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What type of CV/resumé do independent consultants need? (+ free sample/template)

As employees, we know that a CV (or "resumé" as our American IC-Hubbers call it!) is super important for applying for jobs (as are cover letters). But what about for trying to get consultancy work for us independent international development and social impact professionals and freelancers?

In this article, we're going to explore whether you need one (spoiler: yes, you probably do) and what it looks like. We're not going to go through the generic (yet definitely relevant) CV advice, like check for spelling errors, etc. Rather, we're going to explain the particularities of consultant CVs.

Do independent consultants need a CV?

Many client organisations (NGOs, UN agencies, governmental organisations, consulting firms, social enterprises) who hire independent professionals (like our IC-Hubbers) routinely ask prospective consultants for their CVs.

Just like for employees, the CV outlines your profile, your skills, your specialism, and your experience. It is critical for demonstrating to potential clients that you can deliver the work that you say you can deliver.

What's the difference between an employee CV and a consultant CV?

It depends. They may be identical and new consultants may find they do just fine using their regular old CV.

But, fundamentally, the CV of a consultant should emphasise "services" and "portfolio" over - respectively - "skills" and "experience".

That is to say, as independent consultants, we provide solutions (or services) to our clients, as opposed to offering hours to employers. Our portfolio of previous work should demonstrate that we have what it takes to provide those services.

What are the IC-Hub's three top tips for consultant CVs?

CV styles vary based on country. For instance, some countries require things like your photo or your date of birth, while others may actually require you to remove such items.

Our three top tips relate to our experiences as independent consultants working internationally for NGO and UN clients based across the world.

1. Prepare two CVs: 1) a one-page or two-page CV (see sample/template) giving a snapshot of your overall profile, including your elevator pitch (we talk about the importance of the elevator pitch and how to develop a consultancy-winning one in our IC-Hub Workshops); and 2) a full consultant's CV (see sample/template) providing information on all your previous consultancy projects.

The first one is useful for introducing yourself, while the second will be necessary for more rigorous recruitment processes and bidding procedures. Plus, it's useful to keep an extensive record of all your projects (I say this after 8 years as an independent consultant!).

The longer-form template/sample we've included is the EU format template. We find that EU-based clients like to use this one and European Union institutional client organisations use it as a matter of procedure. You'll see that it's not a particularly aesthetically pleasing CV, though, so if you're not going in for EU consultancy work, feel free to innovate on it and send us a better example!

2. Make it concrete: alright, we're delving a little bit into the "generic" kind of advice that we usually like to avoid, but time and time again, we see CVs with descriptions about what the person was responsible for. We consultants are all about actions and delivery. Our CVs need to reflect this. Write specifically about what you did and especially what you achieved. Examples would be: "I delivered the first-ever national policy on XXX for [COUNTRY], or "I secured funding of XXX for [SOCIAL IMPACT ORGANISATION]".

3. Quality over quantity: only include the experiences that are RELEVANT. That is to say, not the waitressing job you had when you were in high school, no matter how character-forming that experience was. Nor consultancy work you did that is not in line with the type of consultancy work you may have transitioned to.

4. Put it online: isn't it so old-fashioned to have to send your CV as an email attachment all the time? Create a website that shows what services you provide and your portfolio of work in a more visual way. Share the link with your potential clients and link to it in your email signature. You can also use your LinkedIn profile as a CV and share the link to your profile with potential clients.

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