An effective resume can make all the difference between landing an interview and getting tossed into the “no” pile. However, knowing how to write one can be challenging, especially since each industry has different expectations.
If you’re an engineering student ready to break into the workforce, check out these tips and tricks from a career advisor and an engineering student to find out how to “engineer” a winning resume:
Show who you are and what you’re passionate about
Tanya Gillert, a Career Advisor at the University of Waterloo, recommends including a brief overview about yourself using bullet points at the top of your resume.
“Focus on what type of engineering you’re apt in,” she says, “and highlight not only years of experience and academics, but something unique. For example, achieving a bronze medal after four years on the swim team showcases dedication and commitment,” two qualities that employers may be looking for in new engineers.
Emphasize extra-curricular activities
“A lot of engineering students forget that soft skills are actually important . . . they matter a lot to employers,” says Yi-Wei Ang, President of the You’re Next Career Network and an Industrial Engineering student at the University of Toronto who has worked at IBM and held leadership positions with a number of engineering-related student organizations.
“It’s very common for engineering students to focus solely on their school work because their workload is generally heavier than in other fields,” he says. “However, you can be working on your career-building skills from day one. Spend some time figuring out what field you want to be in, how you’ll get there, and how you can create your personal brand.”
One of the best ways to do that is by participating in student groups and other extra-curricular activities and then using that experience to showcase your leadership, teamwork and communication skills.
Including specific accomplishments with as much detail as possible is also key, Yi-Wei says. For example, “Created original application for [name of program] using [name of software/tool] for [this purpose].”
Tanya agrees that engineering employers are looking to see results, not simply that you have three years experience at various placements. “Use words like ‘increased’, ‘enhanced’ or ‘maximized’, which show the end result of certain places you worked or projects you were a part of,” she says.
Use keywords to strengthen your resume
Keep in mind that most students or recent grads who are applying for a job will have similar experience and skill sets as you. Instead of using the same words and phrases to apply for every job, use the keywords from each job listing to build a new resume.
“The biggest tip I can offer is to make sure you look at the job posting closely,” Yi-Wei says. “Use your keywords [from the job description] and then highlight specific examples regarding how you’ve utilized these skill sets.”
Tanya also suggests using resources like Google AdWords and LinkedIn to find out what keywords are in high demand, and then match them to your own experience. “On LinkedIn you can type in your field and it’ll bring up all the related skills, which gives you all the keywords you need.”
To access this feature on LinkedIn, place your mouse over “More” at the top right of the navigation and click “Skills & Expertise”.
Show your personality, but don’t overdo it
As a future engineer, your resume doesn’t have to be super flashy or visually creative, but there are a few ways to show employers your personality.
Tanya recommends “including examples that really mean something to you, so when you have interviews you can discuss these experiences that you’re passionate about.”
Yi-Wei echoes this idea: “Cookie cutter resumes will never help you stand out,” he says. “You want to show an employer that you put in effort and tried to make yourself stand out without going too crazy on the layout.” At most, use a different style of header at the top of the page.
Top 4 quick tips:
To summarize, Tanya offers the following quick tips:
- Display your personality and originality through your unique experiences and accomplishments
- Showcase specialities using specific examples
- Be relevant and action-oriented – don’t just list tasks or responsibilities
- Change your summary section for every job you apply to