One of the most key elements of success in a job search is the CV and the engineering CV can often be one of the more difficult documents to develop. The CV is the job seeker’s primary marketing document that sells the product – the skills and experience of the engineer. To be effective, an engineering CV must grab the attention of the reader in a matter of seconds. A good engineering CV will extend that attention span to over a minute. Better yet, a successful CV will prompt the reader to contact the job seeker. In effect, the success of the job search revolves around the effectiveness of the first step – the CV.
No one knows your background and experience better than you. Most engineers can get the basics of their projects and experience down on paper in a sensible fashion. What most engineers who write their own CVs have difficulty with is making that sell to the reader. Here are seven tips to help you make your engineering CV stand out.
1. Select the best organisational format. Most CVs are written in chronological (reverse time order) format, but that does not mean that the chronological choice is best for you. A combination format may be best. The combination format is evenly balanced between skillset description, achievements, and employment history, with the advantage being that projects can be highlighted for greater impact.
2. Consider it an investment in your future. You might have written a CV when you applied for previous jobs or internships or you may never have written a CV before. Either way, the CV is your first opportunity to tell potential employers why you’re the right person for the job, so it’s worth investing in a professional to make it as good as possible.
3. Assume that your CV will be viewed on a computer screen rather than on a piece of paper. Most CVs are sent, received, and managed via PC. That does not mean that the document has to be drab and ugly, visually. Many engineers who include a link to their LinkedIn profile that contains images or pictures of project work have good success in securing interviews.
4. Find a balance between wordiness and lack of detail. Employers need to see details about your work history and engineering experience, but they don’t need to know everything. Keep the information relevant to the goal of attaining an interview.
5. Think “accomplishments” rather than “job duties”. What made you stand out from the crowd? How did you come up with a way to do things better, more efficiently, or for less cost? What won honours for you? Information such as this will be what makes you grab attention and put your engineering CV on the top of the stack.
6. Keep it positive. Reason for leaving a job, setbacks, failed initiatives, or industry downturns etc. do not have a place on an engineering CV. Employers are seeking people who can contribute, have a positive attitude, are enthusiastic, and have successfully performed similar job skills in the past. Concentrate on communicating these issues and avoid any detracting information.
7. Make absolutely sure your document is error-free. An error in a CV can often be the killer between two closely matched candidates. Engineers are expected to be detail-oriented so an error in the engineering CV reflects badly on possible future performance.
Remember, CVs do not get jobs – people get jobs. CVs get interviews. Most first-time job interviews are conducted via telephone rather than in person as they used to be. Make sure you are prepared for that telephone call when it arrives. And make sure you have an engineering CV that will make the phone ring!