What It’s Like to Work in the Skilled Trades Field
Concrete mason. Labor supervisor. Instrument maker. Floor covering installer. Carpenter. Master Electrician. Boiler Operator. Roofer. CAD Specialist.
What all these professions have in common is they are skilled trades. Each requires unique talent and specialized training that have hiring managers scrambling to fill slots. Candidates want to make sure their skilled trades resume carefully delineates accredited college or vocational training, necessary licensing and certification, and the hands-on experience that will get the top salaries.
The prospects a skilled trades resume can open up are too vast to list here. Suffice it to say, there likely isn’t an enterprise in existence that isn’t utilizing one of these professionals every day. From gunsmithing to camera repair to construction, the candidate who can prove their value is going to have a promising career.
Benefits of Working in the Skilled Trades Field
With so many sectors in this field, the greatest benefit is a candidate can find a career that aligns with their lifestyle, background, and education. Many of these positions are awarded from other entry-level positions and on-the-job training. How much time and money you can afford to allot to training can be determined by the career a candidate chooses to pursue.
The typical tradesmen can be needed any hour of the day or day of the week. This means flexible schedules. These professionals can work independently on projects, enhancing their experience, reputation, and growing their salary along the way.
These are also great opportunities for individuals that aren’t necessarily interested in working behind a desk or in a conventional office environment.
Why You Need a Resume
Whether you’re a plumber, painter, or refrigeration mechanic, a good skilled trades resume goes a long way to getting the best prospects. Remember, while your unique skill makes you a commodity to hiring managers, it can also mean a smaller group of candidates applying for the same opportunities. The skilled trades resume and cover letter are going to be your introduction and your best chance of getting the interview.
Skilled Trades Resume Templates
Skilled Trades Resume Questions
An effective skilled trades resume should have an organized and straightforward layout that is easy for hiring managers and recruiters to skim. Look for a template that starts with a header with room for contact information and a summary statement or an objective statement (if you are just starting out in your trade).
Devote the remainder of the document to your experience, education, and training. Reference a skilled trades resume sample that is suitable for your background and the job you want.
Customize the qualifications section of your resume for your trade and the type of position you are seeking. Don’t list any skills in your document that are not relevant to the position you are seeking.
If you are not sure what to include, take a look at a skilled trades resume sample for the type of job you want. You should also carefully read the job description for the specific position you are seeking and identify keywords to use in your document.
Ideally, employers should specify which file format they prefer. Check the description of the position for which you are applying. If you are still not sure, contact the poster of the job advertisement for clarification. Our skilled trades resume sample and resume builder enable you to effortlessly create a polished document and save it in any of these standard file formats.
Resumes saved in PDF or Word allow for customized formatting, whereas a txt file consists of simple text. Depending on whether you are submitting file attachments or entering information into a digital application with form fields, employers may prefer or require a certain format.
Certifications can be essential for occupations in the skilled trades. You have several choices when it comes to listing certifications on your resume. Mention required certifications in your summary statement to address your credentials right off the bat. You can also list certifications in the education section.
Refer to a skilled trades resume sample for the type of job you are seeking to see ways to include certifications and licenses. You also have the option to create a separate section devoted to professional qualifications.
Using language from the description of the position you are seeking is the most effective way to ensure your resume clears an Applicant Tracking System that scans materials for relevant keywords. Hiring managers and recruiters carefully phrase job ads to increase the likelihood that qualified applicants will apply. See a specialized skilled trades resume sample for ideas about how to include significant language in your document.
How to write a Skilled Trades Resume
1. Begin by brainstorming your achievements
On a piece of scratch paper, write down all of your amazing accomplishments and career highlights.
2. Find a strong Skilled Trades resume sample to use as a resource
Check out our Skilled Trades resume samples to gain insight into the process.
3. Create an eye-catching header for the top of your Skilled Trades resume
Your header should include your name, phone number, email address, and personal website (if you have one). Make it professional, but attractive.
4. Create a compelling summary statement
Make a brief statement that covers the most important elements of your professional self. Cover your achievements and areas of expertise. Check the job description to make sure it aligns with your statement.
5. Outline your technical and soft skills in a skills section
Right below your summary statement, make a list of your best Skilled Trades skills. Make sure they apply to the job description.
6. Outline your work history on your resume
Include your relevant past jobs. Provide the company names, your dates of employment, and your title.
