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Screen for Success: What to Look for in Contract Engineer Resumes

By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman

Engineering managers instinctively look for a stable work history with no employment gaps when reviewing resumes. While those may be valid screening criteria for professionals seeking regular full-time employment, it would virtually eliminate experienced engineering contractors who have earned their stripes by hopping from project to project.

Woman Looking Through Paperwork

Naturally, formatting, presentation and grammar matter, but what else should you be looking for when you review contractor resumes?

Here’s how to identify the best prospects in the stack.

Diverse experience

Contractors with broad experience bring a wealth of engineering knowledge and best practices to challenging projects. Plus, troupers often tend to be even-tempered and flexible, traits that help them bond with teammates and meld into disparate environments.

Long-term contractors typically highlight relevant projects on their resume—so you don’t have to wade through a 14-page document. In fact, the real pros customize their resumes and the information they present toward a particular engineering firm, project and scope of work.

If a contractor’s areas of expertise and skills match most of your must-have requirements, be sure to gauge the breadth of their engineering experience by reviewing a comprehensive list of their projects on addendums, websites or portfolios.

Tip: Foster objectivity and keep multiple reviewers on the same page by using an assessment grid to match core criteria from the job description to the resume. Having a defined procedure will help you identify the most qualified engineers, spot hidden gems, cultivate reasonable expectations and shorten the hiring process.

Encores and extensions

Repeat assignments and frequent extensions point to a history of success and satisfied managers. Contractors often enter the estimated duration of each project on their resumes, as well as the actual dates worked, so you can see if their assignments were extended. A glance at their comprehensive project history will reveal their ability to nurture long-term relationships with other engineering firms.

Reputation

Contractors often include endorsements from engineering managers on their resumes and online profiles. But beyond that, experience with marquee projects and the world’s top engineering firms, or famously selective companies like Google and Boeing, speaks to a contractor’s reputation and competency.

Quantified results and achievements

While you clearly want to read about a civil engineer’s experience, for example with large-scale commercial buildings, cost estimating, field investigations and other key requirements that match your needs, be clear to ask yourself the question: What did they actually accomplish? The best contractors not only provide a brief description of each project, they also cite their outcomes and quantify their results. Look for proof statements such as: “Reduced development time by 10 percent.” Or, “Enhanced an existing manufacturing implement that bolstered production 25 percent.”

Soft skills

Capable contractors recognize the value of soft skills in the engineering process. They’ll reference collaboration, communication, requirements gathering and other client-facing skills throughout their resume. Unless you’re looking for someone to do heads-down coding or drafting, keep an eye out for engineers who have married their technical skills with social skills and emotional intelligence.

Complete picture

Do you get a sense of the person behind the resume? Although it’s just one piece of the puzzle, a resume should give you a preview of the temperament, preferences and technical expertise of an engineering contractor. It should compel you to act, invite you to call and inspire a face-to-face meeting.

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Other information of potential interest

What Engineers Really Want from Employers

Chemistry Lesson: Using Science to Select Culturally Compatible Contractors

Five Myths about Co-Employment

Insightful Interviews: Favorite Questions Asked by Engineering Managers

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