A kickass engineering resume will make you stand out from the competition, and it’s the first hurdle to clear to landing a job.
Nowadays, I know a resume might feel a bit old-school. After all, we live in a world where everyone has a public profile and you can broadcast yourself to the entire globe. But, you still need to conquer the gauntlet of company reviewers to seize your golden opportunity.
As someone who’s sifted through heaps of engineering resumes, I’ve got the secret sauce. I’m going to let you in on my 7 must-know engineering resume hacks.
Important Note: I’ll be referencing real-world job experience a lot. That’s because employers value hands-on experience way more than “classroom” learning. For entry-level gigs, though, feel free to use internship and classroom project experience instead.
#1 Make your engineering resume job-specific
Zoom in on the heart and soul of the job you’re targeting. If the gig is all about designing rocket engines, don’t waste time talking about factory machines. Instead, dish out the details on the liquid bi-propellant rocket engines you’ve tinkered with, like:
- High-temperature combustion engine chambers
Getting this specific shows you’re truly invested in the role and would fit like a glove. Plus, you’ll shine brighter than other applicants, who often send out the same bland, generic resume to every employer.
And if you’re short on experience or have a less-than-stellar GPA, tailoring your resume becomes even more crucial. It’s a chance to showcase your strengths and deflect attention from your weaknesses.
Important Note: Whipping up a custom resume for every single job can be tough, especially when you’re firing off resumes left and right. So, craft a few resume variations for different job types. Then, simply recycle and tweak them as needed.
#2 Show off your engineer-centric projects
Mention projects you’ve actually worked on—or better yet, led. And don’t skimp on the juicy details when describing your role in each one. If you’re an electrical engineer, for example, avoid writing vague stuff like:
- Renewable energy
- Power system analysis
- High voltage design
These terms might sound cool, but they don’t tell me squat. No one can gauge your expertise or figure out what you really did. Instead, go for something like:
Substation X Design work
- Created electrical drawings for site and switching station layout
- Prepared project bill of materials
- Developed one-lines, three-lines, and elementary drawings
- Coordinated with utility over substation interconnection
- Completed power flow, short circuit, and arc flash analysis
This rundown shows you’ve been in the thick of it. You’re not just tossing around textbook keywords; you’re dishing out details only a hands-on design pro would know. That’s the key!
Besides, engineering education doesn’t exactly prepare you for the nitty-gritty of real-world work. So, employers aren’t just looking for academic credentials.
Here’s a bonus tip: weave your unique skills into your experience. A great way to do this is by highlighting challenges you tackled in projects. For example, if you replaced a facility’s high voltage electrical switchgear, you could write:
New switchgear cutover, limited to 24 hours to maintain facility operations.
Folks familiar with high voltage equipment replacement will know that’s no walk in the park. Chatting about this during an interview could be your home run.
Important Note: Boost your resume with quantitative results like cost savings, efficiency gains, and profits. These numbers speak volumes and are easy for readers to digest and assess.
In a nutshell, focus on results-driven content. Ditch the non-engineering stuff—no one cares if you can shred the guitar. You’ve got limited space, so make every word count and give employers what they’re after.
#3 Guide your readers with your project descriptions
Your interviewers are likely to cook up questions based on your resume, testing your knowledge and sniffing out any bullshit.
So, craft your resume to steer the conversation during interviews. If you’re a whiz with electronics, showcase your amazing electronic projects—just make sure they’re relevant to the job.
Important Note: Skip basic skills in your descriptions. No need to mention Bernoulli’s principle if you’re an aerospace engineer—it’s assumed! Instead, if the job description highlights Bernoulli’s principle, talk about how you’ve applied it in your work.
Experience trumps the alphabet soup of awards, licenses, degrees, and promotions. Be concise and focus on the real work you’ve done. Employers want to know what you can do for them and how you’ll fit in, not listen to self-promotion or bullshit.
You’ll meet PhD engineers who can’t design in the real world, and high school grads who are engineering wizards. If you have a PhD, emphasize the awesome research you’ve done, especially if it ties back to the job description.
#4 Cut the fluff and wordiness
Keep your resume short and sweet—two pages max. Any longer and no one will read it.
