How to write successful resumes and cover letters as graduates
Applying for your first job after university can be daunting. The recruitment process, particularly the submission of resumes and cover letters, can make you feel clueless and overwhelmed.
So, if you aren’t sure where to begin but want to make your application a success, keep reading for some helpful tips and advice when applying for engineering and business advisory roles.
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How to write a successful resume
The fastest way for Aurecon or any company to get to know you is through your resume. A curriculum vitae (CV) or a resume is an overview of your professional experience, skills, volunteering, and qualifications that are relevant for a job opportunity. Simply put, this is your chance to make a good first impression and convince recruiters to progress with your application.
As a design, engineering and advisory company, Aurecon is looking for graduates who are deeply passionate about co-creating a better future for people and the planet. If you share the same purpose and aspirations, it is important that is reflected in your resume.
If you share the same purpose and aspirations, it is important that is reflected in your resume.
The professional services industry, in general, continues to grow in Australia (3.8 per cent per year) and New Zealand (2.3 per cent per year). Engineering job vacancies in Australia recently hit a 10-year high, increasing by 50 per cent in 2021.
New Zealand, on the other hand, is estimating that they will need 1,500 more engineers each year to meet the demand. And while the demand for these roles will continue to grow, the competition will come down to skills and experience. You will need to stand out.
What’s important in a business advisor and engineering resume?
The structure of your CV should reflect the characteristics of the industry you’re applying for. For example, engineering roles are not only very technical – they need to have soft skills in the mix too. Engineers require creativity, structure and attention to detail, so it is key that your resume reflects these skills.
Meanwhile, the role of consultants and advisors may vary depending on the area of expertise so it’s important to adapt for the role and team. So, if you are applying for a engagement and change advisory role, ensure your communications and interpersonal skills shine.
It’s no surprise that recruiters receive a lot of CVs. Make sure yours is easy to read, review and scan. Keep the formatting simple to make it clear, concise, straight to the point and impactful.
It should include information that is relevant to the role you are applying for:
- Personal summary/career profile
- Key skills
- Work experience
- Education and achievements
- Volunteering and personal interests
It’s a good idea to include a personal or career summary at the start of your resume but as mentioned before, keep it short: one paragraph (4-5 sentences) is enough. A good written summary helps grab the attention of recruiters and ultimately helps you stand out from the pack.
Your summary should be relevant to the company and role you are applying for – this is where you can mention why you connected with the company’s purpose, values and variety of project work. Both engineers and advisors have different areas of expertise, so be specific and clear about how your skillset, education and experience is relevant to the position.
You can also use this part of your resume to illustrate your career objective or aspirations. A career objective is a short statement that outlines your professional goals which can be useful if you’re a university student or fresh graduate with limited relevant experience. It shows hiring managers what you can offer to the organisation.
The key skills that recruiters and hiring managers look for vary and depend on the type of industry or area you want to join in. What are the responsibilities of the role you are applying for (this information is usually listed in the job ad)? And what kind of skill will this role require? This is great place to start.
Of course, for highly technical engineering roles, recruiters and hiring managers may want to understand your technical skill set or software prowess, what electives you chose in your course and how that may relate to the role(s) they are offering.
Advisory roles, on the other hand, may require skills that will contribute to the type of consultant that you want to be. Do you want to be a programme manager or an environment planner? What skills do you have that can contribute to these roles? For example, community engagement (volunteering, sports clubs etc.), stakeholder management (working with diverse groups – team projects at uni), excellent research or report writing skills (think university assignments). You can be clever with how you apply your experience and skills to the role.
For specific engineering and advisory roles, your degree is often your ticket in. But aside from this, your soft skills – sometimes referred to as ‘human’ or ‘interpersonal’ skills – are also essential, especially if your role requires you to work closely with other people. For consultants, most roles do, whether it’s clients or internal stakeholders.
The general rule of thumb is unless the task itself is directly transferrable into the role you’re applying for focus on the skills gained that could be useful and beneficial to the organisation you want to work for.
Most experiences are valuable on your resume. Our recruitment team encourages prospective graduate and intern applicants to keep experiences in their resumes rather than editing them out. Part-time jobs, volunteering and summer work experience all paint a broad picture of your motivations, experience and extra-curricular interests.
Experiences to include can be the following:
- Internships: both physical and the new virtual internships that some organisations offer count. Internships demonstrate not only interest in certain sectors but also that you’ve worked in a professional environment.
- Other paid work: these experiences can help you demonstrate more of your soft skills that companies find so valuable.
- Volunteering: these roles can also demonstrate your soft skills and have the added benefit of highlighting your passions which companies are keen to understand. Perhaps you have helped at your local sports club or community group?
- Academic course work: if you’re going to include coursework in your resume, it should either focus on specific subjects/electives that align to the role(s) you’re applying for or major projects/presentations where you’re able to demonstrate success, initiative, teamwork, innovative thinking, etc.
