Your resume is a one to two page description of you and why a company should hire you. If you apply for a job with a resume, you’ll be competing with dozens, hundreds, even thousands of other resumes. You need every single edge you can get to stand out and land an interview.
I’ve done 26 job interviews in the past 2 and a half years, and I’ve landed two job offers. I accomplished this mostly through having a great resume, strong interview skills, and knowing how to apply to jobs efficiently.
Here’s everything I know about resume crafting and applying to jobs:
Here’s a resume template that got me my current job (company names, locations and dates redacted. Image links to a Google Doc):
Click image to see enlarged resume
The heading should be centered and have your name, mailing address, email, and a phone number. I also recommend having a URL to your LinkedIn profile and/or a personal website. This section should only change if you get a new mailing address or PO box, a new phone number, you want to start using a new email, or you legally changed your name.
If you don’t have a LinkedIn or personal website, make a LinkedIn profile and make it presentable. A prominent social media presence is critical for job hunting these days; not having a decent LinkedIn profile is like going to take an exam and not bringing any pencils.
To make a presentable LinkedIn profile:
I recommend centering all the above information. The first line should have your name. Make the text a larger font and bolded. The next is your mailing address, email and phone number. Have a “-” separating them. Your LinkedIn and/or personal website should go on the third line.
The professional summary should be the first section. It’s a brief sentence that describes you, your professional background, and/or what kind of job you’re seeking. You want to tell the hiring manager this information right away.
Tailor the professional summary to the job your applying for. For example, my current job required:
Thus, my professional summary on the sample resume covers my mechanical engineering degree, my 3D printing and CAD background, and my mechatronics concentration.
This section contains 3 or 4 of the most important skills for the job that that you have, as well as an explanation for how you used and developed that skill. In my case, computer aided design (CAD), 3D printing, and mechatronics were the 3 most important skills. I also went into detail about how, where, and when I used that skill, the development of that skill, and/or how much experience I have with that skill.
Make this the second section of the resume. After telling the hiring manager your professional background in the “Professional Summary” section, you immediately go into greater detail about your skills and qualifications.
The skills and qualifications you put on this section depends on the job. However, universally desired skills for engineers include project management/team leadership, communication/presentation skills, interpersonal skills, budgeting/making Bills of Materials, organizational skills, self-motivating attitude, process improvement, writing design reports, and working well in a team.
For mechanical engineers, SolidWorks is by far the most popular CAD package to know. Others include ProE, Creo, and AutoCAD/Autodesk. A lot of positions ask for skill and experience in multiple CAD packages. SolidWorks and AutoCAD together is a popular combo.
Other common mechanical engineer skills include basic hands-on machining and experience working in a machine shop.
This section is a Skills section and an Experience section all in one. It’s also placed near the top of the resume, to make sure that hiring managers read it.
This section is pretty self-explanatory: your educational background. This section stays the same regardless of the job you apply for. Include your college, college location, degree program, and graduation date (if you graduated) or expected graduation date (if you’re still in school).
You can also include any special commendations or awards you’ve earned. This is useful for students and recent grads. After a year out of school, get rid of them.
Lastly, the college location is often included, but I consider it optional; it’s not going to help or hurt your resume.
I almost never make changes to my Experience section. If I do, I only add or remove one to two extra bullet points. I also only include positions that are engineering related. For me, I only have three engineering-related positions, so I list all three of them in this section. Order the positions so that the most recent are at the top.
My first position involved process improvement, a universally desired skill, and I never change it.
My second position focuses on my team leadership and project management experience, another universally desired experience/skill set. I very rarely include bullet points that go over my experiences as:
My third position might occasionally include a bullet point about giving impromptu presentations to visiting students and department heads.
The Professional Summary and the Skills Summary are the only sections that signficantly change based on the job you’re applying for. The Experience section only changes by having one to two bullet points added or removed.
Companies have potentially thousands of applicants for a single position. They use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to find keywords on resumes. Keywords are typically found on the job description and includes desired skills, relevant degree program, and other credentials. The resumes with the most keywords are viewed by a hiring manager, and the hiring manager selects candidates to bring in for interviews. You want to play the numbers game and apply to as many jobs as you can, but you also need to make a resume that’s likely to pass the ATS.
