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#1: How to add $10K to your salary! – The power of a killer construction / engineering resume (CV) in Canada

For nearly ten years, I’ve been consuming resumes non-stop. I review one construction or engineering resume after another, and decide whether to invest my time in learning more about the candidate.

Time is finite. In HR, we decide which candidates will help our clients by scanning their resume. Sometimes we see the potential in a candidate despite a poor resume, and sometimes the candidate’s potential will be missed simply because of a poor resume!

My agency, Outpost Recruitment, provides recruitment services to successful construction and engineering companies, so I need to think the same way they do. They want the top 10-20% of talent, so that’s where I focus.

Many candidates can make that top grade with a little coaching and work on communicating their skills. We coach candidates to build a construction or engineering resume that helps them differentiate their skills and experience, leapfrog the competition, and earn more money.

Your resume is a reflection of what you think of yourself as a professional. Anyone can enhance their construction or engineering resume and pack a bigger punch in their job search with a little bit of effort.

Why do we dislike working on our resume?

Engineering resumeLike most people, I hated putting a resume together but there is little reason to be intimidated by the task of writing your resume.

It’s a life skill to be able to sell yourself on paper and communicate how you can help a future employer. It’s a document that represents what you think of yourself as a professional. This is actually a task we should get excited about.

Conclusions I have made:

  • 80% of construction or engineering resumes I come across make no mention of the candidate’s performance in previous roles. They simply state the roles they held, the duties/responsibilities they were assigned, and the projects they were “involved in”. Lots of evidence to suggest they had a job, but zero evidence to show they were any good at it!
  • Most candidates, despite being highly competent in their role, struggle to communicate their value to employers. Modesty is often the barrier, but it’s often a case that the candidate is not self-aware of their strengths and achievements.

Is your resume holding you back from moving your career forward?

A weak resume creates an obstacle to a future employer seeing your potential.

It’s a personal document, so naturally many candidates get highly offended by constructive criticism. When job hunting, we rarely get informed that we didn’t get the job because our resume was poor. I will always politely inform a candidate that their construction or engineering resume “could be better”, but most will turn a blind eye instead of focusing on improving this crucial employment document.

Here are the most common reactions I receive when I give feedback on resumes:

  • “I didn’t have time to update it properly.” – Make time, not excuses. This is your presentation and you failed to put the effort in!
  • “I can talk about that in the interview.” – What happens if you don’t get called into that room?!
  • No response to my email. Thank you for showing your ability to handle direction!
  • “Thanks for pointing this out. How can it be improved?” – Game on! These candidates succeed with Outpost. We’re here to help with templates, online tips and real-life examples to help you.

How about if I told you we can work together to improve your construction or engineering resume, and my bet is that we can add another $10K (on average, say 10% of salary to be more accurate) to your package if you put your best foot forward? It’s very possible. Amazingly, this concept can work whether you switch jobs or not, as it can arm you with the ammunition to get a raise in your current role.

The importance of selling yourself in a construction or engineering resume

Engineering resumeThe ability to understand and communicate your value confidently to future employers is a skill that you can acquire with 3-4 hours of work. That’s a pretty small time commitment for a pretty solid return.

Your first touch point with a future employer is the construction or engineering resume you submit. This is where they create their first perception of your value as a candidate.

Common questions we forget to answer in our resume:

  • What kind of personality do you have? Are there things that excite and motivate you in your professional life?
  • What are your strengths?
  • How have you added value to your previous roles and projects (i.e. results and achievements)?
  • What problems have you encountered? Were there solutions you have been exposed to?
  • What did you learn?

What steps should you take?

  • Put your best foot forward. Hold off on your job search until your construction or engineering resume is perfect.
  • Invest time in exploring what makes you good at your job. Ask your boss, coworkers or clients what your strengths are.
  • Tell stories about problems you encountered and solutions you delivered. Focus on the highlights and they will want to interview you so they can learn more.
  • Give the context behind projects (scope) and situations. Help the reader visualize a project/situation!

What mistakes should you avoid?

