Building a Better Engineering Resume

After spending years honing their skills and knowledge, engineering graduates just entering the work-force and established engineers looking to move up the career ladder have a new challenge to overcome: writing their resumes. Classes and work experience teach you everything you need to know on the job, but you’ve probably never taken a course in how to put together a resume to help you land that job in the first place. These tips are your guidelines for crafting a resume that works.

Don’t Worry About Length (Much)

The one-page rule is fine for recent college graduates, but it’s unrealistic for anyone who’s been in the field for any length of time. While your resume should still be concise, let its length be dictated by its contents, not by arbitrary and outdated rules. For multi-page resumes, borrow a concept from newspaper printing and put important information above the fold – or in this case, on your first page. When your resume is engaging and well-organized, you’ll encourage potential employers to look past the first page, so don’t feel constrained to get everything on one sheet.

That doesn’t mean you should over-burden your resume and make it five or six pages long, though. Two or three pages is sufficient for most resumes. If you’re working in electronic formats, keep platforms in mind and realize some of your contacts might be reading on a smartphone or tablet; a multi-page paper resume can be even more unwieldy on a small screen.

Prioritize Your Strongest Attributes

The first thing your resume has to do is persuade prospective employers to read the whole thing. Some resume writing guides tell you to put education first while others insist on listing work experience first, but your best bet is to lead with your strongest skill-set. If you have impressive academic credentials but have relatively little work experience in STEM fields, lead off with your degrees. If you already have a list of career accomplishments under your belt, put your work history front and center.

Show, Don’t Tell

Employers see dozens of resumes that list job responsibilities, and if you present them with yet another one, you won’t stand out. Instead, enhance that list and demonstrate how you found and solved problems, earned accolades or otherwise distinguished yourself. What measurable results did your efforts produce? Did you develop a new work process that saved time, come up with a product improvement that increased sales or devise better security protocols to keep your IT department’s data safe? Put it on the resume in explicit, specific and quantifiable terms.

Feature Personal Projects

What you’ve done outside the classroom or boardroom can be just as exciting to employers as your professional and academic experience. Did you create and market your own invention, help design a game or streamline a local company’s work process with your software? Projects you undertake on your own are key differentiators and showcase your ingenuity. If you have employment gaps in your resume, they’re even more important to demonstrate your discipline and enthusiasm.

Make It Easy to Read

Even if your skills and training make you ideal for a position, you can’t get there if your prospective employer can’t see that. Make your resume clear and easy to scan with bullet points and tables summarizing your most useful or relevant skills. By making it easy for hiring personnel to scan your resume and see important skills at a glance, you give yourself the best chance to move onto the short list of candidates and secure that all-important interview.

Writing Matters

Employers may not actively scan your resume for typos, formatting problems and awkward sentences, but they notice mistakes and take a dim view of resumes containing them. If you haven’t spent the time to perfect your grammar, syntax and spelling, they figure, why should they spend time deciphering what that sentence might have meant? If you aren’t comfortable writing your resume yourself, hire a professional or persuade a grammatically gifted friend to copy-edit your work. A talented writer or editor does more than correct mistakes; a pro can also punch up the language with action words and active construction to make it more engaging.

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