We talked earlier about the need to have a visually attractive engineering resume. The need to have an engineering resume that jumps out and leads to
interest on the part of the reader even before the reading starts.
But what happens when they start reading?
You need to focus on creating a resume that is easy to read, flows naturally and does not make the reader feel confused or lose interest.
You can achieve this by using short sentences, common words and focusing with laser sharpness on your achievements, skills and accomplishments as an engineer.
No fluff, no long winded sentences and over worked grammar that would distract the reader from the message.
You also need to maintain a consistent writing style throughout. It goes without saying that poor grammar and typographical errors are job search killers. Have your resume proofread by a friend or colleague.
In summary keep it simple, easy to read and with a good flow of facts. You want the reader to enjoy learning about you and not have to read things twice to follow what you are trying to convey. Remember your engineering resume can change everything…
If you have any questions about this or any other
topics please feel free to contact me directly.
The hiring manager is looking for someone who can help him/her do better and help the organization go forward. So they are going to focus their attention on what you have been doing lately.
What you did 10+ years ago is not likely to matter as much as what you did last year or the year before last.
Fact is we are constantly evolving and growing professionally. So the level of detail you devote to jobs that you had 10+ years ago should be limited. Key highlights should do.
Don’t worry about missing too much detail. The hiring manager is going to spend most of the resume reading time on the latest jobs so focus your attention on those and save precious resume real estate by limiting the amount of text devoted to older jobs.
In summary make sure that your primary focus and the majority of your resume space is devoted to skills, abilities and job achievements that occurred more recently. Beyond that a couple of bullet points will do. You can expand during the interview.
If I’m looking to hire a new engineer I don’t want to hire someone that has stopped learning. So… Don’t Tell Me You Stopped Learning!
We all went to school. Most of us went to college. Then we went to work and stopped learning. Not true is it? Make sure this is not the story in your resume…
One of the most important things you need to do as an engineer is to continue to invest in
yourself. Stop learning and you lose value over time and become obsolete. You know this and you have been continuously evolving to stay in professional shape and add value to yourself. So make sure this is reflected in your resume.
If you took classes, list them. If you attended corporate sponsored training on software then list it. If you learned on the job and can not claim any formal educational experience do mention your on the job learning of new skills and/or tools.
In summary your engineering resume should always include a section with relevant training or learning you have gone through in your career after you left school.
One of the most common questions engineers have about their resume is: “How long should my engineering resume be?”
Well… Let’s start with what your engineering resume should be. For an engineer a resume should be many things but what it must not be is a detailed summary of your career. Why? Because depending on your level of experience that would be a 5 to 30 page document!
What your resume should be is a brief summary of achievements and skills. It should be a document that is easy for the reader to digest quickly. All information must be integrated by the engineering manager in under 2 minutes. Quick, simple, direct and rich in content. So what does this mean to the length of your engineering resume?
Typically for an engineer with less than 3-5 years of experience a one page resume should be enough. There are exceptions where 2 pages are justified but this is a good rule of thumb.
Over 3-5 years usually requires 2 pages, especially if you have worked in many different organizations or have had more than one career path.
Finally if you are a senior technical expert or a senior consultant it may make sense to go to three pages.
Remember the reader is looking for a brief snapshot of you. Keep it to a one page resume if you can. Use two pages if you are very experienced and must use 2 pages. If the resume is properly written in most cases you not need more. In some special cases for engineers in the last quarter of their career a 3 page resume may be justifiable, if written well.
Try to stick to these guidelines for the length of your engineering resume. It really helps get interview calls.
An engineering manager will look for skills and alignment with the job first. However if you are applying for the right job then these two things are a given – for you and for your competitors. So how do you differentiate your engineering resume from the other on the manager’s desk?
What Do Engineering Managers Look For In Your Resume?
Your achievements. You must tell them about the specifics of your contributions. It is fairly easy to write down what you worked on, the jobs you performed, the companies you supported and specific skills you have. These are important but they do not address the key question in the employer’s mind…
“You tell me you can do this and that… But have you actually done it?”
The only way the employer will know what you can do is to read about your accomplishments. So make sure that you tell them what you achieved.