Listing only the common duties and responsibilities of your role. It’s the easy option, but it’s simply boring and doesn’t add any value! As a Project Manager, your ability to “liaise with the clients and subcontractors to resolve issues” is a given! Avoid generics and focus on specific quantified (% or $) examples that demonstrate your capability to influence the project. What were the top 2-3 things that you achieved on each project? What problems did you solve?

Most agencies are not interested in helping you enhance your resume. Why? It takes time and time is $$. Outpost is different. We enjoy the consulting as it helps us engage with a candidate and get to know them better. We’re happy to invest some time in you, if you are willing to invest your time in yourself.

In summary, it amazes me how many candidates can’t see the connection between their construction or engineering resumes and how employers look at them. If this document oozes value, it will definitely loosen the purse strings of your future employer. Everyone wants to earn more. Invest in your resume and you can look the part!

Our next blog will highlight the components of that killer construction or engineering resume that’s going to take your career to the next level!

Ruairi.

Blogs in this series

About Outpost Recruitment

Register with Outpost Recruitment and we’ll send you a free resume template you can use for your job search. If you have registered previously and require the resume template, drop us an email at [email protected]

Outpost Recruitment is a boutique agency that works with Canada’s leading construction and engineering companies. To learn more or register as a candidate, explore our website.

Read More

#2: How to write a resume for construction and engineering jobs in Canada

Our previous post, How to add $10K to your salary!, highlighted the financial benefit of writing a unique, results-focused resume that sells your potential. This blog will focus on how to write a resume in the best format, to help you win construction and engineering jobs in Canada. Our next blog will focus more on results-focused content.

Other career-changing benefits to perfecting your resume include understanding your true value to any employer, winning interviews for dream roles, and leap-frogging your way up the career ladder. All these good things can happen with a minor time investment in this presentation.

Your resume is a sales document. Your future employer looks at your resume and decides from this document whether to take further interest and meet with you. Does your resume accurately reflect who you are as a professional? You only get one shot at presenting your resume so make it your best one!

What goes into a resume for construction and engineering jobs in Canada?

The Objective:

The sole objective for a resume is winning an interview. Allocating some time to chat with a potential employer, hiring for construction and engineering jobs in Canada, is the goal.

By demonstrating how you have added value to previous employers, your aim is that a future employer will give you the opportunity to engage further. “Doing your job” and “being involved in projects” does not attract interviews. Ensure you stand out from the crowd.

The Challenge:

You typically have less than 30 seconds to impress initially. This makes presentation, brevity and formatting critical.

Engineering jobs in CanadaThe Format:

You will be expected to follow the Canadian resume format. Your resume format must contain (in this order):

  • Personal Information.
  • Professional Summary.
  • Work Experience.
  • Education / professional development.

Where appropriate, you may also add:

  • Technical skills.
  • Volunteer experience / community involvement.

General pointers for your resume.

  • Always list your ideal/target job title up top to set the tone. If you’re applying for construction and engineering jobs in Canada, then this title should reflect a specific role in this sector. Research the best role to list here, as it will depend on the circumstances.
  • Use a professional resume template. Download our recommended template here.
  • Make it enjoyable to read. If you are bored writing it, then the reader will be bored reading it. Sell yourself to potential employers for construction and engineering jobs in Canada by confidently communicating the good things you have achieved.
  • Avoid long paragraphs. Use bullet points with 2-3 sentences maximum per bullet. Brevity!
  • Avoid small fonts (use size 11 at a minimum).
  • Do not use the first person. Avoid the use of “I”! (e.g. “I am technically competent”, “I worked at XYZ”). Use short sentences (e.g. “Worked at XYZ”, “Technically competent…”).
  • Your resume should be a maximum of 2-3 pages. Two pages is usually sufficient, however if you have a long and impressive career history, then three pages can be justified. Use a separate Project List document if you have a long list of projects that you would like to present.
  • Don’t waste valuable space. Only list relevant experience. It’s recommended to fill gaps, but focus on transferable skills only when highlighting irrelevant work experience.
  • Convert all terms to the North American equivalent. For example, use terms like “high school”, “GPA” (Grade Point Average — the equivalent for university grades), “internship”, etc.

