There’s a lot of great resume advice out there, but a lot of it is tailored for your standard office job. Yet over half a million jobs in Illinois (and over 12 million in the U.S. as a whole) are in the manufacturing sector, which makes up about 9 percent of available jobs. That doesn’t include other non-office jobs like construction and transportation. In comparison, business and professional services comprise about 15 percent of the workforce in Illinois (source).
What that means is that there are a lot of jobs available where the typical resume advice might not be all that helpful. Manufacturing employers are often hiring in large numbers; they want to know what you can do and figure it out quickly. Your resume needs to be readable and highlight your qualifications clearly and quickly.
Here are several tips that are helpful for any resume but especially for a manufacturing or labor position.
1. List previous jobs in chronological order starting with the most recent.
A recruiter should be able to take a quick glance at your employment history and get a pretty clear idea about where your experience is. How far back your job history goes is debatable, but a good rule of thumb is that you should include everything recent and relevant. You should include everything within the last five years. If you worked for six months at a movie theater in high school ten years ago, leave it out. If you worked in a factory fifteen years ago for several years that gave you some foundational experience, leave it in. Be prepared to explain any big gaps in employment history.
2. Provide accurate dates.
If you’re not sure when you worked at a particular company, call your previous employer and get the dates right. Your recruiter may call them anyway to verify what your resume says. If the information you provide isn’t accurate, it could indicate that you’re either dishonest or incompetent.
3. Demonstrate where and when you acquired certain skills.
You can list whatever you want in your qualifications list, but your assertions don’t hold much weight unless you can back them up in your employment history or education. Describe very specifically in your history where you learned skills and for how long you practiced them.
4. Use clear, consistent document formatting.
If you’re in manufacturing, putting together a clean document may not be your strength. But submitting a resume with hard-to-read and inconsistent formatting isn’t going to help you. There are many easy-to-use resume templates available online that you can download and customize.
5. Only use a cover letter for highly specialized positions.
You may have heard that you need to submit a cover letter with your resume, but it’s really only necessary for some select jobs. Usually the employer will request it. If you’re not sure whether or not you should include one, call ahead and ask. If you do need to submit one, use it as an opportunity to display your personality and make and argument for why you’re a good fit for the position. It should go beyond what your resume already says.
6. Don’t say, “references available on request.”
This phrase is out of date and an unnecessary waste of space. Either include references or don’t. If you don’t include them, the employer will ask for them if they want them.