Here are common mistakes when formatting your engineering resume and helpful strategies for improving your job search results.

Video transcript:

I had a recent EIT event for young professionals. We offered a resume review. To answer a question we get asked over and over. Can you look over my resume and tell me what’s wrong with it? After reviewing 80 or so resumes from the event participants, my business partner Navgeet and I made some common observations of resumes that I will share with you and you may use, hopefully, to improve your resumes. There may be many reasons why your resume is not working for you. Here are few to consider:

Relying on just one version of your resume for all applications.

Having the wrong headings in your resume, a layout that’s not applicant tracking system friendly or what we call ATS for short.

A lack of context surrounding your skills or your accomplishments including measurable results or what we call metrics.

Metrics are extremely important in engineering related resumes and provide the context that you need to demonstrate your skills. A lack of customization to reflect the right keywords and keyword phrases for the jobs you’re applying to can also be a detriment to your resume.

Your resume is commonly divided into headings and we saw a hodgepodge of words for headings. Use headings that are commonly used such as the LinkedIn headings. LinkedIn headings are in common use today to separate different sections of your resume and are recognize by most ATS. These are the following types of headings that should be used:

Your summary and underneath your summary you can have a headline then skills then education if you’re a newer graduate if not, you would put your experience next and then if you’re a senior person you will put your education after your experience. Avoid the use of the word profile and stick with summary and make sure to drop the heading relevant skills just use skills for obvious reasons. Stick to these common headings and the automated applicant tracking systems will like you.

The next big thing we observed was layout craziness. Fancy resumes just don’t cut it with the computers today, things written in the margins or pictures or graphs or weird fonts. Stick to the basics simply nothing fancy like the layout in the example that we gave you. Older ATSs cannot read headers so do not put your name and contact info in a header. Adjust your page layout and eliminate the header and add your contact info to the top of the body of the document. This change alone can be the difference between getting a call and no call because if your contact information is missing, theoretically because it’s been scanned then you’re not going to get a call.

Use a PAR structure (Problem Action Result) in crafting the description of your accomplishments within your experience section that is the context. Tell us what the problem was, the action you took or your team took together and the result of that action. Use metrics, numbers, percentages, measurements to describe those actions and those results. It’s engineering and it’s all about the numbers when it comes to your resume.

If you use the heading experience rather than work experience, you can use school projects or volunteer experience to demonstrate your accomplishments and your skills so to add extra context to those skills. Give us some context surrounding your projects and skills that is critical. For example, I spoke to one person at this event who said he had no Canadian experience and he felt that was holding him back from getting interviews. And I asked him what he worked on in his native country and he said a dam. I said which dam? He said the biggest dam in Oman G2 flood protection dam. I asked why it was not on his resume by name or why there wasn’t a great description of it. He said nobody would know about this dam. I said okay, what size is it? How many gallons of water does it retain? What’s it for? If it’s for electricity, how many megawatts does it produce? If it’s for freshwater, how many people does it supply? The answers were impressive. But he wasn’t leveraging this information on his resume as accomplishments. Give the context, connect the dots for the employer and get the job.

If you’re a new grad, new to the country or an experienced engineer connect the dots for the employer and use PAR (Problem Action Results) to your benefit and give that context. It does not matter what the company you work for, or the project is called. What matters most, is how you describe the project and demonstrate how you applied your skills to solving problems or making improvements.

Finally, make sure you have the right keywords and key phrases and use the employer specific words from the job description to customize your resume and check your resume using an automated tool like job, determine how your resume scores against the job description. For example, if they use the word vehicle in their job description, you use automotive, make sure you add the word vehicle to your resume, you are submitting for that particular job. Remember, it’s not what you know or your qualifications that get you an interview because everyone that’s competing with you has essentially the same base qualifications. It’s how you demonstrate what you can do or what you have done with those qualifications that gets you an interview and gets you hired when you do the same in an interview.

If you’re interested in learning how to break down job descriptions and determine the keys to the job, how to write a resume to demonstrate what you can do for an employer with the qualifications you have and how to customize your resume and the science of writing engineering cover letters then make sure to check out the upcoming job search courses at OSPE.

To attend our live-stream job search workshops, sign up here