Questions and Answers from Engineering Students on Resumes and Interviews

Engineering Recent Graduate 1

Over the past month or so, I have had the pleasure of speaking on the topics of resume building and interview preparation for the College of New Jersey ASME Student Chapter and the University of Memphis STEM club (MemphiSTEM).

There was such a great turnout at both events and such great questions that I thought it would be helpful to share the questions and answers here on my blog for all engineers and other STEM professionals to utilize. Here they are:

Q: Should I show my high school on my resume?

A: I would approach this on a case-by-case basis. In my own case, I was lucky enough to go to a very reputable preparatory school and thought it was helpful to include it on my resume. Another scenario in which it might be helpful is if you are applying for jobs to alumni of your high school. However, if you are trying to keep your resume to one page, which you should as a student, you may find other pieces of information more valuable, like intern work experience or a school honor or award. Use your judgment on this item.

Q: Should I pay attention to the keywords I am placing on my resume in case a company uses computers to scan resumes for certain words?

A: Yes and no. Yes, you definitely want to pay attention to keywords, and I recommend that for each job you apply for you have a separate resume that uses words from that job description. However, never sacrifice readability and proper grammar to keyword stuff your resume.

Q: How long should my resume be while I am an engineering student?

A: Absolutely no longer than one page for undergraduate students, unless you have a special situation. One example would be if you were in the military before or during school. Masters and PhD students might have more than one page, but only if it is warranted and you have information that matches the needs of employers.

Q: Should I put my photo on my resume?

A: No. I know you may think it is different and will make your resume stand out, but most recruiters and hiring managers tell me that it is too different and turns people off.

Q: What if your college or university is a good college but you will be up against Ivy League graduates for a position? How do you differentiate yourself?

A: Great question, simple answer: forget the competition and focus solely on meeting the exact needs of the prospective employer. Some companies will be swayed by top-notch schools, but other companies will be most interested in an employee who can meet their needs. For example, if they need an engineer to do AutoCAD drafting and you were an AutoCAD instructor at your school, there is a good chance they will take you over others regardless of school name.

Q: What if you left your company on bad terms?

A: It happens. Be prepared to discuss in detail why you left and to do so in a positive way. Do your best to provide a reference at the company who will speak positively of you and the work you did.

Q: I realize that LinkedIn is a great resource for finding a job, but what about Facebook?

A: At this time, Facebook can do more to hurt you than help you as an engineer looking for a job, because employers will look at your Facebook account to learn more about you. Be sure that your Facebook privacy settings allow only those connected with you on Facebook to view your wall and personal information.

Q: When you list software that you are able to use on your resume, should you list how well you know these softwares?

A: Great question. Yes, you should try to indicate your level of expertise with each software. For example: Proficient in Civil 3D software. This tells companies that they won’t have to train you as much as they might others. Just be sure that if you say proficient, you are proficient.

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To your success,

Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
The Engineering Career Coach
Author of Engineer Your Own Success