Now let’s give a brief overview of the first two sections.

Personal Information.

  • Do not list your date of birth, gender, full postal address, marital status, etc.
  • List your location (e.g. Vancouver, B.C.), telephone number and email address all on the same line of your header. This will save space.
  • Adding your LinkedIn profile URL is completely optional. It’s almost a given that an employer will search for you on LinkedIn. If you do decide to add it, customize your URL so that it has a clear appearance.

Professional Summary.

This is the most important part of your resume. If you can describe yourself well in three or four sentences (10 seconds) then you set the tone for the remainder of your resume. The reader should be able to understand who you are from this paragraph alone so keep it high-level and focus on the below.

  • Your personality and strengths (“technically astute”, “personable”, “strong leader”, “team player”, etc).
  • Years of relevant experience / areas of the industry (contractor / consultant / owner).
  • Roles held to date, i.e. how your career has progressed.
  • Type of projects worked on (list the $ range) e.g. commercial buildings, infrastructure.
  • Education.
  • Career objectives – what are your goals for the next 2-3 years?

Ensure you cover all these topics. Your future employer should have a high-level snapshot of your skills and experience before they read any further detail. Think of the Professional Summary as the micro resume where you summarize the document with one concise paragraph.

Avoid generic comments (e.g. “honest and hardworking professional”). Give the reader a true insight into your strengths and objectives. These should be unique to you, and not things that anyone can write on their resume.

Our next blog, “Building a results-focused resume” deals specifically with how to communicate your value to potential employers for construction and engineering jobs in Canada.

Blogs in this series

About Outpost Recruitment.

Register with Outpost Recruitment and we’ll send you a free resume template you can use for your job search. If you have registered previously and require the resume template, drop us an email at [email protected]

Outpost Recruitment is a boutique agency that works with Canada’s leading construction and engineering companies. To learn more or register as a candidate, explore our website.

Read More

#3: How to build a results-focused resume for engineering and construction jobs in Canada

Focus on demonstrating quantifiable results if you want to impress hiring managers for engineering and construction jobs in Canada. Outpost Recruitment founder, Ruairi Spillane, explains how.

Our previous post, How to write a resume for construction and engineering jobs in Canada, highlighted the format that your killer resume should take.

The biggest weakness we come across when we review resumes is that they fail to answer one crucial question: Are you good at your job? That’s how I start the conversation about resume improvements normally. I politely ask the candidate to show me any evidence in their resume that they are good at their job. Most candidates do a fantastic job of describing their company, their projects, their duties and responsibilities. But there’s often nothing about their own performance in their job. Critical error!

This blog will focus on what format your Work Experience should take. It will explain how to focus on results-focused content to help you find engineering and construction jobs in Canada.

Work Experience

For each employer list your details in following format.

Role                  Company, Location                  Start / End Months (e.g. Jan 2012 – Jan 2014).
*Company is a general contractor focused on commercial buildings up to $10M.

*If the company is not well known to a future employer then add a brief line about the company.

  • Do not bore potential employers with all of all of your duties at previous jobs. For example, the duties of a Project Manager will be pretty similar in all engineering and construction jobs in Canada and across the world. This means any potential employer will already be familiar with the duties. Focus on giving quantifiable results/achievements, which speak to your performance in the role. What positive results did you have in each project/role?
  • Prepare this section by jotting down general or project-specific results achievements from each role. Ask yourself: what were the best things you achieved in each role? What stories can I communicate to display how good I am at my job? Think of 2-3 examples minimum for each role/project.
  • Once you have a result/achievement, then build each point by highlighting the specific problem (or situation) you encountered, actions taken (by you), and results accomplished (quantify the outcome).
  • Avoid things that aren’t achievements. For example, “completing a project on time and within budget” is your job! It may, however, be an achievement if other factors caused significant delays and you were able to bring the project back on schedule.

