Home > Resources > How to Write Your Resume

How to Write Your Resume

I. Purpose

The purpose of a resume is to summarize your qualifications to a prospective employer. A resume also communicates information about your organizational abilities. The document displays your skill in organizing information and tests your ability to present that information in a brief and clear format. You can set yourself apart from many of your competitors by assembling a well-organized resume.

II. Writing Style

Follow these guidelines to write an effective resume:

  • Write briefly and clearly.
    An employer will only scan your resume for 30 seconds or less. Make sure that your strengths and skills will register with the reader during those 30 seconds.

  • Do not use full sentences.
    This saves space and makes for faster, easier reading by the employer.

  • Use reverse chronological order:
    In any list, show your most recent job, activity, or accomplishment first. Avoid extraneous date information. Usually, the month and year of the activity are sufficient.

  • Write in a serious, professional tone.
    Avoid using sarcasm, or humor.

III. Components

Resumes can be written in different styles and formats. Here are some common components:

  • Name, address, and telephone numbers:
    Names are generally written with a middle initial to make the document seem more formal. Licensed individuals should follow their name with the initials "P.E."

    List your contact address and telephone number. It is also wise to list an e-mail address if you have one. Although employers will usually prefer to contact you by phone, the address will demonstrate that you are connected to the "information superhighway" and underscore your computer literacy. However, be sure to check your e-mail every day if you list your e-mail address.

    Telephone numbers should include area codes. Also include country codes if you are applying for a job in a foreign country. Most employers will attempt to contact you during normal business hours, so it is recommended that you set up an answering machine to take messages if you are not available during the day.

  • Objective:
    Briefly describe the position for which you are applying.

  • Education:
    If you are seeking an entry level position, this section should be listed immediately after the "Objective" section, since your education is likely to be more relevant than your work experience.

    List degrees, certificates, majors, and institutions attended. Include your graduation date, and the institution's city and state. List any awards or honors received. If you are a recent graduate, you should also list your Grade Point Average (GPA).

  • Related coursework:
    This section should only be used if you are a recent graduate. List the descriptive course names of upper-division engineering courses that you have taken (i.e., list Structural Steel Design & Water Resources Quality, but omit Statics & Introductory Physics). Generally, you can copy course names from your college's course catalog, although you should feel free to shorten or alter names to save space. Avoid listing course numbers, since they are meaningless to employers.

  • Work experience:
    If you have been in the work force for a while, this section should be listed immediately after the "Objective" section, since your work experience is more relevant than your education. List related work, including full-time, part-time, internships or unpaid work. State your title, the company name, city, and state. Also, write a brief description of your responsibilities and accomplishments using "action" verbs (see the table below) to give your statements added impact. For example:

    1. Implemented company quality assurance procedures.
    2. Updated software to meet new building code requirements.
    3. Developed computer software resulting in 30 percent reduction in engineering time.
    4. Approved structural steel shop drawings.
    5. Reviewed construction drawings for constructability.
    6. Designed sample warehouse in accordance with 1994 Uniform Building Code.
    7. Prepared calculations for review by regulatory authorities.
    8. Resolved construction difficulties at job site.

    You can write multiple entries for a single company if you held significantly different positions or levels of responsibility. For example if you were promoted from a "staff engineer" to a "project manager", each position probably warrants a separate listing and description.

    ACTION VERBS
    Accomplished
    Achieved
    Adopted
    Adapted
    Administered
    Advised
    Aligned
    Allocated
    Analyzed
    Applied
    Approved
    Arranged
    Assembled
    Assessed
    Authenticated
    Authorized
    Balanced
    Billed
    Budgeted
    Built
    Calculated
    Carried out
    Catalogued
    Certified
    Collected
    Compiled
    Completed
    Composed
    Communicated
    Conceived
    Conceptualized
    Conducted
    Confirmed
    Consolidated
    Contacted
    Contracted

