How to write the best engineering CV there is

Published: 20 Apr 2017 By Georgina Bloomfield

Engineers have a mixture of professional, essential and transferable skills. Putting these skills across in a CV can be difficult. For example, technical skills can be easily mentioned (the “you can either do it or you can’t” skills) but the other skills and experience you have aren’t as easily put across in a CV-like document. Because of this, you may be tempted to leave such skills out altogether, which could cost you a potential offer for an interview. If you’re looking for some tips to improve your engineering CV or even start it from scratch (which is usually a good idea, no matter what stage in your career you’re at) look no further!

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Think about presentation and layout

A CV isn’t just about writing everything down in chronological order. The first impression is so important; it determines whether your CV ends up in the bin or not. At first glance, a cluttered page with tiny font, barely any paragraph spaces and very narrow margins isn’t going to look like a document that anyone wants to read. Alternatively, a document that’s full of gaps and large or inconsistent font sizes is going to look equally as unappealing.

Try breaking up your CV with bullet points and line breaks where needed. This simple trick will make the document a lot easier on the eye. Only put things in bold that need to be – such as dates or job titles. Be consistent with this, stick to a method all the way through your CV. Inconsistent formatting looks scruffy and unprofessional.

No essays allowed

Your CV is not an essay about your entire working life. If something like a short term job is getting a bit old or undermining your current skills since you’ve advanced in your career - things like work experience or training programmes -  then it’s time to get rid of it and make space for something else that’s a bit more relevant and impressive. You may need to be ruthless with your experience, skills and even previous jobs. Many people actually have two or three different versions of their CV depending on the industry and employer they’re applying to. For example, some experience you have with an employer in one sector may not be relevant to an employer you’re applying do if they’re not in the same sector. However if it’s a competing company then it might be worth including.

Keep everything relevant and to the point when you’re drafting your CV. Some people try not to use the first person in their CV too much – in which case keep this consistent throughout the document. Also, as a rule of thumb, a CV shouldn’t be longer than two pages.

Separate jobs from experience

If you’ve had work experience or a summer placement, separate this from the paid jobs on your CV. You don’t need to highlight that it was unpaid work, but it can be useful for an employer to see what you ventured out to do (possibly in your own time) and what you were doing on a more professional level. This c an also include courses that you’ve pa\id for yourself and haven’t been sought through an employer’s training scheme.

Here’s a list of things you should not do on your CV:

  • Include a photo of yourself (unless you’re a model or in showbiz, there’s no need for it)
  • Use bright colours
  • Use crazy, unusual fonts
  • Include pictures (again if it’s relevant to include pictures, refer the employer to your portfolio)
  • Include religious, political or other personal preferences
  • Include your hobbies (unless it’s relevant)
  • Use colloquialisms
  • Lie (seriously, don’t even bother)
  • Include a\n inappropriate email address
  • Include your salary from previous positions. If you got a promotion, mention the various job titles you’ve had, rather than the pay increases.

Formatting and file types

It’s not a good idea to have your CV littered with charts, tables, graphs and so on. It may look really professional and that you’ve put a lot into it, but it’s not uncommon to have your CV rejected by job-matching software online. If you submit your CV to agencies or job sites, they scan your CV for key words and phrases. If you have tables and graphs in there, it confuses the system and ultimately gets your CV rejected. If you have some necessary charts and graphs, include them in a portfolio and reference said portfolio on your CV. Just say ‘portfolio on X and Y available on request’ underneath the experience/job you’re mentioning.

It’s also a good idea to have several file types of your CV saved. Some websites/agencies/employers only accept PDF documents, whereas others may only want a Word document. Save a copy of your CV to the cloud or Google Drive. Having a copy available no matter where you are is inherently useful. You never know when you may need it, and you don’t want to rely on a computer to store it in case something goes wrong and you lose it.

Most importantly…

Spellcheck that document! Read it aloud to yourself when you’re done typing it up. Print it out and read it to yourself – you’ll be surprised at what you find in print compared to on a document on your computer. Another good idea is to leave it for a day or two without looking at it – then take a look when you’ve got a fresher pair of eyes.

Get another perspective

If your employer knows your job hunting (e.g. your contract is coming to an end) it can be a good idea to get them to look at your new CV. They may be ab le to give you industry-specific tips and tricks that will make your CV stand out from the rest. They may even pass it on to their contacts in the business.

For a two-page document, you can spend hours and hours working on your CV. It’s not something you can type up over ten minutes and expect it to be perfect. Everyone’s CV is different – and you may get people telling you to do things on yours because they did it on theirs and they got a job. Sometimes this advice isn’t the best. You may be competing with hundreds of others just for one position, so make sure it’s accurate, to the point, relevant and altogether promotes you well to a potential employer.

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