The goal of a resume is to catch a reader’s attention in 10 seconds. To pull this off, you need to use engineering resume buzzwords.
Hiring managers are tight on time, and they don’t want to read fluff content. They want to know what you’ve done, and what you can do for them.
The trick is to only use buzzwords, which relate to work you’ve directly done. Because if you bullshit, the dreaded Elon Musk interview question will destroy you.
Important Note: Resume scanning technology is becoming more prevalent given the high amount of applicants. Employers and recruiters view keywords as terms, which represent critical job attributes. They scan resumes for keywords, which best define their perfect employee.
Example of a strongly written engineering resume excerpt
Before we dive into our list of engineering resume buzzwords, let’s go over a resume excerpt. The following is an example of what not to write:
Did an elaborate design connecting an existing substational substation to new transmission lines. The work included a lot of research to come up with a reliable single connected power system, with coordination made with other disciplines of engineering. Coordination included ensuring the power system would meet all local and national codes.
This excerpt is just a long hard to read wall of text. Plus, it tells me absolutely nothing about the candidate. Instead, I’ve revised the excerpt to read as follows:
Designed, analyzed, and coordinated the electrical interconnection of 100MVA 230kV:12kV XXX substation and 230kV transmission lines from XXX Switchyard.
You can quickly see how much more powerful and easy to read the second version is. I purposefully removed many unnecessary words, as they’re implied through the buzzwords.
Also, anyone in your industry would know your role from reading version #2. This includes the level of complexity and the nuances of the design. For example, in the first version, it reads,
Coordination included ensuring the new power system would meet all local and national codes.
Every engineer with successful design experience knows compliance with all codes is a given for completing a design. Unless you want to emphasize a unique point, leave out the obvious information. If there is a code section, which is difficult to comply with, mentioning it in your resume can set you apart. In short, be strategic in what you include in your resume.
Remove empty buzzwords
Avoid keywords, which don’t help in conveying your message. For example, in version #1, I used the words ‘substantial,’ which is subjective.
In version #2, I removed the word and inserted technical specs instead. This enables a hiring manager to quickly assess my level of expertise and understand I’m capable of the following:
- Utility coordination
- Devising protective relaying and system protection settings
- Transmission line design
- Calculating equipment ratings and selecting features
Equally important, certain keywords hold different meanings to different people. For example, many people I speak with consider 120 volts to be “high voltage.” But, personally, I consider voltages above 69,000 volts to be high voltage. It’s all relative even though 120 volts can kill you.
So defining something as “enormous” serves zero value to a reader. And plus, you’re selling yourself short if, in fact, you worked on a “high voltage” sbustation.
Engineering resume buzzwords
The below list is buzzwords all disciplines of engineers can use in their resumes.
- Bid sheets
- Control systems
- Cost reduction
- Design drawings
- Design methodologies
- Integrated systems
- Product development
- Project costs
- Procurement specifications
- Project management
- Project proposal
- Regulatory requirement
- Safety regulations
- Statistical analysis
- Technical specifications
- Test plans
The following is a list of action verbs, which you can use in your resume. Begin your work experience sentences with these verbs. For example, by using the verb ‘evaluated,’ you could write the following:
Evaluated the reliability and capacity of a 100MVA substation for the inclusion of 10,000 HP of new motor loads.
Important Note: Be detailed in your buzzword choices for your given industry. For example, if you’re a designer in the auto industry, don’t simply say you use “CAD.” Instead, drill into the types of CAD software you’re experienced with. Auto engineers typically use Solidworks, AutoCAD, Creo Parametric 3d Modeling, and Inventor. This level of detail shows the breadth of your abilities, and how you’re familiar with the auto industry.
We’re always taught not to name-drop because it’s tacky. But when it comes to resumes, it’s part of the game if you can back it up. Because resumes are about signaling and quickly grabbing someone’s attention.
I’m going to go over several examples of how you can properly namedrop powerful buzzwords.
University and the alphabet soup
I’ve said many times on this site how formal education doesn’t carry much weight. In fact, I’ve written a long piece about how I think formal engineering education needs reform.
But, most people still find big-name universities impressive. They think if you graduated from Stanford or MIT, you’re instantly the next Einstein. So use this misconception to your advantage.
List your big-name schools with your degrees. Also, include any impressive certificates and licenses you hold. As a big caveat, you better have some badass experience to support your credentials. Otherwise, you’ll come off as a phony.
Certain employers carry a lot of weight in some industries. For example, in the software space, it’s working at one of the following FAANG companies:
You’ll impress just about any outside employer with a FAANG company listed on your resume. Most people know how grueling the vetting process to getting hired at a FAANG company is.
There are certain projects, which are widely known. For instance, if you say you were the lead engineer for one of the following design projects, you’d gain instant credibility:
- The structural foundation of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai
- Hoover Dam upgrade
- Tesla’s Model S battery
- SpaceX’s Raptor engine
Even if your project isn’t monumental, you can still namedrop. Say you designed a substation for Apple’s new data center. The substation itself isn’t too awe-inspiring, but the ‘Apple’ name carries weight. Employers know it isn’t easy winning a bid from a large credible company like Apple.
“Engineering resume buzzwords” wrap up
An engineering resume needs to clearly and succinctly showcase what you can do for an employer. And the more punch each of your buzzwords delivers, the more easily you can pull this off.
So choose your buzzwords carefully, and place yourself in the seat of a hiring manager. Because your choice of words can be the difference between getting a shot at an interview or not.
What are your favorite engineering resume buzzwords to use? Are there any words or phrases you avoid in your engineering resume?
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Koosha started Engineer Calcs in 2020 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 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, our history and future, sports, and fitness.