Updated: Apr 11
CV Best Practice
It’s crucial to have your CV in good shape when you are applying for graduate engineering jobs. In a competitive market, an average CV is enough to eliminate you from the hiring process at the first hurdle.
This note will step you through the most important things to do when creating your CV.
A simple well organised CV will be better able to convey the important information to the employer. The key elements of a simple, well-formatted CV are:
Simple and repeated font types. Use 1 font type with only 1 or 2 variations (eg increased size, bold) for headings
Ensure alignment is simple and consistent;
Horizontal lines can be used as section breaks;
A short CV is best (2-4 pages);
Sections should be nicely spaced out and follow a simple reverse chronological order. (personal details - introduction – accreditation/qualifications - employment history – education – interests/other – referees)
A cover letter should be included that specifically addresses the company and the advertised role. The cover letter should be brief (2-3 short paragraphs) and cover who you are, your engineering background, and why you are applying for the role.
The cover letter can be formatted like a traditional letter and include your name and address in the top right-hand corner.
Your CV should include your name, email address, and phone number. Other personal details, such as date of birth, nationality, and a photograph should not be included.
The introduction to your CV should be one short paragraph that functions as an executive summary. This might cover your degree and any specialisations, your relevant work experience, your goals and engineering areas of interest, and your best skills.
In listing your skills it’s best not to be too general (for example easy-going is too general). Mentioning your excellent analytical and problem-solving skills is ok (if that is reflected within your CV).
In this section, you should mention your professional qualifications or memberships. If you are applying for graduate engineering jobs it is a good idea to become a graduate member of the ICE or IStructE as it shows your commitment to the profession and your interest in becoming a chartered engineer. You can also list any other short training courses or certificates you may have achieved (for example health and safety certifications).
Your employment history should be in reverse chronological order with your latest position listed first. As a graduate student, your employment may not be engineering specific but it is still of interest to employers. You should also list any summer placements you may have undertaken as part of your engineering study. More emphasis should be placed on any positions that were engineering relevant.
For each employment position, you should try to address what were the key accomplishments and experiences gained from the position.
If you have previous engineering experience you should list the projects that you worked on, followed by any key experience gained. A useful way to summarise your project experience is by following this format:
Project Name, Client, Location. Project Value £x. Brief description
Richardson Road Student Accommodation, Newcastle University, Newcastle Upon Tyne.
Project value £6 million. Six blocks modular student accommodation.
Key experience gained: design development and co-ordination with modular unit manufacturers. Design of steel podium frame and concrete foundations to Eurocodes.
List your education in reverse chronological order, starting with your engineering degree. This can include your secondary school education. Include any awards or positions of note achieved during your studies.
A very brief section describing your interests can be included. This adds a bit more flavour to your CV and gives the employer a more rounded picture of you as a person. When you review a company’s website you can often see what outside passions the current staff tend to have. For example, they might mention charity rides, sports days, or volunteering in the local community. It is worth investigating to see if there are any aligned interests and including these on your CV.
Interests don’t have to be engineering specific, it's probably a good idea to include at least a couple of different interests to show your well-rounded, balanced nature.
It isn’t required to list referees on your CV, although it is common practice to state referees available upon request. Ideally, you should have at least two people in mind to provide a reference if requested. This could be a trusted lecturer at university, a supervisor from a summer placement, or even a superior from non-engineering employment.
Following the above advice will ensure your CV is simple, concise, and conveys the relevant information to employers.
Article by Good Foundations Engineering Tutors
Note by Will Whiting. Will is an engineering tutor and founder of Good Foundations Engineering Tutors. Good Foundations have helped graduate engineers gain jobs and placements at some of the UK’s best engineering consultancies. Please visit the website for more information.