    Controlled
    Constructed
    Coordinated
    Created
    Customized
    Decreased
    Demonstrated
    Designed
    Developed
    Devised
    Diagnosed
    Directed
    Distributed
    Documented
    Drafted
    Edited
    Eliminated
    Encoded
    Erected
    Established
    Estimated
    Evaluated
    Executed
    Forecasted
    Gathered
    Generated
    Guided
    Handled
    Hired
    Implemented
    Improved
    Improvised
    Identified
    Increased
    Initiated
    Installed

    Instigated
    Instituted
    Interpreted
    Introduced
    Invented
    Judged
    Led
    Maintained
    Managed
    Marketed
    Mastered
    Measured
    Met with
    Modified
    Monitored
    Motivated
    Negotiated
    Operated
    Ordered
    Organized
    Originated
    Overhauled
    Oversaw
    Performed
    Planned
    Prepared
    Presented
    Processed
    Produced
    Programmed
    Promoted
    Proposed
    Published
    Purchased
    Recommended

    Recorded
    Reduced
    Regulated
    Reorganized
    Repaired
    Represented
    Researched
    Resolved
    Restored
    Reviewed
    Saved
    Screened
    Selected
    Serviced
    Simulated
    Sold
    Standardized
    Streamlined
    Structured
    Suggested
    Supervised
    Supplied
    Surveyed
    Systematized
    Taught
    Tested
    Trained
    Transcribed
    Translated
    Typed
    Unified
    Utilized
    Wrote

  • Registrations and licenses:
    List job-related licenses such as Engineer-In-Training or Professional Engineer registrations. If applicable, specify in which state or jurisdiction you hold your license. Omit license numbers--your employer will ask for them if needed.

  • Project experience:
    List the title, city, and state of projects in which you have played a substantial role, and give a brief description of that role. Often job seekers with substantial work experience attach this as a "stand-alone" second page to their resume.

  • Special Skills:
    List job-related skills such as computer and software skills. Be sure to mention knowledge of non-Windows operating systems such as DOS or UNIX. Many engineering companies use software that run on these operating systems.

  • Other Miscellaneous Items:
    These items are generally only listed when a job seeker is trying to fill space on his resume. They are not essential components of a resume, but can serve to help you stand out from your competitors:

    List memberships in organizations, especially if they are in professional engineering societies or if you hold or held a leadership position.

    List foreign languages read or spoken.

    Mention a hobby if it is unique or unusual, but projects a positive image of you. Especially mention a hobby that somehow relates to engineering.

    Write "references available upon request" at the very bottom of your resume.

IV. The Document

  • Paper:
    Use a good quality, heavy, 8.5" x 11" paper. Light-weight paper will cheapen the effect of your resume. White or off-white paper is safest, but if you wish to use colored paper, make sure it is tasteful, and that it photocopies well.
  • White space:
    Use plenty of white space within your resume. Do not overcrowd the resume. Do not be afraid to play with margins, but make sure that they are not too narrow!
  • Emphasis:
    Avoid excessive use of bullets, underlining, italicizing, or bolding.
  • Length:
    Entry-level resumes should almost never exceed one page. Resumes for more experienced job seekers may require more than one page, but should not exeed two pages. It is usually best to convey the most important information on the first page and to assume that the second page may not be read.
  • Font:
    Select a font that is clean and readable. Avoid using extremely small fonts or any of the "artistic" fonts that come with modern software.
  • Printing:
    Use a laser printer to print your resume. Make sure photocopies are without streaks, blots, or smudges.

V. Final Thoughts

Everyone tries to make their resume stand out from those of their competitors. Make sure that it does so for the right reasons. Avoid violating these rules:

  • Do not send a photo with your cover letter.
  • Do not list anything related to high school. Your high school achievements became irrelevant the moment you attended college.
  • Make extra sure that your resume is free of typos. Do not solely rely on spell-check programs. Have several people review your resume.
  • Avoid listing extraneous numbers. Don't list your student ID number, driver's license number, green card number, P.E. number, etc.
  • Double check all dates; typos in dates are very common and easy to miss.

© 1999-2017 by CivilEngineeringJOBS.com