Freelancers’ Questions: Should I leave a short contract off my CV?

Freelancer’s Question: The sense among pals of mine who freelance is that it would be too small to count but in in the interests of transparency, shouldn’t a two-and-a-half-week freelance placement feature on my CV? It was a civil not amicable parting of ways; perhaps that’s reason enough not to mention this brief contract. But I don’t want to be accused of lying if I leave it off! Please help.

Expert’s Answer: Your question is an interesting one, albeit a bit tricky.

Before exploring whether to include the 2.5-week role, I must first say that I am not a lawyer or able to provide any legal advice. The following guidance is strictly my opinion with a weighing up of the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of each course of action, informed by my professional experience in CV writing for contract and freelance professionals.

It might well stem from the fact that I hire people into my own business, but I’m personally all for CVs being 100% accurate. We all know that it is wrong to lie on a CV and there are many publicised cases of CV ‘lies’ resulting in an offer being rescinded. However, I don’t think leaving a very short role or contract off your CV would constitute ‘lying.’

If we lived in a world where recruiters and hiring managers took things at face-value then including this short contract wouldn’t be an issue. But people are inherently suspicious, and in the freelancing and recruitment world, you are assumed guilty until proven innocent! A recruiter will likely assume that you have been sacked or terminated, which poses to them a reputational risk with their client (the end-user), so they will quickly move on to other candidates where this risk simply doesn’t exist.

In your case, I think leaving the short engagement off the CV is acceptable. But a caveat -- if someone in the recruitment process has some knowledge of you working at the outfit for the 17 or so days, then you may find yourself on a sticky wicket.

It might be a risk worth taking if there’s nobody immediately around with such knowledge, but nevertheless, the risk does still exist. Your query about this two-and-a-half-week stint is in the pile labelled ‘one person may see it as acceptable, whereas another may feel that it is a blatant untruth.’ My view is that it falls somewhere in the middle.

The alternative which you might like to consider is to add the short role as a one-liner so that it is still included on your CV, but with very little emphasis given to it. That may create a different psychology where the recruiter simply assumes it was a very short-term role that deserves little mention on the CV. Or you could add the position with an explanation of what happened but, beware, because I can’t see how that will ever end up positively.

On balance, I would recommend either omitting it, or adding the position as a one-liner. Good luck!

The expert was The CV & Interview Advisors' founder Matt Craven, an authority on personal branding and all things CV-related for freelance consultants.

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