How To Make Your Entry-Level Engineering Resume Stand Out

According to Glassdoor, for one job opening, only 2% of applicants will be called in for an interview. Yikes…that sounds intimidating. But don’t stress, I’m here to help you be part of that 2% by letting you know how to make your entry-level engineering resume stand out.   

You see, I have been on both sides of this process. As an engineering student, I held three internships and landed my dream job out of college. Then, as an engineer I have interviewed numerous candidates ranging from co-ops to principal engineers. Moreover, I’ve worked at a number of career fairs. Therefore, I am going to give you insight into what employers are looking for, which will make you stand out.

First, let’s start with what not to do. Hiring managers are bombarded with resumes so they look for easy mistakes to quickly cut the pile down. As reported by Careerbuilder, 39% of HR managers spend less than a minute initially looking at a resume and 19% spend less than 30 seconds. Therefore, make sure you don’t give them a reason to pass you by, by avoiding the mistakes below.

Here’s what not to do if you want to make your entry-level engineering resume standout:

1. Don’t List Course Work

By stating you are an engineering major you are already covering this. It also takes up space that you could be using for valuable information to make you stand out. The majority of resumes I’ve seen from students include a course section, but yours won’t!

Instead think about what you did in those courses. For example, did you learn a specific skill? Did you complete a project? What was the outcome of the project? Did you lead a team working on a group project? This is much more important to an employer than listing classes. In addition, it is great to use if you do not have any relevant work experience. This is the information to include instead.`

2. Don’t Include An Interests Section

The interests section immediately makes the employer assume you are trying to take up space because you are lacking experience. It looks unprofessional as well. The only exception is if the interests relates to the job. For instance, you participated in a robotics club or you enjoy carpentry. These are hands on interests that are relevant to engineering. On the other hand, maybe you traveled to over 40 countries and the job you are applying for is a global company. If the job requires a lot of travel, then this would be okay to add as well.

You can also highlight your personality using a volunteer section for your resume. Think of it as what can you do for the company as opposed to an about me. So keep the relevant interests and ditch the irrelevant, like gym enthusiast (yes, that was on a resume).

3. Don’t List The Wrong Degree

This one might be shocking to you, but I have seen it a number of times so it made the list. If you are doing all of the work to get an engineering degree, please list it on your resume correctly. Do not list a Bachelor of Arts when you are getting a Bachelor of Science. You can verify the degree you are receiving by looking in the course catalog under your major. There, you can double check how your degree and major should be listed on your resume.

4. Don’t Have An Unprofessional Email Address

This may not seem like a big deal, but it is. Employers are looking for quick ways to review resumes so do not give them an easy reason to reject yours. Surprisingly, 35% of employers will reject your resume if it has an unprofessional email address. Usually your school email address is appropriate because it will usually be your name, such as emma.johnson@umass.edu. So use that instead of your personal email address you created in high school that might not be professional.

5. Don’t List Something You Cannot Speak

There is nothing worse than sitting in an interview and being asked about something on your resume, that you cannot answer. Everything on your resume you should be able to talk about. Answering questions about your resume should be the easy part of the interview.

For example, if you list that you designed a specific part for a group project, you may be asked to explain how you did it or what materials you used. If you cannot elaborate or answer easy questions about a topic, it is better to leave it off your resume.

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Here’s what you should do to make your entry-level engineering resume standout:

1. Start With The Basics

    • Key sections you should include are contact information, education, work experience, projects, skills (computer, languages, activities/volunteer/leadership), and awards/honors.
    • Add your GPA to the education section if it is a 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale.
    • Make sure to list your employment and project work experience in order of most recent to oldest.
    • Use bullet points under each section to make your resume easy to read.
    • Start each bullet point with an action verb, such as developed, designed, led, and organized.

2. Customize Your Resume To The Job Description

The first thing you should do when you want to apply for a job is to start with the job description. Review it and note the requirements that align with your skills and experiences. Make sure that these are included in your resume.

Remember, your job is to show the employer how you can help them. The contents of your resume should be relevant to the company. An easy way to do this is by using what they are looking for and including it in your resume. Careerbuilder says 60% of HR managers pay attention to whether their resume has been customized to their open position. Therefore, by doing this you will stand out!

