Defining the Ideal Resume for Contract Engineers

By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman

Once you get some contract experience under your belt, you’ll probably find that a chronological resume is not the best way to present your capabilities to an engineering manager.

The traditional format – which starts with your most recent project and works backwards – could draw attention to occasional gaps in your work history or encourage busy managers to prioritize other contractors.

Resume written on old typewriter

Don’t use a tool that’s designed for someone seeking regular, full-time employment. Incorporate these key elements into your resume to advance your career as a contract engineering professional.

Use a Functional Format

Instead of embedding key information in a lengthy work history, the functional design puts critical skills and experience front and center. Most contractors summarize their experience by major competencies directly below their headline and profile. This way, the engineering manager can immediately see why you’re qualified, review your projects and request a phone screen or interview. Here is an example of a functional resume.


Give Relevant Experience Top Billing

The top third of your resume is fertile territory. If you’re interested in designing a tunnel system for the expansion of a water treatment plant, place your engineering and design competencies, certifications and so forth above materials management and other nice-to-have but unrelated experience. Fortunately, a few clicks of a mouse is all it takes to reprioritize the information in a functional resume.

Include Relevant Attributes

Be sure to reference desirable contractor traits like adaptability, flexibility and self-sufficiency, and then back up your claims by citing specific examples. Remember, it’s not what you know but how you apply your engineering knowledge and soft skills that really matters. So, describe how you’ve used technical and non-technical skills to embrace new environments and solve difficult engineering problems.

Highlight Relevant Projects

Provide a short summary of relevant projects (as shown in this article, 10 tips for a successful engineering resume) and full-time positions, unless you’ve been freelancing for so long that it doesn’t matter. Don’t provide information in a vacuum. Provide context by clearly and concisely describing each project, the problems you solved and the results you achieved. Need help quantifying your accomplishments? Try the problem-action-result methodology in this article, How to Write an Achievements-Based Resume.

Create a Project Addendum

What happens if a manager wants to see a complete project history? Veteran contractors typically maintain an inventory of their projects and offer interested managers a chronological list. Moreover, an addendum (see: Secrets of a Great IT Project Manager Resume) can help you keep track of your projects and select relevant examples when adapting your resume to match a contract position’s top requirements.

Include Testimonials

Just one little box with a quote from a highly regarded engineering manager adds credibility and zing to a resume. Name dropping never hurts, so don’t forget to mention high profile clients and projects. After all, a resume is a marketing document whose sole purpose is to get you an interview. When used correctly, third-party endorsements help to alleviate the concerns of engineering managers who are considering your services.

We enjoy your opinion of our articles and the overall PEAK organization.  Please feel free to post comments below.

Other information of potential interest

Five Tips for Landing Repeat Assignments

How to Create a Personal Brand to Promote Your Engineering Skills

Want a Raise? Top Paying Cities for Contract Engineers

Survive the Screening: Mastering Telephone Interviews

Help PEAK find the right placement for you:  Submit or Update your resume.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

PEAK Careers!

Take control of your career! Join the team as a recruiter at PEAK and build the future of your dreams.

Join the Team


Hear why people love working with PEAK!

View Our Testimonials