Engineering a Better Résumé

About 1% of applicants write a good résumé, while 50% are bad and 49% could be improved.  I've compiled a list of 11 tips to help engineers, like you, move your resume closer to the 1% of good résumés.

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These are 11 ways to make your technical résumé better.  Let's dig a little deeper into each one.

1. Phone

Your potential employer may contact you by phone.  Here are 4 things you need to confirm about your voicemail settings:

  • Is your voicemail set up?
  • Is your message professional?  It should be short and sweet like "Hi, you've reached the voicemail of Gavin Simone.  Please leave a message and number and I'll call you back soon."
  • Is there room for new messages?  Make sure you keep your voicemail box empty so you can receive new messages.
  • Will anyone else be picking up the phone?  Maybe you can't give them your cell number or maybe you've sent them your home number too.  Tell anyone who might be picking up the phone to handle it in a professional manner.

2. Email

Make sure you list a professional email address.  This should be something like [email protected]  It should not be [email protected]  It should also not be your corporate email address since your current employer won't like you using its resources to find new employment.

3. Space

Leave sufficient white space to allow for quick scanning of headlines.  You want to avoid cramming everything in too tightly or leaving large awkward spaces in between headings.  Make it look consistent to show the reader that you are detailed oriented.

4. Titles

Your resume doesn't need a title like Civil Engineer on there.  You don't want to box yourself into a particular role since the company hiring you may have other plans for what you will do in the future.  Similarly, no one needs to know that your objective is to get a good job with a nice company.  Remove the objective since we all know what your objective is when applying to a job.

5. Education

Education should appear after experience and should contain basic information like school name, date graduated, program name and grade point average if it was particularly good.  Do not list your high school education.

6. First Bullet

Your first bullet under each employer can explain what you were responsible for. After that, make sure that each of the following bullets talks about your key accomplishments.

Be sure to quantify each one (e.g. “Designed ... resulting in $75k savings for the client”).  Far too often, I see resumes that list day-to-day job duties like "Coordinated activities with operations, finance, legal, estimating, procurement and construction".  This reads like a job duty – something you would find on a job posting, "We need someone to coordinate activities with operations . . ."   Do you see the issue?

You need to tell the reader about your unique accomplishments.  For example, "I coordinated the budgeting activity with operations and finance departments to allocate $12.5 million on a low-rise office complex."

7. Gaps

Let's face it – not all of your past employment stints have worked out.  Maybe you stayed at a job for less than a year.  You need to explain short employment stints or gaps in employment with a positive statement. Never blame a bad manager or company – it will always reflect poorly on you.

8. Variety

Use a variety of verbs to avoid being repetitive.  Here is a list of 185 resume verbs to help you use a better variety in your bullets.  When you use them, remember to be consistent with tense (either past or present).

9. Spell check

Spelling and grammar matters. Have them checked by someone other than MS Word.  See point #11 for some commonly misspelled words.

10. Consistency

Be consistent with font, spacing, between lines and sections and colour of text.  The consistency of your resume is a reflection of how your employer will imagine the quality of your written work (e.g. technical reports, meeting minutes, site inspection reports) once you are hired.

11. Commonly misspelled

Words or abbreviations that are commonly misspelled on a résumé are:
Excited, implement, independent, innovative, occasional, P.Eng., practice (noun)/practise(verb), principal/principle, separate, success.

Is your engineering résumé ready?

Let us help you find your next engineering job in Canada. Head over to our recruitment page where you can send us your resume and enter our select candidate pool. We'll get in touch if your resume closely matches one of our client's open jobs.

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1 Comment

  1. Gavin Simone on July 10, 2018 at 11:32 am

    I hope this infographic allows you to craft a better resume. While all sections of a resume are important, the professional experience section is critical. As mentioned in bullet #6 above, what employers are likely most interested in is your key accomplishments (not job duties). Make sure those are impressive and are quantitative.

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