However, make sure you do not copy the job description. Make sure it is in your own words and that it fits naturally. In addition, do not over stuff your resume with the job description, otherwise it will seem like you are just copying the job description.

If you are applying to multiple jobs, then it is okay and a best practice to have multiple versions of your resume. This way you will ensure you are tailoring each resume to the specific job you are applying.

3. Highlight Your Work Experience And Technical Accomplishments​

Many students sell themselves short when it comes to their accomplishments and experience. For example, I have seen an entry-level engineering resume that has internship experience listed, but one of the bullets is- Performed testing. Testing is valuable experience, but this person is selling themselves short. You see, they did not include the equipment they used, what they tested, why they did the testing, and the result.

Including the equipment used will show your knowledge of test equipment. Also, noting what you tested and why demonstrates the importance of the testing to the project. Above all, including the result shows the value you brought the company, which again, is what all employers care about.

Therefore, a simple equation for writing a description that is sure to stand out is action verb+task accomplished+result=great bullet. Following this equation the above example could be improved to- Performed tensile testing using an Instron to determine which material to choose for the design.

Whenever possible, it is great to include numbers, such as dollars made or percent of time saved, for your result. This quantifies your impact, which will impress employers.Using this formula will ensure you stand out by thoroughly explaining your experience!

4. Detail Your Project Experience

This section is particularly important if you have not had an internship yet. Your project work will be the most relevant representation of your work. This is a section many students leave off and it is a big mistake. You will stand out if you have this. Also, you can include anything from personal research projects to group projects. When describing the project on your resume, identify your role in the project, your contribution or responsibilities, and the outcome.

This is also a great place to emphasize your soft skills. Soft skills are also referred to as interpersonal skills. Some of these skills include communication, organization, and critical thinking. These are extremely important in engineer because engineers work with so many different people. Don’t just take my word for it. According to LinkedIn, 92% of talent professionals say soft skills matter as much or more than hard skills when they hire. Why is that? Soft skills are often challenging to teach. Most employers feel they can teach new hires technical skills, which is part of the on the job training. However, it is much more difficult to teach someone soft skills. Therefore, make sure to include these in your resume if you want to stand out!

Need some inspiration for the technical and soft skills employers are looking for? The good news is that we’ve built a quick summary list that covers all the skills so you can quickly identify your strengths to highlight on your resume and next interview, this will definitely pay off! For a limited time, get your free list now!

5. Include Categories In Your Skills Section

Having a skills section is critical for engineers. Some categories you could include are lab techniques and equipment, computer software, and languages. Make sure to include your experience or skill level for each (such as novice, intermediate, and expert).

For computer software, don’t forget to include the Microsoft Office Suite. This might seem obvious, like everyone knows this so why put it on your resume. However, it usually is in the job description, which you are trying to have your resume align with. Also, Word, PowerPoint, and Excel are critical in engineering. In addition if you are proficient in one of these areas, such as Excel, you should highlight that in the skills section.

6. Save As A PDF

Make sure you save your resume as a PDF and not a word document. Saving it as a PDF will ensure your formatting you worked so hard on is not impacted by the device the hiring manager views it on.

For example, if you write your resume on a Mac using Pages, the manager could open the document on a PC using Word. This could impact your formatting. Saving it as a PDF will ensure this does not happen.

Summary

If you already have a resume or you are just starting to draft yours, making sure you follow the suggestions above will make you stand out. To sum it up, be sure you avoid these five mistakes:

  • Don’t list course work
  • Don’t include an interests section
  • Don’t list the wrong degree
  • Don’t have an unprofessional email address
  • Don’t list something you cannot speak to

On the other hand, make sure you follow the guidelines below:

  • Start with the basics
  • Customize your resume to the job description
  • Highlight your work experience and technical accomplishments
  • Detail your project experience
  • Include categories in your skills section
  • Save as a PDF

By avoiding these 5 mistakes and following these 6 best practices will make your entry-level engineering resume stand out amongst your peers.

Need some inspiration for the technical and soft skills employers are looking for? The good news is that we’ve built a quick summary list that covers all the skills so you can quickly identify your strengths to highlight on your resume and next interview, this will definitely pay off! For a limited time, get your free list now!

If you enjoyed this article on how to make your entry-level engineering resume stand out or have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below!

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Source: Engineering Expectations

By Kelli Delfosse
Kelli Delfosse Kelli Delfosse