Did you develop a new engineering tool? What did it do? How did that help? Did you design a new part or engineering process? What was the outcome? Did you manage an engineering program? If so did you meet schedules and budgets?
Here is an example of an electrical engineering resume that is well written and lists clear achievements and accomplishments without using too many words.
If I am the reader I want to read objective achievements because they tell me what you have done before. This builds my confidence that you can do things for me when I hire you. So… I am going to call you in for an interview. When appropriate add percentages in savings, efficiency metrics, increased performance numbers or any other metrics that show your work made a difference.
In summary list achievements in a quantifiable way. Tell the engineering resume reader what your contributions were and how the affected the project, product or organization.
Be specific when appropriate to highlight contributions.
Whenever I write a resume for an engineer I always include an initial interview to collect information on the engineer’s career, background and objectives. This in addition to reviewing their existing resume.
After the interview is finished I usually ask the following question… “Do You Have Any Awards, Prizes Or Other Merit Rewards?” and the answer is invariably… “Oh, yes of course I have them…”. However this was never mentioned before my question was asked and it is typically not in the engineer’s resume.
If your employer or a professional organization has awarded you a prize, performance reward, award, scholarship or any other form of recognition that most people didn’t get then you need to add it to your engineering resume. It builds credibility and tells the prospective employer that you stand out from the crowd enough to get special recognition. It’s an arrow in your quiver so use it!
It will be a great way to finish and leave the reader with a positive note on you.
Here is an example of a systems engineer resume with an awards section below the education section. This is a real sample from a systems engineering resume I wrote for a client.
Make sure it is something meaningful that showcases your abilities, skills or personal traits that will make you a good choice for the job. If it is too common or easily obtained it will not add value so you will need to make the call on what makes sense and what doesn’t.
In summary if you have a meaningful award, prize or recognition from an employer or professional organization that improves your perceived value to the employer, make sure you add it to your engineering resume. It ads value to your resume, brings you out from the crowd and it is an section most engineers neglect to add to their resume.
On the other end, the engineering hiring managers receive your resume. What are thinking when they read it? How can you sway them into giving you a call?
Well, this is the only thing that is going through the mind of the prospective engineering hiring manager as he or she reads your resume… His/Her Questions: “How Can This Person Help Me? How Can They Help My Team Be More Successful?” or in other words “What is in it for me?”
It may seem simple but this is not always obvious to engineers… the reason there is an opening is because the organization has a need… they need to fill it someone who can perform that job… That specific need, that specific job…
In order to convince the reader of your engineering resume that you are interview material… you need to pour all your efforts into telling them how you can fill THAT need.
So how do you do this? Make sure you describe your accomplishments. But only the accomplishments that help portray you as the solution to their need!!! Don’t add information that you think is important but that does not address the need, as it is not important to them…
Here is a typical example of this. This is a resume section for a mechanical engineer working in mechanical design. The focus is laser sharp on describing his design skills and experiences as they are directly relevant to the position he is applying for. All other roles were dropped. This engineer has a resume that can’t go wrong. It answers the mail on all the requisites of the position clearly and directly. He got the job.
So above all… tell them about what you have done that relates to the position they have open. And do not tell them about you… Frankly the employer does not know you (only that you are and engineer) and does not really care too much at this stage (that’s for the interview)… Never say things like “I was part of a team” or “I participated in”, instead use phrases such as “I led…”, “I designed…”, “I developed…” or “I led the team that….”. Use action sentences that show you did something of value… And always related to the engineering position you applied for.
In summary make sure your writing focuses on your abilities and skills and on how they relate to the need on the other end… not on you, where you were or what you participated in. Tell them what you did and what you can do for them and you will get their attention.
Your engineering resume and cover letter need to answer their question: “What Is In It For Me And My Organization When I Hire This Engineer?” And you will be on your way to an interview call.
Imagine you are the hiring manager and just received an engineer’s resume… You go through the introductory portion of the resume. Now you get to the job descriptions… Ask yourself: Would you rather see this?…
“Mechanical Engineer III”
Bullet responsibility #1
Bullet responsibility #2
Bullet responsibility #3
“Mechanical Design Engineer” Mechanical Design Engineer with responsibility for part design, prototyping and testing. Directly responsible for drawing reviews and vendor evaluation and selection.