When it comes to educational experience, it’s important that you research and understand what the company you’re applying for is looking for. If you’re applying for an engineering or more technical role, most will require you to hold a degree in that particular field. If you’re looking more broadly, other industries are becoming less focused on your degree and more focused on what you as an individual can bring to their business.
With academic achievements, recruiters generally think about academic awards, scholarships you’ve received, or prizes for academic competitions. These will generally speak to your academic/learning prowess and are a great way to demonstrate your diligence and technical aptitude. Some achievements can help you display areas of interest/passions, such as being a top student in a specific subject, whether that be in grading or via an industry sponsored award.
The importance of key words – how does digital screening work?
A question our recruitment team is asked regularly is “how does Aurecon screen resumes?” The short answer is – they read them. A member of our recruitment team based in the region you applied for will screen your resume. We don’t have a digital filtering or keyword feature in our process so you don’t need to stack your resume with buzzwords hoping our system will pick it up.
Other companies, however, may use digital screening to determine whether a resume fits their role’s minimum qualifications, education, experience and other factors desired by the company.
Our advice is to be clear in how your qualifications and experiences match the job you’re applying for, and your resume will be understood by screening technology and recruiters alike.
Proofread, and then proofread again!
Once you’ve written your resume – proofread it. Then get someone else to proofread it too to pick up any errors you may have missed. A resume with grammatical typos and mistakes can lead to your application being rejected. You’d also be surprised how many resumes we read that include the wrong company name – not a great first impression.
Our best advice is to ensure you take time with your resume, write clearly, and try to be as articulate as possible by focusing on the points above.
How to write a great cover letter for engineers and advisors
You’ve written the perfect resume; it’s accurate and up to date, and gives our recruiters an insight into you, your interests, qualifications, personal and professional interests.
Now on to the cover letter. Should you send one or not? Simple answer, yes.
Our recruitment team agrees sending a cover letter is almost always the best decision, even if the job application doesn’t ask for one. According to a survey, 83 per cent of recruiters and hiring managers said that cover letters help in boosting an applicant’s chances to get hired.
However, writing cover letters can feel daunting. It’s easy to tell when a cover letter has been used to apply to multiple positions and/or to many organisations – they lack personalisation and don’t show an understanding of the business. We want to get the impression that you really want to apply to our organisation, that you connect with our purpose and what we stand for.
We want to get the impression that you really want to apply to our organisation, that you connect with our purpose and what we stand for.
Your cover letter is your opportunity to showcase your personality and uniqueness and to help us see if your skills and experience match what we seek. It allows you to clearly tell us why you’re the best candidate for the job and why you want to join our organisation.
What makes a great cover letter?
There are different types of engineers and advisors – different markets, industries, specialisations and skillsets required. A great cover letter shows an understanding of these differences. It enables you to say more about yourself and your personality. It’s your opportunity to share in more detail why you would like to pursue this direction in your career – why transport, health, or climate change and sustainability? And why you are choosing our company or graduate or intern programme?
In contrast, a generic cover letter simply summarises what you included in your resume and lacks depth of understanding and personality. And while you may be able to highlight your strengths and skills in a generic cover letter, it does not make you stand out.
And don’t forget to introduce yourself and put the name of the position you are applying for. Address the letter directly to the person named in the job ad. If there’s no name, you can use LinkedIn to research and find the name of the relevant person or go old school and call to find out.
How do I write a good cover letter?
Here are the top five recommended winning cover letter tips:
- Show us your personality! – At Aurecon, your background, unique needs and individuality will be valued. We want to get to know you and your uniqueness. Tell us what makes you who you are, and your personal journey. What excites you about this role and opportunity? What are you passionate about when it comes to building your career? This is your chance to stand out on paper.
- Share what you like about the company – Mention where you learned about the role and let us know why you want to work for the company. Is it our projects? Our approach to diversity, equity and inclusion? Our values? Our principles? Our culture? Tell us what you’ve heard about our organisation and share why after reading the job ad you wanted to apply.
- Showcase your strengths and skills – both soft and hard skills – The next step is to summarise your main skills and experience. Specify the most significant and relevant parts which you believe match the job description. Each paragraph should focus on a different aspect. Think of your cover letter as the entrée to your resume. It shouldn’t be so detailed that it replicates what’s contained in your resume but should give your recruiter an understanding of the skills you may be able to bring to a position. Outline any general skills you think are relevant to the role, such as communication and interpersonal skills, problem-solving abilities and organisational strengths.
- Always proofread for grammatical errors and typos – After you have written your cover letter – proofread it. And then proofread again. A cover letter with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes can lead to your application being rejected. Use dynamic verbs such as ‘collaborated’, ‘motivated’, ‘managed’ and ‘analysed’ to help convey your points. Make sure to edit your cover letter so it’s only one-page long.
- Write a positive and strong closing message – Finally, finish the cover letter by suggesting opportunities for further interaction: for example, indicate your willingness to meet and discuss your experience in more detail. Always finish on a positive note – thanking the reader for their time and for considering your application.