Method 1: Use a single resume to apply to as many positions as possible.
You’re applying to many positions with your resume. You’re successfully playing the numbers game, and it’s more likely that you’ll land an interview. But, your resume won’t have as many keywords, so it’s not as likely to get past the ATS.
Method 2: Carefully craft a specific resume for every position.
You’re carefully tailoring a new resume for each position, so the resumes are more likely to have enough keywords to pass the ATS. But, you’re not able to apply to as many jobs since you’re spending so much more time applying to each.
My resume crafting approach combines the best of both methods: Use a single resume to apply to multiple different positions, but only make minor changes to the Professional Summary and Skills Summary and add/remove one to two bullet points for each position in the Experience section. With my method, you apply to many positions, but you’re also likely to have enough keywords to pass the ATS.
Applying to a job on a company website or through a website like Monster.com or indeed.com is generally a bad idea. 99% of applicants do this, your resume may not even be put through the ATS if there’s too many applicants, and it may not be viewed by a hiring manager even if it passes the ATS. I’ve extremely limited success with indeed.com (one actual interview out of over a hundred applications).
However, recruiters and headhunters use indeed.com to post job openings they want to fill. Recruiting/headhunting companies are bascially third party agencies that look for good candidates to fill other companies’ job openings. They earn a commission from your salary once you’re hired. I highly recommend working with recruiters.
Here’s how you find the hiring manager’s email:
Send them your resume both in .doc and .pdf format. Companies may be using a different version of Microsoft Word than you are, so your resume may come out with the formatting completely messed up. A .doc format is an old Word document format that can be opened by almost every version of Word with the formatting intact. Save in .doc format by clicking “Save as,” then pressing “Save type as” and selecting “.doc”.
You should also send a PDF of your resume. This is essential if you use a Mac and/or don’t use Microsoft Word. It’s also useful for when your .doc resume gets completely butchered and edited by a thousand different people and is no longer recognizable.
You can also send your resume in a Google Doc. I’ve never done this, and I don’t recommend it since your resume can only be viewed over an internet connection. If I’m mistaken about this, please let me know down in the comments.
Your email/LinkedIn message is essentially your cover letter, so there’s no need to include a separate cover letter with your resume.
Dear (insert their first name here),
I hope this email finds you well. I’m (insert your full name here). I’m applying for the (insert position name here) position at (insert company name here). With my skills and background, I’m confident that I’m a great fit for the position and have a lot to offer the company.
(Go over your relevant experience in one to two paragraphs. For example: “I was the (position) on/at (company/school team name). This has made given me (list of qualities the company is looking for in an applicant)” ).
(If you live close enough to the company to commute, mention that you’re local, you don’t require relocation, and you’re ready to start work immediately).
Thank you for taking the time to consider my application. I’ve attached my resume in .doc and .pdf format. I look forward to hearing from you, and if it’s all right, I’d like to follow up with you in 5-10 business days.
(Insert your full name here)
Have a single resume that you use to apply to multiple positions. Make very quick changes (the professional summary and skill summary sections, as well as one to two bullet points for each position in the Experience section) based on each position you’re applying to. This lets you apply to lots of positions and still have a good chance of having a lot of keywords and passing the ATS.
Also, apply to jobs by directly emailing your resume to hiring managers. Look for them on LinkedIn.
You may have heard this before, but it’s true: networking is the best way to job hunt. The vast majority of successful job hunters find jobs through referrals from friends and associates. The best way to build a network is at career fairs while you’re still in school. If you’ve already graduated, your school should allow alumni to attend their career fairs.
I know very little about navigating a career fair. I sucked at career fairs and failed to create much of a network in college, which is partly the reason why the job hunt was such a grind for me. Here’s some additional materials on career fair success:
That’s how you craft a kick ass resume and apply for jobs properly.
At the end of the day, successful job hunting is very much based on luck. But, building a strong professional network, applying to as many jobs as possible with a keyword-heavy resume, and emailing your resume to hiring managers directly will stack the odds in your favor.
Let me know in the comments your thoughts and experiences in the job hunt, and if you haven’t already, subscribe to my free newsletter to stay up to date on newest content.
All the best,