Talent Development Centre

Formatting Your Resume as an Independent Contractor

A recent survey completed by Eagle’s Recruiters revealed some valuable information about how independent contractors can gain an advantage with the best resume.  In previous posts, we discussed some pet peeves and favourites of resumes, as well as gave some tips about the most important information to include in your resume.  This post will go into more detail about setting up your resume so it’s easy for recruiters to read and understand your message, and ultimately getting you in front of the right clients.


One of the biggest pet peeves identified by recruiters is poor formatting.  When your resume is not visually appealing to a reader, it immediately turns them off of you, even if your qualifications are through the roof.  Consider the font size you use, how your paragraphs are structured, and if you can break up some paragraphs into bullets. While it may be tempting to use tables to organize your resume, they can actually cause issues in a company’s applicant tracking system or create complications when sending your resume to a client. From there, take a look at your use of punctuation, caps lock, bold, italics and underline. IT’S POSSIBLE TO USE THESE TOO MUCH AND MAKE YOUR RESUME WAY TOO HARD TO READ!!!!!!!

Microsoft Word is a great program with hundreds of tools.  Learn about the common ones and be sure to use them properly.  For example, set tabs appropriately, take advantage of styles, and use the columns functionality instead of trying to create your own columns.


In a past post, we mentioned what recruiters find the most important and what they look for first.  Why not organize your resume so it identifies the most important sections?  The top two areas for a recruiter are the Summary and your Professional experience.  Include those first, then at the end, add sections for the technologies you use, education and certifications.  Don’t forget, as we’ve mentioned before, nobody cares about a contractor’s hobbies and interests.


Person reading a long resumeHow long should your resume be?  This is a common question with different answers depending who you speak with.  In fact, Eagle Recruiters couldn’t even agree.  While the majority said 3-5 pages, almost all of the rest stated that it should be as long as it needs to be.  The truth is, depending on the situation, both are right.  Some clients will want to see a complete document of everything you’ve done, while others prefer a summary. Our recommendation is to have a couple of resume options available — one very detailed resume that you update after every project, and another that’s about 3-5 pages and tailored to the role and client.

File Type

Understandably for security purposes, many independent contractors choose to submit a resume as a PDF file.  97% of Eagle’s Recruiters, though, would rather see it come in a MS Word document (the other 3% said they didn’t care and not a single person said they prefer PDF documents).  Not only can PDFs be more difficult to read and create challenges for a writer submitting you in a proposal, but they can also be tricky for applicant tracking systems to read.  If you really want to use a PDF, and are willing to take the risk with the applicant tracking system, we recommend keeping a Word version available, and letting a recruiter you trust know that it’s available if they need it.

Do you have any other tips for improving a resume?  Do you agree with the ones we suggested?  Let us know in the comments below.

6 thoughts on “Formatting Your Resume as an Independent Contractor

  1. The suggestions are constructive. Thank you!
    I would like to raise up some queries, hope your recruiters would not mind to share their professional inputs.
    Should resume be refined to fit individual applications as each job posting has different focus even role is similar?

    1. Hi Yvette, thank you for your comment! You’re absolutely right, refining a resume to fit an individual application is a great idea. If you’re applying through Eagle’s job board, you can upload multiple resumes. If you upload a resume for a specific job, we recommend including the Job ID number in the file name.

  2. I agree with the recommendations, with these additions:

    Never justify the text; always use a ragged right margin.

    Don’t write about responsibilities. Skills are transferable, but responsibilities are not. Similarly, provide verifiable information about achievements.

    Ensure the text is parallel; that is, every bullet begins with the same type of verb (e.g., conducted, installed, wrote and conducting, installing, writing are both parallel, but conducting, installation of, and wrote is not).

    Avoid excessive use of acronyms that the reader may not understand; define them if unsure.

    Use active voice (installed), avoiding passive voice (Installation of); watch for those “tion” words (which are abstract nouns) and get rid of them if you can.

    Ensure your Experience section is in reverse chronological order (most recent first), and use dates ranges for each position. Be prepared to explain gaps.

    Always keep your audience in mind, considering the task they face when approaching a pile of resumes: deciding who they will interview. Your job is not to get the job, but to remain in the competition for an interview, which is a process of elimination. Resumes will be sorted in to initial “yes” “maybe” and “no” piles. You know where you want to be, so don’t give the reader any reasons (like poor writing and formatting) to add you to the nos.

    If you have questions, feel free to contact me via email at bomalley@shaw.ca

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