A CV/resume is designed to introduce you to potential employers, and to market your skills, experience, and strengths. While a small number of individuals have landed a job on the strength of their resume alone, in most cases, resumes are intended to pique employers’ interest, and get them to call you for an interview.
The problem, of course, is that most employers don’t spend a lot of time reviewing CVs. In fact, the typical recruiter spends only a few seconds reviewing resumes received for open positions. That means that you need to make it clear from the outset that you are the ideal candidate — and in the engineering field, that usually means highlighting your experience. Engineering employers value education, but they really want to know that you can apply your knowledge to real-world problems, and more specifically, that you have the experience that will help them solve their problems. In short, your experience carries the most weight on your resume, so you need to make it shine.
Putting Experience Front and Center
While you might be tempted to list your education on your resume first — after all, you spent four years (or more) and hundreds of thousands of dollars on your education — your experience needs to come first. Again, engineering employers look for this first, so make it worthwhile.
Ideally, you should put your professional experience first. How you choose to arrange this is up to you; the most common formats are reverse chronological and functional. With reverse chronological format, you list your experience in order, moving backwards from your most recent experience. In a functional format, you focus on the skills you have gained over your career, highlighting your greatest achievements, and then provide a short list of employers and dates.
If you have a list of employers or positions showing progressive advancement, then a chronological format is your best bet. However, when describing your experience, do not simply offer a list of job responsibilities. Prospective employers probably have a pretty good idea of what most job titles entail. Instead, focus on your achievements. What projects did you work on, what were the outcomes, what did you achieve in your tenure with the company. In other words, don’t just say that you were part of a team, but rather share what your role on the team was and how you moved the project forward.
If you don’t have a great deal of experience, such as when you are a new grad, or if you have gaps in your employment history, then a functional resume is often a better choice. With this format, again, focus on your achievements and the skills you gained over the course of your internships and jobs. Avoid using generic terms, and provide specific, quantifiable evidence of what you are capable of and what you’ve done so far.
But I Don’t Have a Lot of Experience!
If you are a recent graduate, or a career changer, you may not have a great deal of engineering experience. You can still provide employers a glimpse into your capabilities by showing how the experience you do have relates to an engineering role. For example, include DIY or volunteer projects, or projects that you worked on as part of your coursework. Provide a short overview of the project, your role, and when you completed it, and most importantly the outcome of the project — preferably in specific, quantifiable terms.
If most of your experience is outside the engineering field, you can still include it. Just relate the experience to how you would use it in an engineering role. For instance, if you worked in a restaurant, you might mention that you were responsible for maintaining tools and equipment, and that you learned about the need for precision and how it affected the overall outcome of a project. Or perhaps your experience in a clothing store taught you about customer service. Whatever your experience, relate it to the requirements of the job and show that you have the necessary skills.
When to Get Help
If you are struggling to effectively highlight your experience on your resume, consider hiring professional resume writers to help you find ways to show your skills in the best possible light. A professional can also help if you are sending out resumes, but not getting any response, or if you are shifting into a career in engineering and aren’t sure what to include or how to structure your resume.
Above all, though, remember that an engineering resume should be experience focused — and that you want to show employers that you have the skills they want to reach their goals. Once you score the interview, then you can show all your other amazing qualities.
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