Could your IR35 status hinge on your CV?

Could your CV hold the key to operating outside IR35?

As the new rules for off-payroll working loom ever closer, many contractors will be wondering what they can do to remain
outside of IR35, stay off the bench and maintain their rates. With the risk falling on the end-client from April 2020,
contractors operating through a PSC will need to do everything they can to portray themselves as a genuine business – including refreshing their CV.

Some organisations have taken a blanket approach to the reform by placing a moratorium on dealing with PSCs. However,
outside IR35 opportunities are expected to continue to exist and anything you can do to support your status as a true contractor will help.

Obviously a lot depends on your contractual terms, but this article will look at some of the practicalities of how you portray yourself to your market. Contracts and CEST tests are all well and good, but your true IR35 status also rests on your mindset, how you cultivate your personal brand and how you sell yourself.

Think like a business

It’s fair to say that many contractors think and act like jobseekers. There’s nothing wrong with applying for contract jobs online and securing work through recruitment agencies, but it’s a rather one-dimensional approach and not what anyone could comfortably argue as being the marketing strategy of a typical business.

In addition to this traditional channel to market, approaching clients directly, developing a LinkedIn business development strategy and embracing networking are all highly effective ways to win work. Above all else, having a multi-pronged approach to acquiring clients and investing money in marketing activities all help show you are in business on your own account.

Your marketing collateral

If we are working on the assumption that a more multi-pronged approach to winning work makes sense, and that
developing a marketing strategy might be more aligned with being a true business, then focusing on your marketing
collateral comes firmly into the picture. When I refer to contractor marketing collateral, I’m talking about your CV, your
LinkedIn profile and perhaps a website.

Now, a traditional chronological CV with a career history is always going to be a safe option because it’s what recruiters and
clients are used to seeing. But in the post-IR35 reform landscape, does a CV in its traditional sense support your true
business status or does it make you look more like a typical jobseeker?

Just to be clear, I’m not for one minute suggesting that you mothball your chronological CV, but there are some tactics you
can adopt to make that style of CV appear outside-IR35. There is also an alternative style of CV that is more akin to a
business marketing document – something we call the ‘Case Study Style CV.’

The chronological CV

So what changes can you make to your chronological CV to make it more aligned with an outside-IR35 status? Here’s a quick
overview of some useful tactics:

  • Write your CV in an implied first-person style rather than using pronouns such as ‘I’ and ‘my’
  • Mention your limited company name and have a proper business email address
  • Mention your independent contractor status in your opening summary
  • Don’t just list your contracts with a list of tasks – businesses promote outcomes not tasks
  • Talk about what you do for clients and how you deliver business benefits
  • Use marketing case studies in your CV to showcase client assignments
  • Use terminology such as ‘engaged’ rather than ‘hired’
  • Do not under any circumstances use the heading ‘Employment History’
  • Include recommendations from clients rather than ‘references are available on request’

The ‘Case Study Style CV’

It was over 10 years ago that we developed this style of CV, predominantly to help contractors present their lengthy and
sometimes non-linear career history in a more manageable way that didn’t require six pages of bullet points. It has always
been a ‘nice to have’ that some recruiters love, but some haven’t taken to it due to being tied to the chronological format.
We’ve typically recommended it as an additional tool to sit alongside a chronological CV, although there are plenty of
recruiters who firmly believe this style of CV is a winner and it has been very effective for many contractors in the past.

In many ways, it’s more of a business marketing document than a traditional CV as it forfeits the career experience section in favour of a portfolio of case studies. We recommend having eight to ten six-line case studies, written in the STAR methodology, which can be re-ordered depending on the requirements of the contract role you are pitching for. This style of CV makes it very clear that you are a ‘gun-for-hire’ and focuses on client engagements in a much more business-orientated format.

Come April 2020, the Case Study Style CV will be much more in keeping with the requirements of the post-IR35 reform
world. Whether it will become universally accepted across the entire market is open for debate, but if any contractor is
looking for a CV that helps strengthen their outside IR35 status when their client starts administering the rules, then this ticks all the boxes.

To learn how to win more contracts at higher rates while remaining outside IR35, sign up to CV and Interview Advisors’ free one-hour webinar, which takes place on 11th December at 7:15. For more information and to register for free, please visit The CV and Interview Advisors’ website.

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