Formula

Study the formula below. This is how you create a link between your actions and business results that hiring managers for engineering and construction jobs in Canada care about. All candidates can talk about their actions but the crucial step is linking their actions to quantifiable business results. The key business driver for all firms is profit. The goal is to deliver quality work while increasing profit margins, so you need to speak to this goal. What are the parameters that impact each project?

  • Cost. Did you find ways to reduce the costs of delivering the projects (e.g. labour, materials, design change, early identification of a potential problem, etc)?
  • Time. Did you find ways to improve efficiency (e.g. better process, a creative way to fast track the schedule).
  • Quality. Did you find ways to avoid a quality issue, enhance the standard of work delivered, or improve relationships with the client?

Your future employer cares about making money so show them how you understand the commercial side of their business. Explore the impact of your performing your job well. Quantify the results/outcome for the project in terms of how it impacted the variables above, or the bottom line (profit).

Problem/Situation                  >>                  Action taken                  >>                  Results/Achievement.

Let’s use an example to help understand the components. A Project Manager outlines that his best achievement on a particular project was to beat the budgeted profit margin (8%) by 2%.

Problem/Situation — Why? Outline the context of the problem or situation.
Handed a construction project to deliver on time and within budget (basic requirements of your job).

Action Taken — What? This is where you feature in the story. What actions did you take to solve the problem/situation?
Analyzed the preliminary schedule and estimates. Identified various opportunities to create further savings in labour and materials with specific trades during construction.

Construction jobs in CanadaResult/Achievement — What was the impact of you performing your job well. Think cost, time and quality as these are the key parameters of any project. Always quantify the outcome, where possible.
Beat the targeted profit margin by 2%.

How would this look on a resume?

Successfully delivered an additional 2% profit margin over budgeted rate (8%) through identifying further cost savings on concrete and mechanical sub-trades.

Let it at that. You don’t need to tell the full story but you know you will be asked about this in an interview as it’s eye-catching and it shows you have a business mind. This will appeal to anyone hiring for engineering and construction jobs in Canada

Note that you don’t need to combine these three parts in order. It’s often more eye-catching to lead with the result/achievement and then provide context afterwards but you can vary the way you present information.

Always think “How did I impact cost, time and quality parameters of a project?” as that’s how the person interviewing you will think!

Our next blog, ‘How to sell your project experience to future employers’,  deals specifically with how to arrange your projects and whether you need to have a separate project list document.

Ruairi.

Blogs in this series

Find engineering and construction jobs in Canada with Outpost Recruitment

Register with Outpost Recruitment and we’ll send you a free resume template you can use for your job search. If you have registered previously and require the resume template, drop us an email at [email protected]

Outpost Recruitment is a boutique agency that works with Canada’s leading construction and engineering companies. To learn more or register as a candidate, explore our website.

Read More

#4: How to sell your project experience in an engineering or construction resume in Canada

Want to impress with your engineering or construction resume in Canada? Take the time to learn how to communicate your project experience. Outpost Recruitment founder, Ruairi Spillane, explains how.

Our last blog focused on how to build a results-focused resume for engineering and construction jobs in Canada. Given most construction and engineering roles are project-based, we wanted to focus on how to communicate your project experience to a potential employer.

It’s hard not to notice that candidates get lost in the bubble that is their workplace. Your value to future employers is reliant on your ability to step outside of this bubble. You need to clearly describe the projects you worked on and how you added value. It’s essential that you provide all the important information in your engineering or construction resume in Canada.

What does an employer need to know about each project?

