Creating Your Resume: Getting Interviews

Welcome to our Resume Center! If you are just beginning your job search, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve reviewed over 25,000 resumes for our database and know what it takes to attract employers in the civil infrastructure industry. Most importantly, we know what a resume has that compels an employer to say, “I want to interview this person.” If one word could sum it up, that word would be simplicity. So, let’s start with the basics.

Cover Letters

To cover or not to cover? That is the question. Almost all of the current resumes in the civil infrastructure industry are distributed to companies via e-mail. Therefore, the body of the e-mail serves as a built-in cover letter. There is no need to send an attached cover letter with your e-mail, unless it has been requested by the company that you create a cover letter specific to their business.

A cover letter is also an appropriate opportunity to showcase your written communication skills. Be sure it is adequately structured and completely free of any grammar, spelling, or punctuation mistakes. Your cover letter ultimately serves as a writing sample for employers to consider when determining if they would like to interview you.

Keep it brief. Employers are very busy people. They are more likely to skim your cover letter and move immediately to reviewing your resume. Cover letters should be no more than two paragraphs. Quickly explain how you found the company (through a personal/business contact, advertising, online source, or other means), what it is about the position that appeals to you, and how your resume qualifies you as a serious candidate.

Creating a Resume Worthy of an Interview

Remember that you are writing a resume to get an interview, not a job. When searching for a new opportunity, there are many steps to take before accepting a position. When first starting out, consider the following:

  • You write a resume to get an interview.
  • You then go to an interview to get an offer.
  • You can only accept a job after receiving an offer.

In this section, we are primarily looking at the first part of the process (writing your resume). The sole purpose of writing a resume is to get an interview. Keep this in mind when putting it together. What do employers want to know about you? What types of skills, qualifications, and personality dynamics are they seeking? When writing your resume, be sure to use very descriptive and action-oriented words. The following is a list of good words to highlight your experience at a previous firm, school, or other organization:

Achieved Completed Composed
Conceived Conducted Coordinated
Corresponded Created Designed
Developed Discovered Documented
Executed Explored Facilitated
Inspected Led Managed
Manufactured Optimized Organized
Oversaw Performed Presented
Recorded Researched Resolved
Responsible for Served Tested
Tracked

Remember that experience is strictly a measurement of time. Prospective employers are mostly interested in what skills you acquired at each place of employment. What did you accomplish? How did you do it? What skills were needed to complete each task at work or school? Focus on these items, but in an organized and concise fashion. The next section will help layout your resume to present and highlight these skills most effectively.

Basic Resume Format

Your resume should follow a simple format that is somewhat standard throughout the industry. We have provided an outline here to help you design your resume. You may choose to change your language and make it more personalized, but be wary of straying too far from the industry standard, or your resume might be perceived as disorganized.

Some applicants choose to list an Objective on their resumes. We advise against it. Your resume should not be about what you want. It should be about what the company wants. What would make them want to interview you? An employer does not initially care about what you want. They want to know what you can bring to their firm. What are your skills and qualifications? Listing these qualities will be helpful to the employer when considering whether or not to interview you.

  1. Summary (not an Objective) – Common names for this section are Summary, Skills Summary, Summary of Qualifications, or simply, Qualifications. This section is not mandatory, but is helpful to the employer, as long as it is clear, concise, and accurately describes the skills you bring to a company. Here is a good example: “Traffic and Transportation Engineer/Analyst with extensive Project Management capabilities, strong computer skills (e.g., Synchro, SimTraffic), and experience coordinating with individuals from all levels of government.
  2. Experience – Can also be called Work Experience, Professional Experience, Work History, Professional History, Job History, or simply, Employment. This section is of utmost importance to the employer and should contain all of those action-oriented words we previously provided. Be sure to list the full name of each company and the timeframe in which you worked there. The format should look like: Month/Year – Month/Year or, if you are currently working there, Month/Year – Present. Your most recent employer should appear first and your previous employers should be listed directly after that, from most recent to least recent. Your entire work experience should also be listed first on your resume (just under the Summary, if you should choose to provide one), unless you are a recent graduate, in which case, you will want to list your Education first.

III. Education – This is the simplest and most concise section of your resume. All you need to provide is your full college/university name, the title of your major, any minors you completed, and the year in which you graduated. If you graduated with a 3.0 grade point average (GPA) or higher, this should also be listed on your resume, to highlight your strong work ethic. If you are a recent graduate, you may want to provide the most relevant coursework to your major. List your courses from most relevant to least relevant, as they relate to the job for which you are applying.

  1. Certifications – If you acquired any professional certifications, you should list these in a very visible section of your resume. Be sure to list the initials after your name at the top of your resume, so these accomplishments will be prominently displayed. Some examples are:
  • Professional Engineer (PE)
  • Engineer-In-Training (EIT)
  • Fundamentals of Engineering (FE)
  • Registered Landscape Architect (RLA)
  • Registered Architect (RA)
  • Professional Licensed Surveyor (PLS)
  • American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP)

These certifications should also be listed in the body of your resume, and include the dates in which you received each one.

  1. Computer Skills – Computer skills are extremely important, especially in the civil infrastructure industry, as more and more systems are becoming automated and almost all records are stored electronically. If you are an engineer or belong to another specialized field, you should highlight the software that is most relevant to the work you will be doing. Some examples are: AutoCAD, Microstation, InRoads, Photoshop, Illustrator, HEC-RAS, Staad, Fortran, various geographic information system (GIS) programs, and Microsoft Office Suite (including: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, and Scheduler). If you are extremely skilled in a particular program, you should note this on your resume. If your typing skills are faster than most, this should also be noted on your resume. Some state jobs require production typing/keyboarding skills of 40 words per minute or greater.
  2. Publications – This section is self-explanatory. Again, remain clear and concise in your descriptions of each publication. Only give relevant information, such as publication title, publisher, and year. If a company is interested in hearing about your publications, the interviewer will ask you about them. There is no need to provide a synopsis of each publication on your resume. Obviously, if you do not have any publications, you do not need to include this section on your resume.

VII. Activities/Awards/Achievements – Well-rounded individuals often include this section on their resumes, which shows that they can successfully balance extracurricular activities with their work commitments. This section especially highlights one’s personality better than any other section. If you are an active individual in many organizations and have received many awards, you might want to consider splitting this section into two separate subsections. Be sure to include all notable organization memberships (especially if they relate to your professional field), volunteer work, extracurricular activities, honors, awards, scholarships, personal interests, and more.

If desired, you can write “References Available Upon Request” at the bottom of your resume, although it is widely understood that an employer, if interested, can ask for your references. Before providing your references, make each reference aware that an employer may contact him/her in the near future. Do not list your references and their contact information directly on your resume. If an employer requests your references, have them readily available.

(A design suggestion – Show a picture of a standard engineering resume on the website and have arrows or lines pointing to each section to show where everything appears on the resume)