Skip to main content

Make your engineering CV the best it can be

Written by: Charlotte Rogers
Published on: 2 Aug 2023


Engineers have a mixture of professional, essential and transferable skills. Being able to present all of these different skills into one CV can be a difficult task. For example, technical skills can be easily mentioned and should be focused on, if the employer has specifically asked for a candidate with these skills. These are the kinds of skills that essentially mean you either can or you can’t do something specific. Some engineering jobs rely on people having these, so they should be at the forefront of your CV. 

However, other skills and experiences you may have, are just as important. If you take up all your CV space with the super important ‘hard skills’, you may be tempted to leave softer skills out of your CV. Which in the long run, could cost you an interview or potential offer. Never forget the potential that these skills hold and find the time to embed them into your CV. 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!

Think about presentation and layout

A CV isn’t just about writing everything down in chronological order. First impressions are incredibly important, and your CV should look as interesting as the content it holds. It could be a simple change like this that leads to your CV being read and shared. You want to steer clear of negative first impressions by making it as visually appealing as possible. Stay away from cluttered pages, tiny fonts and text that’s too close together. 

Alternatively, a document that’s full of gaps and large or inconsistent font sizes is going to look equally as unappealing. You need to find a healthy medium and make sure it holds just the right amount of information. 

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. You also don’t need to stick it all on one page, if you need more space, make sure you use it. 

Don’t get carried away

Your CV is not an essay about your entire working life. Just because you’ve been employed by a certain employer or had a job 10 years ago that’s no longer relevant, doesn’t mean you need to include it. You want to I’ve the employer as little information as possible, whilst giving them everything they need to know about you. 

As a rule of thumb, if a short-term job is getting 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. Sometimes it can feel like everything is important, but you need to be able to eliminate elements that just aren’t working for you anymore. Some people may 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 to if they’re not in the same sector. 

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 ever need to highlight if any of the work you did was unpaid, but it can be useful for the employer to see what was done in ‘work’ hours and what you did in ‘your own’ time. It’s a good idea to include dates for this work experience, just like you would for any paid work. It gives the employer an idea of what you were doing and when. This also makes it easier to determine whether you had any career gaps in that time and if they’d like to know more about this part of your working life. 

Work experience can also include any additional courses that you’ve paid for yourself and haven’t been sought through an employer’s training scheme.

Formatting and file types

It’s not a good idea to have your CV littered with charts, tables, graphs and so on. Unless you’re working towards something like an infographic CV, which are great for certain roles. You can read more about how to write an infographic CV on E&TJ careers and advice pages. 

You may feel that your CV looks professional, but it’s not uncommon for your CV to be rejected by job-matching software that some employers use. This is to filter through CV’s before they get a chance to look at them, making it even harder to get your CV in the employer’s hands. These types of software scan your CV for specific key words and phrases. If you have tables and graphs in there, it confuses the system and ultimately gets your CV rejected. If you do have some charts and graphs that you feel are necessary, 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.

What shouldn’t you include on your CV?

  • 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 - this can really come back and bite you later on in the job seeking process
  • Include an 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.

Obviously, it’s not limited to the list above. There are things you may not feel are right for your CV and elements that you’d love to include. As long as you are giving the employer what they’ve asked for, you can add what you like to your CV. Just be aware of the above when making these choices. 

Before you send your CV

Spellcheck every single version of your CV! 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 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.

It’s also a good idea to double check every document you upload. You may have renamed it a number of times, but when frantically trying to upload a job application, you may have made a mistake. So when you upload a document, check before sending the ‘submit’ button. You could save yourself a bit of embarrassment. 

Get another perspective

Ask friends and family to do a quick once over of your CV. You’ll be surprised what a fresh pair of eyes can pick up on. You can spend hours working on a document that you think is perfect and just when you submit it, you notice something. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, it’s normal to make mistakes but when you have people around you that can help, it can be avoided. 

You can also reach out to someone in your network. They may be able 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.

CVs are subjective, just like anything else. So don’t be too hard on yourself. Overtime, your CV will become better and better, just do what you can now to ensure your job-hunting success. Try to ensure everything is in order, things are set correctly and most importantly, you haven’t uploaded the wrong document! Save yourself some application trauma and read through this article again, before submitting your CV. It may just remind you of something you’ve forgotten.