Civil engineers build big things. You build roads, bridges, tunnels and towers, but only after you manage to build something small but significant - a resume.
How to make a strong civil engineer’s resume that can score an interview and even a job offer?
What should be on a civil engineer’s resume?
1. Contact information
Make sure your contact information is right on top of your resume and typo-free. Your impressive skills and capabilities won’t matter if you don’t get this section right.
Contact information checklist
- Full name
- Email address
- Phone number
- City and state
- LinkedIn profile (optional)
- Personal website or portfolio (optional)
2. Resume summary/objective
Imagine having a huge pile of resumes on your desk. How long will you glance at each resume before throwing half of them out?
Statistics: 7 seconds.
A resume summary, or a resume objective for entry-level professionals, are exactly designed for the 7 seconds. This paragraph lets recruiters quickly grasp who you are without having to read through the whole page.
In other words, it might determine whether you get pulled out from the huge pile.
Then how to write a strong and persuading resume summary?
For entry-level civil engineers, you can swap the highest achievement for technical or soft skills and elaborate more on your career goal.
Seniors, on the other hand, often eliminate the career goal. Whichever the case, make sure recruiters can quickly understand who you are, what you can do and where you want to be.
Quick tips for a successful resume summary/objective
- Short: Stick to 2 to 4 sentences. Highlight only the best and most important aspects, and leave the rest to other sections. Remember, recruiters only spend 7 seconds.
- Relevant: Match the job description. Which aspect of civil engineering skills or domain knowledge does the position require? Extra skills are great, but make sure to prioritize the skills that recruiters specifically ask for.
- Write your resume objective/summary AFTER you’ve finished the rest of your resume. Look through all your past experiences and ask yourself: which is my highest achievement? What are my major strengths?
3. Work experience
It’s easy to list past titles, company names and dates, but it’s not that easy to describe a job within a few bullet points. Here’s a simple framework that might help communicating your experience with recruiters and employers:
Remember that recruiters possibly have no idea what the company does. Giving context along with your actions will make much more sense to those outsiders. It can also show that you proactively took these actions in order to tackle the challenges. If the idea of challenge sounds too intense, another way to provide context is to point out the purpose of your actions.
Actions you took are not important if they didn’t benefit the company. To put it in another way, “Scoring A+ in Advanced Physics” is much more impressive than “Taken course in Physics”. Also, try using metrics such as “improved productivity by 30%” or “handled a budget of $100K+” to show that you have strong evidence.
Finally, speak to the position you’re applying for. To make sure your work experience reflects that you’re qualified for the position, prioritize the challenges and actions that showcase the skills mentioned in the job description. You can use the job description as a guide and extract relevant keywords to tie in with your experiences.
If you graduated more than 5 years ago, keep your education section short and sweet. You only need essential information including name of university, degree, graduation date and maybe the location.
If you graduated less than 2 years ago, you might want the education section to make up for your shortage of work experience. How?
Additional details to add to your education section
- Relevant coursework
- Relevant class project, thesis or research
- Academic awards or honors
- Extracurricular activities
All job applicants have some education background, which is why adding relevant details can help you stand out and let employers understand you better, especially if you aren’t from a top-notch university.
There are 2 types of skills in a resume: hard skills and soft skills.
Hard skills are the technical, mathematical, and engineering skills that are closely related to your expertise. Soft skills are those that you need to function well in a workplace, regardless of your field.
Common hard skills for civil engineers
- Civil 3D
- Material science
- Structural engineering
- Construction Scheduling
- Pavement and road construction
- Environmental assessment and risk factors
- Quality control and material testing
Common soft skills for civil engineers
- Attention to detail
- Project management
- Analytical thinking
- Quality control
It is tempting to dump a ton of skills into your resume, but it only shows that you’re bluffing. Only include skills that are demonstrable with your past experience, and prioritize those that are specified in the job description. You won’t be able to fool recruiters during the interview anyway.
6. Licenses & Certifications
Licenses and certifications are not required for entry-level civil engineers, but if you’re looking to advance your career, they absolutely help open doors.
Not all certifications are equally valuable. A recommended way to find the right one is to look at the people in the position you’re looking to attain and see what licenses they have. Don’t waste your time getting certifications that simply “look good”.
Examples of civil engineering certifications
If you have a strong certification such as PE, consider adding it to your resume summary such as “PE-certified Civil Engineer”. If you have more than one certification, put them in an individual section and add the dates you were certified.
How to choose the right resume format?
What order should you list your experiences in?
Do you have large time gaps between jobs? If so, a functional resume might be an option to keep recruiters focused on your skills instead of the dates.
If not, a chronological resume would be the best format for you since employers can quickly find your highest and latest achievement on top of the list.
Even though you’re not a designer, a visually appealing resume can still earn extra points. Is it easy to read? Is the information clear? Are the paragraphs and bullet points aligned?
If you’re not great with design - or if you simply want to save time - try using a customizable resume builder such as CakeResume to save you from the mess. You can also look for suitable resume templates to adapt from.
Remember, you don’t need fancy designs for a resume. Simply make it clean, professional, and reader-friendly.
Find some design ideas from resume examples on CakeResume!
If you have browsed through resume examples on the internet, you might notice that some have double columns while some have only one.
Although double-columned resumes often look more modern and personalized, be careful of distortions with ATS.
Since ATS is a robot, not a human, double-columns might be incompatible. While ATS systems are improving to identify two-column resumes, it’s safer to stick to a single-column format especially if you’re applying for a big company that receives hundreds of resumes.
If you’re sure that a human will be reading your resume, feel free to try out a 2-column format. For example, shorter sections such as contact information, resume summary and skills can be moved to the left column.
Learn more about resume formats: Free Resume Templates & Formats｜Create a Professional Resume
Remember that resumes are formal documents, which should be reflected by the font you choose. Here are some classic fonts that won’t go wrong:
- Times New Roman
While you can use different font sizes or colors to create a hierarchy of information, use no more than 2 font types and no more than 2 colors other than black and white.
Civil engineer resume examples & templates (Downloadable!)
Like the design? Use CakeResume's free resume builder to easily make yourself a stunning resume.
Check out more resume examples on CakeResume!
3 bonus tips for civil engineers
- Avoid too much technical jargon. Remember that your resume may be read by HRs or seniors who are not civil engineers. You want all readers to be able to understand your experiences and skills, regardless of their background knowledge.
- Match the job description. It’s worthwhile to spend some extra time to customize your resume for different positions. Again, ATS systems rank resumes based on how aligned your resume is with the job description.
- Proofread! Civil engineers are expected to be careful and detail-oriented, while typos in your resume show that you’re not. Ask family and friends to proofread for you before sending out your job application.
Further reading: 7 Effective Tips for a Successful Engineering Resume