Did you know you can engineer your resume to be a powerful marketing tool? While engineering jobs encompass a broad range of specialties, effective resume strategies are applicable across disciplines. Here are seven pieces of advice from the experts to keep in mind when writing your engineering resume.
Precision is paramount when it comes to engineering projects, and the same holds true for engineering resumes. Failing to proofread and correct all errors on the resume is a common mistake engineers make, according to Daniel Mullin, VP at Carroll Engineering, one of the largest consulting engineering firms in the greater Philadelphia area. “It’s imperative that you have a well-prepared, professional resume with no spelling or grammatical errors. Triple-check it and have other people go over it as well to make sure it’s perfect.”
During his career recruiting and hiring engineers, Andrew Naslund, HR coordinator for consulting firm Mazzetti & Associates in San Francisco, has observed a tendency among engineers to “go into information overload on their resumes.” His advice? “Don’t.”
“Resumes get accepted or rejected in 30 seconds or less, so you must be concise,” Naslund says.
Skip Black, principal/owner of Minneapolis-based mechanical, electrical, structural, civil and environmental engineering firm Double Eagle Group, suggests creating a resume that is crisp and to the point. “Look at your resume with an editor’s eye -- just because you think the information is important doesn’t mean the hiring manager will,” Black says.
Ditch the Objective and Add a Summary
“Do not write an objective,” Black says. Not only does it consume valuable space, but it can also hurt your candidacy. “I’ve seen hiring managers disregard otherwise solid candidates because their objective did not match the specifics of the position opening,” he says. Naslund agrees, but with this caveat: “If you are changing careers, then an objective is warranted. Otherwise, leave it out.”
Replace the objective with a qualifications summary. Within a few hard-hitting sentences, your career summary should spotlight your most marketable qualifications. “The idea is to pique the interest of the hiring manager,” Mullin says. Here’s an example summary for a mechanical engineer:
Internationally experienced mechanical engineer with 15 years of experience and a strong background in Kaizen, ISO and automotive manufacturing. Qualifications include Six Sigma Black Belt, Advanced Pro-E license and PMP-certification. Tailor the Resume to the Job Opportunity
“I strongly recommend adding personal touches to the resume every time you send it out,” Naslund says. “If it’s obvious you have mass-posted and haven’t responded to me specifically, the resume will probably be trashed.”
Customize each resume you send to the specific role and engineering specialty you are targeting. “If you see a Monster ad for a project engineer, for example, bring all of your project management experience to the forefront on your resume,” Naslund says.
List Key Accomplishments
“Use bullet points to make your resume easier to read,” Naslund says. When writing bulleted accomplishments, keep the text to a few key points and quantify the results so employers understand the significance of your work. Here are examples from various engineering disciplines:
- Conducted process mapping studies to improve throughput by 36% and ensure compliance with customer specifications.
- Regarded as one of consulting firm’s most highly requested mechanical engineers, maintaining 89% or higher billable utilization for the past 4 years.
- Co-developed material for cooling radiators that saved $300K/year.
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Depending on your engineering specialty and years of experience, you may find a dozen or more key projects should be included on your resume. When this causes your document to overflow onto a third page, a separate project list sheet is an effective solution.
“If you can get your vitals on a page, that’s perfect,” Naslund advises. “If you need two pages, that’s OK. For any more than that, split the document and add a project list. List projects by employer or client, and give a short -- even one-sentence -- description of what you did. Most importantly, don’t forget to include your project outcomes.”
Your resume should be compelling but never misleading or deceptive. “Don’t be lulled into thinking that embellishing your resume is OK,” Naslund warns. “Never put anything on your resume that you wouldn’t tell your grandmother.” An honest and well-crafted resume will facilitate your job search, and that would be one less problem to solve.