Rebuilding a construction resume

Todd Barrick saved many failing construction projects in his 15+ years as a project superintendent. His new resume brings his turn-around ability front and center.


The construction industry has been rattled by the recession. With an extensive background in fixing failing construction projects, senior project superintendent Todd Barrick has the right mix of construction-management and contracting knowledge to help companies put their projects back in the black.

Barrick, however, was hobbled by a resume that covered too much ground, lacked context and failed to demonstrate his return on investment.

His experience involves juggling various types of construction projects in a range of budgets and locations and managing the staff on a construction site — from day laborers to construction managers to the project-management team to the Department of Environmental Protection. It’s not easy to describe this kind of on-the-job knowhow in a resume that’s easy to scan.

“Todd’s resume had some of the dollars and metrics, but it also had things like ‘Able to keep sense of humor in a crisis,’ which is not exactly enough to differentiate him right now,” said professional resume writer Andrew Pearl, who works with Ladders. “He didn’t have enough context — the scope and skills of the projects detailed. Working in construction is different from working for Microsoft.

“Todd needed to get his resume up to date with the language of decision makers,” Pearl said. “In construction, the project superintendent is making a lot of decisions that mitigate risk and avoid the whole job from going awry. These are not necessarily as easy to quantify as say, the project manager who can say, ‘Project completed in X days’… (but) preventing a negative thing from happening is a positive skill to exploit.”

Which is exactly what Pearl did after Barrick worked on the detailed questionnaire provided by Ladders.

Same title, but varied roles

Another key difference in a construction resume is that many careers in the field comprise a variety of projects, not a smooth, linear progression from job to job. For the past 15 years, Barrick had worked as a project superintendent in different companies. While the title remained consistent, the challenges varied a great deal; to dramatize that fact, Pearl drew out the details of each project and described how Barrick avoided costly decisions and made smart ones that ended in real business savings.

Pearl used bullets sparingly to highlight the key results-centric information. The goal, Pearl said, is not to make too much of a feast of any single position.

Here’s an example from Barrick’s new resume:

Project Superintendent

Took over troubled commercial project that had fallen behind schedule, encompassing 2 separate shell restaurant buildings, 2-story office/restaurant building, elevators, and majority of tenant improvements. Spearheaded completion of remaining site grading, underground utility installations, concrete hardscaping, asphalt paving, and all landscaping.

  • Turned around $6M commercial project, resolving all challenges left by 5 prior superintendents to successfully pass inspections and complete project.

Pearl lists a job title, then provides specific context of that project’s challenges, scope, specific site information and how it was resolved. He also included the cost of the project and how many other superintendents had already failed to resolve the job.

Highlighting turn-around ability

While the resume goes back only 15 years, it alludes to other contracting experience Barrick has had without aging him in the process.

“When I did the free resume critique with Ladders, they wrote to me, ‘I hope I don’t offend you, but here’s the truth,” Barrick said. “I appreciate straight-shooting, so they let me know that my resume had about 12 seconds to capture someone’s attention, and it wasn’t cutting it…. But the new resume captured me right off the bat. I read it like a hiring manager, and I was impressed.”

One of the first things the new resume says is “Demonstrated track record of turning around failing projects.”

Barrick said he likes how that distinction separates him from pure construction managers, who may not have the experience to salvage a troubled project.

“The most important thing in this case is to show exactly what Todd has done,” Pearl said. “Show the size, cost, length of time, how he eliminated risk or smoothed out a process… This is what will pop in the hiring manager’s mind.”