An engineering professional? How to write the perfect resume

Posted by Oliver Hogue on 07/12/2018
Engineer excited about the future

All resumes are advertisements for yourself. Specifically, they are marketing brochures that lay down the advantages of taking you on as an employee.

These advantages are a combination of your experience, qualifications and specialisations, and your resume should present these in a way that makes them the perfect fit for the job.

These resume tips will help you write an engineering resume that stands out from the pack.

Adapt the resume to fit the job

Everyone has a standard resume that is job-agnostic – it doesn’t focus on any particular position. It’s a good stating point, but it’s not going to get you the job you want. For every job you apply for, you should develop a tailor-made version.

Although your qualifications remain the same, think about how your experience and specialisations can be modified or highlighted so that they emphasise your suitability for the job in question.

For example, if you are applying for a civil engineering job in Thailand and as a student you volunteered for a road-building project in Bangkok, you should highlight this.

This would be something you might bury down the list of your experience when applying for another job, because it happened when you were still a student. But your proven enthusiasm for working overseas could get you over the line if it’s relevant to the position.

Link the resume to key selection criteria

Research into recruiter behaviour using eye-tracking technology shows that recruiters spent about six seconds on their initial ‘fit/no fit’ decision when reading resumes. This means they are looking for keywords – those that appear in the job description and selection criteria. These words act as anchors for the recruiter’s eyes, places on the resume where they pause to read more closely.

Another point about selection criteria is that recruiters don’t yet know you as a person. They see an impersonal sheet of paper, which means they use your listing of criteria to compare you to other applicants.

Your resume is your first impression. Not meeting the selection criteria is like introducing yourself without shaking hands or saying hello. To avoid this, print out your resume and the key criteria and lay them side by side. Go over them with a highlighter and make sure each is covered in your resume.

Illustrate experience with examples

At the earliest stages of the application process, the recruiter is interested in facts – they can get to know your personality later. They read the following:

“I have extensive experience in the industrial design sector.”

The recruiter immediately looks for evidence of this “extensive experience”, scanning up and down the resume. Eventually they give up and relegate your resume to the ‘too hard’ basket.

Every time you use the word ‘experience’ you must back it up with a real-world example. “I have extensive experience in the industrial design sector” is meaningless unless you can list at least five names of industrial design firms you worked for.

Show how you made an impact

But to get a perfect resume you need to do more than list where you worked. After you’ve done that, look at each company and write about your key achievements for each. Did you help them win an award? Did you increase profitability? Every job you’ve listed on your resume should have a line illustrating the impact you made, such as:

  • Introduced a stress-testing element into the RFT that saved the company $250k annually in repairs and maintenance.
  • Developed perovskite-based solar cell that boosted energy conversion rate 5.4% and went on to win a design award for the company.

These examples show that you are not just a passenger in the workplace, but have contributed to the financial and professional benefit of each company that’s employed you.

The truth is, resume writing is a precise discipline, and that’s great news for engineers. Apply the exactitude you were taught and assemble the best advertisement for yourself that you can.