My Resume Tips for Engineers

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It’s career fair and grad school application season and that means resumes! Resumes are your one page way to communicate everything you’ve done and this can be intimidating. Maybe you have a ton of experience and are trying to figure out how to best communicate it. Or maybe, you are in your first few years of school and trying to figure out how to maximize the more limited experiences you have had.  Whether it is your first time putting together your resume, or your 10th revision, check out my best tips below!

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So here we go with my best resume tips!

The Format

  1. Your resume should be one page. The only exception to this is if you are applying to graduate school and need to include everything, or if you have a lot of real-world work experience. 
  2. If you are taking your resume to a career fair or uploading it to an application portal, your application should be black and white. Often, recruiters will scan your resume with an iPad and having extra colors can lead to things not scanning properly
  3. List your position, the location, the dates and what you did (more on this below) in bullet points, not full sentences.
  4. Experience should be listed with the most recent at the top.
  5. Listing your position first vs the company or location first depends on the situation but it needs to be consistent. For a long time I chose to list the location first because I wanted my NASA internship to stand out so it looked like this:

NASA AMES Research Center

Instead of 

NASA Ames Research Center

Now for the really important stuff

  1. Use Action Words. This is a really great list Try to start each bullet point with one of these words
  2. Focus on outcomes and what you have achieved rather than what you did. Instead of
    “Hung flyers for SWE meetings and advertised at the student involvement fair”
    Tripled attendance at meetings by contacting potential members and increasing on-campus presence
  3. Include skills you have and tools you know how to use. This can be programming languages, 3D printers and other machining equipment, specific design software, speaking another language etc. People often struggle with including things on their resume if they feel like a beginner but it is totally acceptable to say for example “beginner level Matlab” just be prepared to explain what experience you’ve had with that specific thing. 
  4. If you are a freshman or sophomore and don’t have a lot to include, consider listing relevant coursework on your resume. This includes things like fundamentals of engineering, and other major-specific classes. Do not list things like calculus, physics etc. as everyone takes these classes!
  5. Look for keywords in the job posting or application and make sure you include the relevant words in your resume. If the posting says “looking for interns with strong teamwork skills” then use one of your bullet points to say “Worked as a team to develop an app that does XY&Z.
  6. Use categories to expand or condense information as necessary. If you need to save space, condense your work experience, projects and research into a category called “Experience”, use an “Awards and Recognitions” category to list all of your scholarships, deans list, student org recognitions and more. 
  7. Don’t dumb it down. Don’t say “We did” or “Our team accomplished” if YOU were the one who did it. Your resume is a place to brag about yourself and your accomplishments.

These tips can take you from a person who has some experience to a person who affects change, leads people, produces outcomes and has relevant skills. You’ve put a lot of work in and taking a slight break from that work and dedicating time to your resume is so worth it.

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