Real Resumes for Engineering Jobs

1. You're an actual careers expert, you've written a frightening number of books on resumes in a very wide range of professions, including self employment and growing a business. Real Resumes for Engineering Jobs is a very tough subject, extremely technically demanding. What were your motivations for writing this one?

We have been in the business of preparing professional resumes and cover letters for all types of people, including engineering professionals, for 28 years. We decided to publish a book showing samples of great resumes and cover letters that have worked for people in the engineering field. We wanted engineering professionals to have a book they could use throughout their career, from one job hunt to another. If an engineering professional needs to write a resume, this book will help because it shows resumes of people in the field they have been working in. And people in the same field often say things in a similar way and have similar kinds of career issues. So engineering professionals will understand this book and will relate to the lingo in it.

2.What should engineers consider, when putting together a resume?

Engineers and other specialists tend to put too many acronyms and technical lingo in their resumes, and when employers read their resumes they tend to say, 'What?' rather than 'Wow! I want to meet this person.' You want to write about your projects and track record in understandable language. Try to present your accomplishments in a way that will get respect and lead to the next step-it might be a phone interview, or maybe a face-to-face interview. Employers are reluctant to interview people if they really don't understand their background. Any of us can seem stiff and boring if we speak only in techno-language. A great resume has personality, warmth, and is very reader-friendly. In addition to creating a friendly, warm resume that will make potential employers want to put out the welcome mat, you should also try to 'think like the potential employer' when you read the draft resume you have written. For example, you might think an employer will ask, 'Why have you job hopped so much?' Sometimes there are reasons why people change companies or jobs-if your company was bought by another company and you chose not to remain with the new employer, or if you were recruited by a former boss to work for him, or some other reason. You are in charge of the impression you are creating of yourself by the words you choose in the resume. Remember that a resume is a marketing tool and should be exciting! You are trying to arouse the employer's interest!

3. Do engineers have a portfolio, like artists, a showcase of their work?

In my experience, a portfolio is usually not needed. Most of the engineers I have helped through the years have used only a resume and cover letter to get the interview. Many people tell me that, if they can get the interview, they feel confident they can compete effectively for the job. The resume and cover letter are the tools for getting the interview. And the resume is the script for the interview, so don't put anything on a resume that you don't want to get asked about. Your resume may get passed around among numerous individuals as company officials determine the top three candidates to interview, so remember that your goal is to become one of the three people chosen for the interview. Once you get to the interview, the people interviewing you will be looking at the resume you sent in, so the resume is constantly being visited and revisited during the application process. Use the resume as a tool for showcasing your accomplishments, strengths, talents, and honors. One of the common mistakes I see is that many people don't have a resume that is as good as they are professionally. The resume is a tool you should use to 'show off' in a tasteful way, of course!

4. What are the things to avoid in creating an engineering resume?

Don't bury your reader in technical terminology. Think about the 'big picture' of what you did. Were you working on an million project that was designed to save a municipality more than million a year in operating costs? Let your reader savor the details of what your projects accomplished in terms of revenue production, cost savings, etc. Giving the details of your projects tends to instill credibility in what you've done and shows your bottom-line orientation. As far as length, a resume should be either one or two pages. If you do create a two-page resume, put the 'best stuff' on page one. In other words, put the stuff that's the best about you on page one. If you have had impressive experience but don't have the master's degree the potential employer would prefer, put your Education section on the second page. Maybe they will decide to meet you based on the exciting work experience you have put on page one. They might not read page two carefully before they interview you, but they will have your resume on their desk when they interview you, and it will determine the questions they ask you. If you have software expertise in a particularly 'hot' or in-demand area, don't bury that information on page two. If you've got it, flaunt it on page one! Assume that people are busy and the phone is ringing while they're reading your resume. Make it easy for them to understand what you've learned and accomplished in your career so far.

5. How should engineers match jobs and career aspirations?

Always think about the 'customer' who will be reading your resume. If you have a particular job vacancy you are responding to, read it carefully and 'tee off' on key phrases. Make sure you bear some resemblance to the job they are trying to fill. For example, if the position vacancy requests strong oral and written communication skills, make sure that your resume includes the fact that you wrote numerous reports and planning documents. Remember that people will be scanning the resumes submitted to see who has the key skills and proficiencies they have advertised for. It is possible to create a 'generic' resume that will work for all potential employers in a job hunt, and it is also possible to create a 'generic' cover letter that can be used each time you send your resume.

6. Can engineers do cold canvassing, expressing interest with employers, and create some extra jobs for themselves?

Great companies are always looking for talented people who are interested in working for them specifically. So it's a great idea to compile a 'hit list' of, say, 20 companies that you really want to work for, and send the CEO a cover letter and resume expressing your interest in exploring employment opportunities. (Don't worry-the CEO will send it down to the person in the organization who handles the hiring of people like you, and then your resume has come from the CEO.) If you would welcome part-time, contract, or full-time work, you can say that in the cover letter.

7. How do you manage an engineering career, as a contractor?

'If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there.' Most of us should ask ourselves periodically, 'What would I like to be doing 5 years from now?' Then make a strategic plan to get there. Sure, goals can change as we are influenced by life circumstances, significant others, health issues, and unexpected industry problems and opportunities, but it's nice to be in pursuit of a goal, and it's good to know where we'd like to be going. For example, you might think that you want to have earned a master's degree five years from now. That goal will lead you to choose a job in a city where educational opportunities are plentiful, if you are planning on working full-time and earning a degree in your spare time. The best way you can manage your career is to acquire a skill set and work experience that employers can use in their business to make money, cut costs, engineer new products, and serve customers. Your track record of accomplishments is what you are offering a potential employer.

8. What levels of legal knowledge do engineers need, in terms of contracts?

I believe in going to experts when expertise is needed. I would go to Anne McKinney or one of the Real-Resumes books for expertise in resume-writing, and I would go to a highly specialized attorney if I needed help in a specific matter. Sorry, I cannot give legal advice.

9. How do engineers target their resumes to potential employers?

Employers are looking for people who have a sincere interest in what the employer does, and the employer hopes that you might have skills and experience related to what the employer does. You don't always have to have experience in the potential employer's business-not everyone likes to hire someone who has worked for every other firm in the industry. Sometimes they have to 'un-train' you so that don't do what previous employers taught you to do. Your enthusiasm for the employer's product line or type of business is the most important asset you can bring to a potential new employer. Employers know that, if you like what you're doing, you are likely to stay with the company and excel in your job.

10. Any career resume can contain gaps, holes in the employment record. Engineering can be a stop start industry. How do engineers deal with these gaps?

Resumes that show only the year dates (2005-06) rather than the month/year dates (Oct 2005-Feb 2006) put less pressure on the job hunter to account for every single day in the year. Sometimes that also gives you the ability to leave a job off your resume that you absolutely hated and don't want to include on your resume. I believe in explaining gaps honestly. For example, sometimes people are 'unemployed by choice.' Sometimes one is a 'Consultant' working independently when one is not employed by a company. Anne McKinney would be glad to offer one-on-one advice to individuals who wish to call 910-483-6611 or e-mail with your question pertaining to the circumstances of your gaps.