The Basics of How to Write an Engineering Resume
Does the idea of how to write an engineering resume have you stumped? I understand; writing a great engineering resume is difficult. The first engineering resume that I wrote was awful. It’s taken years of working in the engineering field to learn the secrets of how to write an engineering resume.
Your resume is you. It is all of your education, experiences, and expertise. It is everything you have done and everything you can do. It is a written representation of you. Your resume is not meant to just describe you, but to sell you to your prospective employer.
The average time a recruiter spends looking at a resume is six seconds. If the resume does not grab their attention, it gets discarded. If the resume breaks one of many unwritten rules, it gets discarded. If the recruiter finds anything wrong with the resume or just does not like it, it gets discarded.
As a Professional Engineer, I have reviewed hundreds of resumes from graduate engineers looking for their first job. In doing this, I have noticed what separates the good resumes that are selected to move on from the bad resumes that get discarded. There are rules engineers should follow, especially entry-level engineers.
This article is geared toward all engineers. It does not matter if you are a civil engineer, mechanical engineer, chemical engineer, or electrical engineer. The basics of an engineering resume are all the same. That is why this article is geared toward teaching you the basics of how to write an engineering resume.
The Parts of an Engineering Resume
To learn how to write an engineering resume, you first need to understand the parts of an engineering resume.
Resumes have several basic components that make up the resume format. The information contained in these components can change, but generally each component is present. The main components are as follows:
Your name and contact information should always be at the top of the page. You do not want someone to have a hard time trying to find it, because they won’t. The next section is always the resume summary. Just like when you write a technical paper, you always start with the executive summary.
Other than that, the order of these sections can change. You want to put them in the order that will best sell you. If your experience section is your strongest selling point because of several internships, put that section next. If education is your strongest selling point, put that section right after your resume summary.
How to Write Each Section of an Engineering Resume
If you know how to write each section of your engineering resume, then you know how to write an engineering resume. Let’s look at how to write each section in detail and avoid some common mistakes engineers can make.
Your name should be at the very top of the resume. You want it to be easily visible even if the recipient glances at the resume.
Your contact information includes your address, phone number, and e-mail address. For your email address, make sure there is nothing inappropriate about it. If you are about to graduate, do not use your school e-mail address because you might not be able to access it once you graduate.
If you create a new e-mail address when applying for jobs, be sure to check it! I’ve sent out many requests for interviews and have not heard back for weeks because the engineering student forgot to check their new e-mail address.
This is a small paragraph at the top of your resume that gives the resume reader a quick summary of you. The resume summary paragraph should introduce you, include your college degree, and highlight any relevant experience. It lets the reader quickly determine if you meet the minimum qualifications for the job and gets them excited about you as a potential candidate.
If the job posting includes any specific requirements, like a specialized certification, a specific amount of experience, or a technical skill like computer software, you should include that in your resume summary.
The first thing recruiters do is weed out everyone who does not meet the minimum qualifications. You want to quickly demonstrate that you meet those qualifications so your resume does not get thrown away.
The wording for this section should flow smoothly. Just don’t state:
“I have 10 years of experience.”
“John Smith is a licensed Professional Engineer with 10 years of experience in Stormwater Engineering and is an expert in advanced HEC-RAS modeling.”
See how the second way sounds much better.
This section describes your educational experience. This should include the university you attended, location, years attended, degree program, and GPA. If you haven’t graduated yet, list your anticipated graduation date with the word “anticipated.”
Your highest level of degree should be listed first. If you have a master’s degree, list the school you obtained it from first, followed by the school you attended for your bachelor’s. If you attended two schools for one degree, list the school you graduated from first followed by the first school you attended.
If you attended summer school at a community college while enrolled somewhere else, you do not need to list it. Do not list your high school in this section either. If you are graduating from a university, it is assumed you graduated from high school, and it is not necessary to state it. Resume readers will not be impressed by it.
For your GPA, calculate both your overall GPA and your engineering GPA. Whichever one is higher, list that one. Just be sure to identify which GPA you are listing. You do not want to misrepresent yourself.
After a few years of work, the experience section should comprise most of the resume. However, entry-level engineers without any experience often struggle to know how they should fill out this section.
For engineers just graduating from college, experience should mostly revolve around paid and unpaid engineering internships and, to a lesser degree, other miscellaneous jobs. If you did not have any internships, then experience can include roles in professional organizations, research participation, volunteering roles, etc.
Just because you did not get paid does not mean it was not valuable experience. Experience should not include anything from high school unless you did something extraordinary.
Similar to the school section, experience should be listed chronologically with the most recent experience first. The exception to this rule is internships or relevant engineering experience. If you had an engineering internship, be sure to list that first in the experience section. When someone is reading your resume, that is the one item you want to jump out at them, because it is the most relevant in helping you get the job.
The amount you write for each experience should be equal to how relevant the experience is to the job you are trying to get. If you have an engineering internship, you should expand on this by providing five or more experience statements. If you also worked at Chipotle (which I love), you probably only need one to two experience statements to describe your work.
The main idea of your resume is to sell you. You should put emphasis on your experiences that will best sell you to your future employer.
Skills come in two forms: “soft skills” and “hard skills.” Soft skills relate to how you work. They can include problem solving, creative thinking, teamwork, time management, positive attitude, and conflict resolution.
Hard skills are teachable abilities. For engineers, hard skills tend to revolve around computer software, like modeling, designing, or programming. Be sure to read the job posting to make sure you list any skills required for the position.
The skills section should be mostly hard skills with one or two soft skills. For soft skills, my two favorites are problem solving and positive attitude.
You should also check the job posting to see which hard skills and soft skills are listed as job requirements. As many of these skills as applicable should be included on your resume.
The last section of the resume is your achievements section. It highlights your achievements in a way that makes employers want to hire you. Here are some examples of different types of achievements you can list:
Scholastic achievements like awards, grants, or scholarships that you’ve won
Certifications, including your Engineer-in-Training (E.I.T.) certification
Professional organizations where you served in a position
Engineering competitions you were involved in
Senior design group projects
How to Write an Engineering Resume – Step by Step
Now that you know the parts of an engineering resume, you know how to write an engineering resume. All you have to do is put it all together. Follow these easy steps to assemble your resume.
Download the free guide, The Winning Entry-Level Engineering Resume. At the end of this guide is the Engineering Resume Checklist. It is a form created to help you brainstorm everything you will need for each section of your resume.
Find a resume template that suites you. The hybrid style resume templates seems to work the best for entry-level engineers.
Find a free resume template on Google.
Purchase a nicer resume template.
Use resume software like www.zety.com to create a really fancy resume.
Which ever resume template you use, make sure it is complaint with applicant tracking software (ATS). You don't want a computer to throw away your resume because it can not read it very well.
Use the information you filled out on the Engineering Resume Checklist to easily input everything needed into your resume.
Have your resume professionally reviewed. No matter how careful you are, there will be mistakes or wording that could be improved upon. Don’t lose out on your next job because of an incorrect word.
Write a Better Engineering Resume
We know how hard it can be to take an average resume and turn it into a great resume that gets selected for interviews. That is why we wrote a free guide to The Winning Entry-Level Engineering Resume.
This guide is made for entry-level engineers who are learning how to write an engineering resume and who want to make that resume awesome.
Do you want to be successful and get the engineering job you want? Then don’t let your resume be what holds you back from your destiny. Let us send you your free guide in seconds.
Way to take charge of your engineering career. I am happy you have decided to start mastering the skills behind how to write an engineering resume. I hope you find unlimited success and change the world!