Designed (ACTION) a mechanical system that… Bullet accomplishment #1
Implemented (ACTION) a new… Bullet accomplishment #2
Led a team (ACTION) that developed… Bullet accomplishment #3
Which one would tell you more about the prospective engineer? Clearly the second!!!
Why? Because it starts out by telling the hiring manager what you as an engineer do for a living. In other words you are telling what your responsibilities are and what your role is in the organization. This gives the reader context and helps you position your accomplishments and contributions in a setting the reader can quickly understand.
As we established in previous postings, an engineering resume should always include a chronology of previous jobs even if abbreviated (for jobs with lots of job listings). Most engineering resumes however start with a list of titles and jump right into a list of projects or accomplishments. No description of the job, no context.
For 90% of engineering resumes it is necessary to add a few sentences about your primary responsibilities as described above. If your title was “Software Engineer II” or “Systems Engineer 6” what does that tell the reader about your responsibilities? Nothing at all! You need to tell them what your job is in more detail.
In summary make sure the engineering hiring manager knows what your job responsibilities are. Do this in the listing section of your engineering resume with a short summary of your job before you jump into a list of contributions with clear statements of action and accomplishments.
If the employer can not understand what you do or if your job duties are unclear the list of bullets you list under the title will not help you get interview calls.
So… Tell them what you do before you tell them what you did!
The use of a strong objective statement or summary in an engineering resume is often overlooked. It should not be, as it is a unique opportunity to score big points with the reader.
Your engineering hiring manager’s time is precious. He or she will not spend a lot of effort trying to discover who you are in the body of the resume. If they have other engineer’s resumes that clearly tell them about the candidate upfront, they will go with those. If your engineering resume is hard to read, no call, no interview, you lose.
You need to open with a strong statement that immediately addresses the fact that you can fill their need. In the first 15 seconds of reading their mind must race to the fact that you are going to help them fill the gap they want to fill.
So how do you do this?
Research what the need is first. Either through a job posting or through a referral you should have a clear idea of what the engineering position is all about.
Then make sure you clearly state what your objective is and of course it should match the need. This tells the reader of your resume that you are a person that they want to talk to.
A great match potential!
Then and only then, will they give your resume their attention.
In summary make sure that you clearly state what your objective is and that the objective matches the job posting words or need they are trying to fill.
A professional summary then delivers the message that you are the person for the job.
It’s a two punch approach that delivers results. They immediately decide to call you and then simply peruse the resume.
Note that in some cases you can add your objective statement in the summary section and avoid a dedicated objective. This saves some space which can be convenient.
If the reader doesn’t immediately think of you as a match, your resume is going to end up at the bottom of the pile and with it go your chances of getting that job you want.
Give them the bottom line upfront in your engineering resume and your chances of getting and interview call will increase dramatically.
One of the most powerful ways an engineering resume can be improved in by changing the formatting. In fact there is not one single aspect of engineer’s resumes that is quite so critical in denying the engineering job seeker and opportunity as poor formatting!
This is so critical and yet it is so often overlooked. It is a necessary condition but by no means a sufficient one.
Just as you would not consider going to a job interview with an old t-shirt and messy hair so too your resume should not be poorly presented. It is after all your calling card. While the roles, the descriptions, the summary or profile and so many other content elements are of critical importance a bad format can immediately kill your chances.
A word of caution, we have seen resumes with poor content and wording that look phenomenal. Format is by no means the dominant part of your resume. However you must make sure that the resume is appealing in addition to having well written content.
Looks do matter and in order to stand out you want to use a modern font, good spacing, moderate use of strategically located graphical elements and an easy to read layout.
Another key thing you must plan on having is a catchy layout that immediately tells the reader who you are. Nobody has a lot of time for your resume. Hit the reader quickly with a strong intro that appeals and delivers a short key message about you.
In summary make sure that your resume is appealing to the eye when finished and that the message about you flows and is easy to comprehend. The presentation should be attractive, direct, modern but not flashy and not too busy.
There are many variations of resumes that work and many that don’t. If the reader doesn’t like the way your resume looks, it will end up at the bottom of the pile and with there go your chances of getting the job you want. So make sure you start with a format and template that is proven and professional.