examples of your work. LinkedIn can turn a profile into a resume in seconds, but that does not mean it is ready for use as-is by a consultant, or anyone else. Since it is so important, it is worth stating the obvious, that your LinkedIn profile should be completely professional; it is not a forum for posting personal or other information.
When writing a resume, whether to work as an employee or consultant, the services of a career coach or resume writer should be obtained to ensure you resume is up-to-date and well-written. Alternatively, career resources are readily available from many nonprofit and government agencies. In Alberta, the Alberta Career Information Hotline provides resume writing resources and services, including a free resume review service for Alberta residents and/or those seeking employment in Alberta. There are many opinions about what may make a good resume better, and these are often industry-specific, so some professional advice is often very useful.
A recruiter may initially spend only a few seconds reviewing your resume, so it must be compelling. Your resume should answer why the reader should want to interview or hire you. For specific ideas about how to write a great resume that will get more than a cursory review, see the article by Vivian Giang, titled 19 Reasons Why This Is An Excellent Resume.
A consultant has a very different role than an employee and therefore the process for hiring consulting services is also very different, including the requirements for a resume. Presenting the information your client needs to know clearly and concisely will make it easy for them to choose your services.
This article was originally published in the Canadian Institute for NDE (CINDE) Journal, Special Reprint Issue Vol. 34 Nos. 2 – 6, 2013 https://www.cinde.ca/journal/ and on LinkedIn 31-Mar-15 https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-write-effective-consultants-resume-roy-christensen-ret/.
About the Author
Roy O. Christensen is a Welding Engineering Technologist who has over 35 years’ experience with O&G, pipeline, and other projects. He has authored countless instructions, manuals, plans, proposals, reports, specifications, and other documents that continue to drive success for many projects. He is the founder of the KT Project that saves organizations significant money and time, by providing key resources to leverage expert knowledge transfer for successful project execution.
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- A Consultant Resume
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