CV Tips for Engineering Graduates
As the summer break is drawing to a close it may have just occurred to some graduates that the ominous world of work lays ahead. Fear not engineering graduates, your skills are in demand and a well-polished CV may be all that sits between you and your dream job. These are our top tips for getting your CV to the top of the pile.
Tailor your CV for every application
You’ve heard this before but it’s really important. Recruiters and HR people can spot a generic CV a mile off and unfortunately, it just signals a lack of interest in the job. If you have a general engineering degree you should really highlight modules, projects or work experience that fits the role as you may be competing with mechanical, civil or aeronautical engineering grads. If you applying for a broad array of engineering roles you may end up with multiple, very different documents.
Lots of engineers graduate with only a vague idea of the field they want to work in, some have a fifty-year career mapped out. If you’re applying for a job that you are not too sure about, remember the competition may have designed their degree to fit this very role. You may get lucky but if you don’t tailor your CV don’t expect to even receive an acknowledgement of your application
Personal Statements for Engineering Graduates
We always recommend a short personal statement at the very beginning of your CV and this is where you can focus on a tailored approach. It should be a short paragraph, 2 or 3 sentences, that outlines your skills, experience and motivations. It gives an immediate impression of you as both an engineer and as an individual.
For jobs with huge application rates this paragraph may be the difference between the ‘looks interesting’ and ‘don’t bother’ piles. It sounds harsh but unfortunately, it’s the reality in those competitive roles. Focus on what you can offer in the specific job you’re applying for rather than blowing your own trumpet. If you’re going to dedicate your time to your CV, this is where you should focus your efforts. The rest is just stating the facts.
The biggest problem with hiring engineering graduates is that clients complain that they have general skills and it’s difficult to recognise the potential. You need to differentiate yourself from everyone in your course, your year, your country. Don’t waste your time applying for roles that you don’t have the knowledge for. Focus on the roles that you fit and be specific about what you do.
Detach yourself from your ego and get into the mind of the company. What do they want and how do you provide that? A broad statement like ‘I have a keen attention to detail and dedication to empirical findings’ means almost nothing in comparison with ‘during my placement with BAE systems I worked with a small team to analyse and provide effective solutions to….’. Don’t be afraid of adding testimonies from placement managers or even academic staff if appropriate.
Be Confident but not Arrogant
As recruiters, one of the biggest failings of engineering graduate CVs (not limited to graduates, but more prevalent in) is the extremes of confidence. A CV that comes across as arrogant suggests a lack of willingness to learn. If you trumpet your achievements as groundbreaking, you’re going to alienate hirers that need down-to-earth great engineers. There is always more to learn! On the other hand, if you pepper your CV with disclaimers e.g. “I would consider myself a better than average achiever”, “Although I achieved a first in my degree, I have much to learn and would appreciate considerable input into furthering my career,” you instil doubt.
The best advice is to get a trusted (not family) contact to read your CV, dispassionately, and listen to what they say. You need to be genuine, confident and rational – that’s what is required of engineers. It’s almost impossible to do by yourself, so get advice.