Nerd Guru

Because technical people need good soft skills to get ahead.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Great engineering resumes: Part 2 - For Anybody

When a potential interviewer looks at your resume, among the first questions he or she will ask themselves are:

1. Can this person do the job now?
2. How much training will this person require before they can do the job?

If you’ve slanted your experiences such that they can answer #1 with a “Yes”, congratulations, you’re in the interview stack. This is why it can be critical to prepare different resumes for different jobs. One set of experiences might help answer this first question for some jobs while other things you’ve done might answer it for another job. You usually run out of space on your resume and have to make tough choices on what to remove. Let your specific experiences and the descriptions of each job be your guide so that the person screening the resumes can answer this first question more easily in your favor.

Even if you don’t already have expertise in the technologies or tools the prospective employer is already using, it isn’t over for you. If you can show that you have a history of learning things quickly (perhaps with a high GPA or honor roll) or have worked with similar things that you might use in this job, you put yourself in a position to answer “Not long” to #2. That can get you in the door for an interview as well.

The second most important thing, which Yate covers but is worth emphasizing here, is that your resume gives the reader the first impression of your communication skills. You can have a Nobel Peace Prize on your resume, but if it is poorly organized and has spelling errors throughout, you’ll make the hiring committee think twice about bringing you in for an interview. A good tip here is to have someone non-technical read your resume. He or she is more likely to find the easy mistakes than your lab partner will because the acronyms and technical terms will completely go over their heads, enabling them to see the basics more clearly. Since a lot of times, hiring managers do the resume screening, having someone with a layman’s eye look at it for you might be a closer approximation to the person with the power to bring you in for an interview than you are.

The last item generally worth mentioning is that to most people, certifications or memberships in associations are not that big a deal. That’s not to say you shouldn’t list them at all, but don’t harp on them and if you need to make cuts on your resume to conserve space take these out before job experience details.

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posted by Pete Johnson @ 1:10 PM   0 comments links to this post

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