Standout resumes usually have similar qualities regardless of the specific position or industry. We all know that resumes should provide an honest and easy-to-read summary of a candidate’s greatest assets, they should be concise and grammatically correct, and they should reflect a general aura of competence.
But there are a few details that hiring managers specifically look for as they staff positions in engineering. And there are a few resume no-brainers that engineers seem to struggle with more frequently than employees in other fields. Oddly enough, in the engineering/resume-writing Venn diagram, some of these categories overlap. Let’s take a closer look.
Hiring managers in engineering fields are usually engineers themselves, or at least they were at one point. They’re often attuned to mechanical detail and they don’t like errors. So when they come across a resume with a spelling or grammar mistake, they’re even less inclined to be forgiving than hiring managers in other fields (and that’s not very forgiving).
At the same time, engineering applicants (especially young graduates with minimal experience), don’t often see things this way. A surprising number of engineering candidates forgive themselves for resume errors by saying “What does it matter? I’m applying for work as an engineer, not a grammar expert.”
The bad news: This logic doesn’t hold. The good news: There are plenty of messy engineering resumes out there. If yours isn’t among them, you’re already a step ahead.
Replace your objective with a summary
The resume “objective” is a typically a brief opening statement describing your goals and intentions. This is a wise inclusion if you’re in the midst of a career transition; otherwise, take a different approach.
Replace your objective with a “summary”, a few opening lines that provide a quick overview of your most important and relevant skills. The summary should be placed at the top of the page just under your contact information, and it should be between one and four lines long. This will be the most important section of the resume, so it should showcase you at your best. Think of it as an advertising tag line: Few words, big impact.
Keep it short and tight
When it comes to resumes, engineers like to ramble on for some reason. They seem to have a difficult time deciding which information to keep and which to cut. If in doubt, take it out. Remember this rule of thumb: hiring managers make a decision to keep or toss a resume within the first 30 seconds. Your most important projects and skills should hit home within that time frame. Don’t make a hiring manger sift through line after line of irrelevant detail and empty adjectives.
Shape your resume (and cover letter) to the position
It’s wise to mention the specific company and the hiring manger’s name in your application materials. But even more important, make sure the projects you list and the awards, certifications, and courses you include are all relevant to the position at hand. You’re not trying to win a prize for Greatest Number of Accomplishments. Rather, you’re trying to appeal to a hiring manager who has a specific task to complete: staffing this position. Don’t bombard her with generic qualifications. Just demonstrate that you’re a match for her needs.
For more expert tips and tricks that can help you with the job application process, contact the staffing team at CSS.