Aim to quickly grab the reader’s attention. The fewer filler words, the better your chances. Most people will just skim your resume, maybe for 20 seconds or less!
Remember, you’re not writing a novel or screenplay. You’re showcasing your key technical skills. Here’s an example of what to do (and not do) for a project description:
- Good: Refurbishment of 115kV substation with (2) incoming lines, (2) 25MVA 115kV:12kV transformers, and double-ended 12kV metal-clad switchgear.
- Bad: Major refurbishment of a large 115,000-volt substation with two high voltage incoming lines. The substation includes two very large 25MVA 115,000-volt:12,000-volt oil-filled power transformers. The power transformer is located in a large fenced area, and it distributes power to a large city.
Here’s why the “Bad” example is, well, bad:
- Too wordy when space is at a premium. More words make your resume harder to scan.
- Writing out 115,000-volts instead of 115kV just takes up extra space, and every seasoned engineer knows the difference.
- Ditch these descriptive words: major, large, high voltage, and power. The substation equipment ratings imply you’re working with high voltage, large power equipment.
- The last sentence adds no value and only states the obvious. Almost all substations serve this purpose and are fenced off.
Keep refining your resume and ask others to review it too, to check for wordiness.
Important Note: Use bullet points to describe projects, starting with action verbs. Skip full sentences and articles like “an” and “the.”
#5 Keyword stuffing
With the job applicant pool growing daily, many employers rely on automated Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to scan resumes.
ATSs search for specific keywords and filter out applicants who don’t meet a certain keyword score. This is the first hurdle before a human even sees your resume.
So, sprinkle relevant keywords throughout your resume based on the job description. And yeah, customizing your resume for each job might seem like a drag, but it’s super important. Without the right keywords, you won’t even get past the gate, no matter how awesome of an engineer you are.
#6 Back up your words
Never put anything on your resume you can’t back up. Interviewers will ask questions based on your resume.
Assume every part of your resume could become an interview question. That’s why I suggest doing the following with your resume’s content:
- Understand each keyword you use.
- Be ready with examples of work you’ve done for every keyword you list. If you claim you’re a design software whiz, have examples at the ready.
- For each keyword on your resume, anticipate potential interview questions.
Above all, don’t lie or exaggerate on your resume. Your employer will catch on sooner or later. In fact, Elon Musk’s powerful interview question will reveal any bullshit.
#7 Scannable and easy to read
Fancy resume formats might look cool, but if they make your content hard to scan quickly, ditch ’em.
The content of an engineering resume should be easy to digest. Other engineers don’t care about flashy resumes. We’re all about efficiency and utility. Yeah, we’re a boring bunch…
Feel free to use a mix of these formatting elements in your resume:
- Text justification
- Section dividing lines
- Font size
- Font type
- Bold & italic text
Don’t go overboard with formatting. Just use enough to make your content scannable. Nobody wants to read a wall of text.
Important Note: Keep your writing conservative, professional, and straightforward. Skip the big, aggressive words.
Crafting a resume that showcases your brilliance is key to catching an employer’s eye. But remember, even with the perfect resume, you might still strike out. Don’t let that get you down; keep applying!
By following these savvy engineering resume tips, you’ll gain an edge over your rivals. After all, even the tiniest resume tweaks can make a world of difference in your job hunt.
Ultimately, it’s a numbers game, as long as you’ve got the skills to back it up. Your mission? Pull every lever you can to tip the scales in your favor.
Which engineering resume tip do you think packs the biggest punch? How crucial is a well-crafted resume in your engineering job search?
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Author Bio: Koosha started Engineer Calcs in 2019 to help people better understand the engineering and construction industry, and to discuss various science and engineering-related topics to make people think. He has been working in the engineering and tech industry in California for well over 15 years now and is a licensed professional electrical engineer, and also has various entrepreneurial pursuits.
Koosha has an extensive background in the design and specification of electrical systems with areas of expertise including power generation, transmission, distribution, instrumentation and controls, and water distribution and pumping as well as alternative energy (wind, solar, geothermal, and storage).
Koosha is most interested in engineering innovations, the cosmos, sports, fitness, and our history and future.