We all keep a reasonably up-to-date engineering resume (or cv) – unless of course we have been with one company for ever.

Dear Colleagues,

We all keep a reasonably up-to-date engineering resume (or cv) – unless of course we have been with one company for ever. In these uncertain times it is good to keep in mind what is required or indeed, you may need to help a buddy who needs support in writing his or her resume. A good resume is vital whether you are an electrician or a chief engineer.

This short note is to help you create a winning engineering resume with a business edge. Which I believe is vital to success.

What is a Resume?

It is essentially a one-page summary of who you are and why your skills and know-how are aligned with the job under offer. The key element is to understand your audience (interviewer or would-be employer) and to market yourself in an eye-catching way which reduces the perceived risk of your would-be employer.

Different audiences require different information. You have to compete with many other resumes and ensure that your write-up hits the target and gets the potential employer reaching for the phone to talk to you further.

The content is not as important as the way you present it. I am not suggesting you lie, cheat, or steal to get the job you want. But, you need to carefully consider what the would-be employer is after.

Suggestions, Suggestions and More Suggestions

Some suggestions for writing your next resume:

  • Focus on what the job requires. A generic resume will never make it.
  • Keep the overall document simple and easy to understand.
  • Ensure your grammar and spelling is 100%. The tiniest of mistakes here can poison an otherwise good resume. Get a competent friend to check this aspect. 
  • Avoid excessive information about you which is not related to the job. You are probably detail-oriented but employers don’t have time to read through masses of information.
  • Leave lots of white space between sections. Balance, symmetry and a professional appearance are critical. White space between sections is a good thing. You want the feeling of spaciousness. Bold and italicized print is fine, if done in a way that is complementary. 
  • Preferably format in block style using bullets. Avoid long drawn out paragraphs and ensure they have fewer than six sentences. Concentrate on providing action oriented words showing how you clearly benefited your previous organisation and had clear responsibility for an outcome. 
  • A short summary at the top of your document giving your key skills is useful to get the reviewer quickly up to speed with who you are and what you can do.
  • Jobs should include the name of employers, dates of employment and location. Watch out for giving the impression you are a job-hopper. If you are a job-hopper, you need to justify why you left the jobs. Honesty is always vital here.
  • Focus on your strengths rather than tasks you don’t enjoy doing. Demonstrate integrity with what you do. It is pointless applying for a job where you are going to be engaged in tasks you would hate.
  • Try and link your previous jobs to positive business achievements (increase in revenue or profitability or outstanding products or time saving solutions).
  • Remember that a truck load of qualifications is pretty useless when not linked to specific experience and results.

I like Leonard Bernstein's wry comment: To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.

Thanks to Elizabeth Lions of the IEEE for an excellent article on the topic.

Yours in engineering learning,

Steve

Mackay’s Musings – 31st March’15 #558
125, 273 readers – www.idc-online.com/blogs/stevemackay