7. Go deeper into your Skilled Trades work history
Detail your role and accomplishments at each position in 3 to 5 bullet points. Keep the job description in mind as you do so. Refer to the list you made in step one.
8. Provide your education at the bottom
Cover the highest degree you earned, where you obtained it, and what year you finished (or will finish).
By Kim Hughes
You would expect someone toiling in marketing, communications or academia to possess a resume steeped in five-dollar words and fanciful descriptions of past experience.
But what about tradespeople whose claim to fame is the work they do with their hands: carpenters, electricians, plumbers, machinists, stonemasons, and the tool belt-wearing militia boosting modern construction sites? How can you write a skilled trades resume highlighting the information most valuable to employers while teeing yourself up as the candidate to beat? Especially in an employment arena where things like word-of-mouth and personal references are highly prized?
“I certainly look for previous work skills, candidates that have done something similar. And that they would be able to make an easy transition into my company,” says Ryan Kobelka, president and founder of Toronto’s RNW Electrical Systems who started working as an electrician out of high school at age 19 and is now 41.
Asked what he looks for in a resume, Kobelka says, “It’s mostly to do with skill sets and the type of work someone has done. If they list that and capture the terminology correctly, you can determine they know what they’re talking about.”
That statement is seconded by Bruno Rossi, professional engineer and co-owner/operator of Gimco Limited, self-described as “Mechanical contractors for the institutional, commercial and industrial markets.”
“If I get a resume in, I ask: does this seem like a person with good experience for the field that we’re in,” Rossi says, adding that “Resumes should be short – no more than two pages.
“List your background, your licenses, any degrees or certificates you have and past projects you have worked on. Anything more than two pages, I don’t read.”
While union shops hire according to collective agreement within a hierarchy, independent contractors operating outside a union face tough competition. Both Rossi and Kobelka insist that optics matter, and even those working with their hands must pay attention to details like spelling and grammar or risk having their resumes chucked to the reject pile.
“Unfortunately,” says Kobelka, “many people who are new to the country may have amazing credentials, but when they send out their resumes, they’re not very well put together and it’s difficult to determine what they’ve actually worked on. It kind of fails the first pass.
“And it’s not just new Canadians,” he continues. “Lots of resident Canadians have resumes that are rough around the edges. This is a wing of employment where people may not have post-secondary education so there are a lot of grammar and spelling mistakes.”
On the plus side, cover letters – which are pretty much de rigueur for any kind of work that happens in an office setting and can be notoriously difficult to craft – are largely unnecessary in the skilled trades field, according to our experts.
There are exceptions, of course.
“Trades can be so varied,” Rossi says. “You can have trades people at a high level, someone who has moved into the office over the course of their career. In that case you are looking for a trades guy with managerial skills or organizational skills or project management skills.”
John Kalinowski is a former technical recruiter currently working as an electrician. In his headhunting role, Kalinowski reviewed untold numbers of resumes.
“And the best I ever read belonged to (American computer scientist and Sun Microsystems co-founder) Bill Joy. It was one sentence: ‘I invented the computer language that underpins networking on the internet.’ In and out.”
Ironically, Kalinowski landed his current gig not with a resume but by answering a help-wanted ad on Kijiji (and then acing the face-to-face interview) which may constitute a resume even shorter than the above-mentioned Joy’s. Still, Kalinowski insists that no matter the job, a great resume is best characterized by “Clarity and concision.
“Essentially, everyone has the same skills,” Kalinowski says. “What it comes down to is personality and trust. Personality can only be proven over time but trust via references are a key performance indicator.”
So what about neophytes who haven’t yet built up a list of references?
In that scenario, the resume is the only thing separating you from the desired job. Kalinowski says the best bet is to go for a chronological versus functional resume, where you list work experience in the order it happened, beginning with most recent, versus grouping your information by areas of aptitude.
Also, ask someone for help with proofreading. And please, don’t list how much money you think you have earned for past employers which, according to Kobelka, happens all the time in the trades.
“It’s the most common resume mistake I see, along the lines of: ‘For this time period to that time period, I worked on this job for this company and made X amount of dollars for the company.’
“I don’t really look at a resume to see how much money someone is going to generate,” Kobelka says. “I look at it to see if they’re going to be a good fit for the company and able to do the job they are hired to do.”
Adds Rossi: “In all situations, word of mouth is very important. And that’s certainly true once you get to the interview stage. Your reputation is everything.”