You’re talented and experienced, so any old resume should be able to secure that dream job you’re after, right? Wrong. Whether you’re writing a new resume or revising an existing resume, you can’t assume that the standard rules apply. After all, you’re an engineer! And while you’re undoubtedly a very good engineer, there will be dozens—perhaps hundreds—of talented engineers applying for the same desirable job.
What works for most professionals won’t necessarily work for an engineering resume. For instance, resumes are typically structured in a chronological format, but because the field of engineering is very project-oriented, it’s better to list important (read: impressive) projects, achievements, and skills first. Below are more tips on creating an engineering resume that will lead to those all-important interviews.
Be specific. By the very nature of the work, most engineers are able to think outside the box, juggle multiple projects, and a variety of other resume clichés. So don’t bore potential employers with those generic phrases. If you list your ability to successfully work on multiple projects simultaneously, provide a one- or two-line example from your past work history to back up your claim.
But not about your salary. Depending on your area of specialization and experience, engineers can expect to make quite a handsome living. So it’s not unusual for employers to request a salary history or salary range from engineering applicants. While you may not be able to avoid the issue altogether, it’s important to try to skirt it as much as possible. You may think you absolutely need X amount of dollars to consider a position, but the truth is that there are a lot of variables: a great benefits package can make up for a lot, as can perks such as flexible hours or ample vacation. So always provide a range—not an exact number—if explicitly asked. And if you’re required to provide a salary history, try to insert a range as well. If you started out your last job at $80,000 but left making $100,000, assign $80,000-$100,000 to that job, rather than simply $100,000. Otherwise, you might price yourself out a job that you really want.
Use keywords. Though it’s important that your resume be written in reader-friendly language that makes sense to hiring managers, it’s also very possible that your resume will be scanned for specific keywords. Scanning is becoming increasingly common—especially in technical professions such as engineering—and if your resume is found lacking, it may not move on. Make sure you weave in qualifications, certifications, and experience that are outlined in the job posting, mimicking the posting’s language where it makes sense.
Give the good stuff. Cover letters are important, but ask any hiring manager, and they’ll tell you that they skip cover letters more often than they read them. So don’t hold back any of your accomplishments from your resume, thinking that you need something fresh for the cover letter. Always list the most important information on your resume.
Define your objective. If you include an objective at the top of your resume, make sure it fits with the job you’re applying for. If you’re submitting a resume for an aeronautical engineering position, but your objective details your aspiration to move into environmental engineering, your resume won’t get a second glance. Not only does it broadcast the fact that you don’t know or don’t care what the job listing said, but employers will assume that you don’t intend to stick around for the long haul. Also, don’t write a one-size-fits-all objective stating your desire to “utilize my extensive skills to benefit your company.” That could fit any company from McDonald’s to NASA!
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