It’s that time of the year again where spring is in full force, the sun is shining, birds are chirping and this year’s college graduates are spreading their wings and sending out resumes. Despite at least four years of schooling and tens of thousands of dollars spent on tuition, it’s unfortunate that their curriculum doesn’t include a resume 101 course or at least require students to attend a seminar on resume writing. Awkwardly crafted and abysmal resumes aren’t constrained to recent graduates but also reach into the general engineering population. This leaves the perfect opportunity to review some basic tips for handling resumes and establishing an online presence, after all, resumes are no longer limited to simple paper versions.
Tip #1 – Ignore the one page rule
For some reason, since the beginning of time there has been this notion that a resume should only be one page. It should be short and simple and provide very basic information. This is great if the plan is to be a professional job seeker. A single page, in a readable font, provides enough space to put a name, a few companies and education before there is no more room left on the page. It doesn’t provide enough space to really sell or distinguish the applicant from anyone else. Single page resumes are often looked at and quickly discarded because there is nothing on them that really catches attention. Don’t allow this outdated rule to dictate the length of a resume.
Tip #2 – Explicitly show experience
A potential employer is not going to take the time to read between the lines as to whether an individual has a certain type of experience or skill. Experience needs to be explicitly declared and not implied. This can be done by listing each project that was performed at a company and then providing details as to what was involved. Demonstration of problem identification and the ability to come up with a solution is critical.
Tip #3 – Use bullet points to improve readability
Instead of writing paragraphs about the work performed at a company or on a project, the use of bullet points is highly recommended because they can drastically improve the readability of a resume. Bullet points are a quick way to break down skills and efforts that were put into a project. They allow the potential employer to quickly skim through and catch the highlights or experience. Figure 1 shows an example of how sentence structure can be combined with bullet points to effectively get the point across. This is something that someone adhering to the one page rule would never be able to do.
Tip #4 – List professional experience first
College degrees always hold a special place in everyone’s heart especially after paying the enormous tuition rates that have become known to students in modern times. Unfortunately, on a resume they hold less weight than professional experience. This means that while having a degree may be necessary, they should be listed after professional experience. It seems unfair but the fact of the matter is that the first few years of one’s career are spent learning what should have been taught in higher educational institutions. Please note that professional experience was noted earlier in the paragraph. This means that coffee shops and a stint at McDonalds are not going to be of interest to your next engineering employer, so it can be removed from the experience list.
Tip #5 – If project experience is lacking, use a DIY project
Sometimes inexplicable things happen and a college student never has an internship, or an experienced engineer finds themselves on the unemployment list for a while. This can result in an employer having a hard time justifying even taking the time to talk with the candidate. This is why these gaps should be filled with learning experiences from do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. Create something and go through the design process of gathering requirements, block diagramming and prototyping and put that experience and maybe even some lessons learned on the resume! This will show the prospective employer that the individual is self-motivated, passionate and a number of other things. The best part is that when they call for an interview, the candidate can bring what was designed and talk about the process, the hardware design, the software etc. It might just give that edge needed to even beat out the competition.
Tip #6 – List useful skills
Forcing an employer to read between the lines is a dangerous game. Listing project details is one thing but an employer also wants to know in general the types of skills the candidate has. Having a technical expertise section that lists various items such as hardware, software and programming language and provide a quick overview summary of what an individual brings to the table can be very beneficial. Figure 2 shows such as an example.
Tip #7 – Identify industry buzz words and use a few
At different times there are certain buzz words that take an industry by storm. They may indicate a certain type of design paradigm such as model driven design or event driven design or perhaps a new field of device such as internet-of-things or machine-to-machine. The whole point is that while the resume is being dusted off and updated, spending a little bit of time learning the current buzz words can do a lot to increase the likely hood of the resume being discovered. Of course if the buzz word doesn’t apply it should be over-looked but there will most likely be buzz words that do apply and that greatly raise the resumes visibility.
Tip #8 – Use action words
Companies like to have leaders on their teams or up and coming leaders. Leaders are action driven and employers like to look for candidates that take initiative and are on their way to becoming leaders. For this reason it is always nice to include action words that grab extra attention. Mention leading the team or managed the team or were conducting investigations to list a few. While investigating resume action words, a website with “100 Great Resume Words” popped up and after a quick review there was little argument about it. The website is linked here and it is highly recommended that they be perused by the reader the next time resume updating occurs.
Tip #9 – Use social media to enhance your resume
Paper is out, electronic is in. The resume in general hasn’t changed a whole lot but with social media outlets such as Linkedin and Twitter, the opportunity to enhance a resume is astounding. Linkedin can be used as an enhanced resume by duplicating the information on a resume and then filling in the extras that Linkedin allows. In today’s society there seems to be more chance of being found on a social media website first and then only after connecting with someone does a request for a resume occur. This means that social media profiles need to be just as good at attracting attention as a resume but that is an entirely different article for another day.
A few examples of some enhancements that can be made through social media are getting colleagues to verify your skills, getting recommendations and then also cross linking colleagues on projects. This provides employers with the ability to cross reference what they are being told and verify that the material is in fact real.
There has been some buzz about something called Klout that is supposed to analyze social media interactions and then rank a user based on those interactions. A value of 1 to 99 is then assigned to them. Despite all the authors’ interactions on social media sites, posting baby pictures on Facebook seems to raise the score the most. This leads the author to believe that Klout is an interesting sidebar that will most likely not be taken seriously by employers in the near future.
Tip #10 – Review and update quarterly
The worst time to update a resume is when an individual is looking for a job. Going for long periods of time without updates usually results in gaps of information or misrepresentation from just forgetting what was done. That is why it is useful to set a periodic time, whether it is every quarter or twice a year to sit down and update the resume with new projects, skills, etc. Sometimes employers will include employee resumes in proposals in order to show a potential client that their team has the skills necessary to get the job done. If a resume isn’t kept up to date then the team could quickly look like they are not up-to-date with the latest and greatest techniques and cause the employer to lose business.
These are but a few brief tips on how to handle resumes. Please feel free to add to and leave comments. In order to provide an example, the author has posted his resume for others to take and leave as they will. As a consultant, the author updates and sends this information out frequently and has received positive feedback on contents and structure. Hopefully it can help serve others in their own endeavors. The example can be downloaded from his profile at http://bit.ly/12QMNJE.