Experience Record – Ontario – day 4

Five Days to Ontario Experience Record Success
- with Gavin Simone, P.Eng. - Day 4

How-to Find the Right Length For Each Project Example

What really is an Experience Record?


Well, it’s dozens of project examples that showcase your engineering work experience. In yesterday’s post, I briefly mentioned that I recommend the following number project examples for each competency for each employer:


  • 5-6 for Application of Theory
  • 5-6 for Practical Experience
  • 3-4 for Management of Engineering
  • 2-3 for Communication Skills
  • 2-3 for Knowledge of the Social Implications of Engineering
application of theory


Why have I recommended more examples for the first two competencies?  Well, PEO places more weight on these (see page 6 - section 2.2) so it makes sense to have more examples explaining what you have done to suit the expectation.

Now let's dig into the project examples a little more. For each employer, you’re going to have about 17-22 examples. Now for 1 employer you may have only been working on 1 large project. That’s fine. Your 17-22 examples are really just problems/situation that you made better. Break out the larger project(s) into stages and then write about how you added value to it.

You want to make sure that each situation is the appropriate length and contains the right information to make the reviewer happy. The right information is achieved when you follow the WWHO formula covered in Day 1.

To determine the right length, my analogy is from the classic story Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  In short, Goldilocks, a young blonde girl, goes walking in the forest and find this house. She breaks in and makes herself at home.  She sees some porridge on the table and the first bowl is ‘too hot’, the second is ‘too cold’ and the third is ‘just right’. After she’s done eating she’s tired and goes for a nap. The first bed is ‘too short’, the second is too long’ and the third is ‘just right’.

Your goal is to make each example the ‘just right’ length.   

Let’s look at a real example that is ‘too short’.

An experience record example that is too short

You can see that we have a word count of 37.  It is impossible to explain the WWHO formula (What you’ve done, Why you’ve done it, How  you did it, and the Outcome) in 37 words.

Short examples like the one above give me the impression that the applicant didn’t do anything meaningful.  This is not where you want to find yourself.

Now Here is one that is simply ‘too long’.

An experience record example that is too long

The above 304-word project example, and the vast majority of long examples tend to have the following problems: 1) they bore the reader;   2) contain definitions and useless facts;  3) are not concise.

Remember that PEO reviewers are volunteers. They don’t want to spend an entire weekend on your application so make it concise and specific to your contributions. No definitions and no babble please.

Here’s an example that I believe is ‘just right’.  

Great length for an experience record situation.

The above example is 156 words.  After reviewing dozens of experience records from aspiring engineers, I’ve found that the magic word range to properly explain one example is between 150 to 200 words (for Application of Theory and Practical Experience - 100 to 150 for the other 3 competencies).  If it’s shorter, you might be leaving something out.  If it is longer, you may be combining two situations that can be broken out.

Notice how the above example nails the WWHO formula perfectly.  Let’s look at each piece:

What - I spent 7 months working with technicians
Why - To learn the inner workings of CNC machines to deliver more value to my clients.
How (problem + solution) - Applied knowledge of the engineering process to make machine modification to save fabrication time.
Outcome - We won the RFP and derived on time to the customers satisfaction.

Good things happen when you stick with the WWHO formula and ensure each example is between 100 to 150 or 150 to 200 words.  

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