How to write a resume for the manufacturing industry
Not all résumés are created equal, and not all resumes can be approached the same way.
The keys to writing a winning resume in any industry are to demonstrate your knowledge and experience, position yourself as a skilled individual who is a good match with the company, and show that you know and understand the field. But when it comes to manufacturing, hiring managers are looking for more. Not only do they expect you to know your industry, but they look for resumes that are formatted a certain way, demonstrate specific experience and prove that a candidate fits with the industry's culture.
Experts weigh in on how to write a resume in the manufacturing industry, as well as what mistakes to avoid.
General formatting and length
In manufacturing, it's essential to keep the process moving and ensure that every piece works well together. Apply the same logic when writing your resume. Keep it streamlined, avoiding lengthy and unnecessary work. Generally, the rule for resume length is that one page is standard, and it's acceptable to add another page for every 10 to 20 years of experience you have. However, social media and abbreviated attention spans have changed how we communicate. "In the Twitter age, less is more," says Vanessa Smith, career services director of Employment Boost, which provides professional resume writing services. "We constantly see resumes that are four to six pages long, when they should only be one to two pages in length. Long résumés convey the image that you have a hard time articulating your point. Hiring managers often say individuals who have long résumés are likely to talk too much instead of listening."
One way to save some space is to ditch unnecessary resume sections, such as references or an objective statement. "Having an objective statement rather than a professional or executive summary is the next mistake," Smith says. "The summary is intended to 'sell you' to potential employers. It is usually the only section of a resume that a hiring manager will read word for word, so it is absolutely imperative that it is written well, pushing you into the top 5 percent candidate range."
When it comes to the experience section of your resume, if you've got it, show it. "In manufacturing, experience is always a plus," says Lyndsey Ellis, general manager at Country Leisure Manufacturing. "When employers find someone with experience working on a manufacturing team, regardless of whether or not that candidate has worked to build the same or similar product that the manufacturer produces, that application typically gets a second look. It is important for an applicant to elaborate on all prior manufacturing experience. Details of the specifics of each job held, quality control standards, safety records and inventory control are all important aspects that interest a recruiter."
Ellis also notes that manufacturing isn't a one-man job, so it's important to display a strong element of teamwork on your resume. "Hiring managers want to know that an applicant understands that his or her role in the process affects many other aspects and that the applicant is dependable and accountable. Be sure to pay special attention to any required licenses or certifications. It is always important to list any training and/or educational programs attended."
However, if you lack manufacturing experience or are looking to join the industry, there are other ways to prove you're ready for the challenges and responsibilities that come with the job. "If no prior manufacturing experience can be listed, some advice for any applicant would be to read the job description thoroughly and highlight aspects within the resume that closely relate to the main functions of the job," Ellis says. "The manufacturing industry as a whole places a large importance on safety, so listing an excellent safety record is always helpful. Any recognition received from previous employment regarding things such as attendance, production standards, output or quality is important to list on a resume."
If you're worried that a one- to two-page resume isn't going to convey your experience or enthusiasm for the industry, a cover letter is the solution. While hard skills such as certifications or equipment knowledge are more easily conveyed on a resume, soft skills are better left to the cover letter. Paint yourself as someone with passion for the industry and include soft skills that depict you as a team player and someone with solutions. "Manufacturing companies are often seeking 'lead by example' and 'roll up your sleeves' individuals," Employment Boost's Smith says.
No matter how much experience you have, the cover letter is your opportunity to explain why you're the best fit for the job. "Manufacturing hiring managers -- from those seeking production workers to leaders -- are looking for problem solvers," Smith says. "They want someone who has hands-on experience in an environment where things are being built and problems are being solved during production. We've seen lots of individuals make industry changes from medical device to consumer electronics and then to automotive, by leveraging their knowledge of how things are being built."