  • Project Name.
  • Project Type. E.g. Commercial Building, Infrastructure, Site Services.
  • Project Location.
  • Time Period for the project.
  • Your Role on the project.
  • Scope of Project – 1-2 lines to help the reader visualize what was involved. Use metrics where possible for #floors, surface area, earthworks, concrete, etc. Numbers can be far more descriptive than words. Add project delivery method (Design Build, Design Bid Build, etc) and contract type (Construction management, fixed price / lump sum), etc).
  • Project Value – in Canadian $ only. Do not expect your hiring manage to performa currency calculations on your behalf!
  • 2-3 results/achievements (good things) that you were responsible for. Delivering the project ‘on time and on budget’ is doing your job and does not help a candidate stand out. How did you actions impact the cost, time or quality of the project?
          • E.g. Did you find ways to reduce costs , save time off the schedule, etc? Think about how your actions impacts the cost, time and quality parameters of the project. Always quantify the impact in terms of $ or %.
          • Did you find ways to improve the project margin i.e. increase scope of project or decrease the costs?
          • Did you find a more efficient way of performing a task? Quantify the savings in labour (days) or materials ($).
          • Did you spot a potential quality issue early which avoided any rework or delays?
          • Was the project successful? Why / Why not? What did you do to positively contribute?

How could this look? Here’s an example below.

PWB Shopping Centre, Calgary – Mixed-Use Residential  – $25M                                    Jan 2014 – Feb 2015

  • Worked as a Project Manager overseeing the design & build construction of a six-floor RC-frame building with three levels of underground parkade on a fixed price contract. Scope included all civil works, structural work and fit-out of 48 apartment units and eight commercial units on ground level.
  • Delivered project one week early and $500K under budget through cost savings. These were generated on formwork package and implementation of a fast-track schedule which required careful coordination of 10 sub contractors on site and 12-hour work shifts.
  • Suggested a design change to client with regard to M&E package. This helped them save 10% on mechanical installation.
  • Project delivered with a profit margin 2% over target primarily through early delivery.

The most common error we come across is candidates doing a great job in their engineering or construction resume in Canada of describing the projects they were “involved in”. But they neglect to mention any positive contributions that they have made to the projects.

Construction Resume in Canada

Great candidates make a positive impact on projects they work on. Your resume is about you, it’s not a document to sell your current / former employers’ capability. Don’t forget to talk about how you made a positive impact on each project. How did you make a difference? Ask yourself: “How did I add value to this project? How did my actions impact the cost, time and quality variables of each project?”

You must get comfortable communicating the good things you have done for previous employers. Tell short stories about problems you have encountered and solutions that you have come up with or been exposed to.

Your value to an employer goes far beyond your ability to do what you are told (duties and responsibilities). Your value to an employer is much greater when you can spot ways to improve a project. Show that you can take action to do so even if it’s not listed on your job description!

Are you struggling in your engineering or construction resume in Canada to determine your impact in each role/project? If so, think back on the main duties you perform and ask yourself these questions.

  • What is the outcome of me performing this task/duty well?
  • How does the project benefit from me performing this task/duty?
  • What would happen if I didn’t perform this task to the same standard?

Do I need a separate Project List document?

This level of information required for each project can be communicated in 5-6 lines of your resume. But if you have been involved in 10+ unique projects, then you may need to consider relocating some of the less important projects to a separate Project List document.

Your engineering or construction resume in Canada should present the highlights. A Project List is a useful document for less important projects or additional information that you still would like to communicate.

We recommend a separate project list document where you have completed an extensive list of projects (10+) and don’t have space to provide the required details for each project. Some employers expect to see a full project list so it’s no harm to have one at hand.

The format of your project list should be the exact same, as highlighted above. The only exception is you can add more details on duties / responsibilities in the Project List document given you have more space. Adding pictures is also a useful way to help the reader visualize each project.

Take action now!

To put these principles into effect, simply list your projects and note 2-3 of the best things you did on each project.

Think about what actions you took to create each positive outcome. Then, describe the Situation/Problem and finally quantify the Result/Achievement as per the formula on the previous blog.

Describing the good things you have achieved on each project can be quite satisfying. Start being proud of what you have achieved in your career and be excited to communicate it in your resume!

Our next blog entry will focus on managing your job search.

Ruairi.

Blogs in this series

About Outpost Recruitment

Register with Outpost Recruitment and we’ll send you a free resume template you can use for your job search. If you have registered previously and require the resume template, drop us an email at [email protected]

Outpost Recruitment is a boutique agency that works with Canada’s leading construction and engineering companies. To learn more or register as a candidate, explore our website.

Read More