What Hiring Managers Want from Engineers (Hint: It’s More Than Technical Skills)
Guest Post provided by Cher Zevala
When applying for jobs in the engineering fields, technical skills are obviously a major priority. Without the required knowledge and experience in engineering, you simply won’t be able to do the work.
However, hiring managers are typically looking for much more from candidates than technical knowledge. Because you will be working as part of a team and helping the business to reach its goals, managers want to hire individuals who possess certain other skills as well. Your soft skills — those skills that cannot necessarily be objectively measured — and ability to apply the technical fundamentals of engineering to find solutions to the business’s problems are going to play a key role in your appeal to employers as much as the degree you earned.
More specifically, those hiring engineers will be looking for the following skills.
As much as you may prefer to work independently in your cubicle and mind your own business, sending your work off to your boss when it’s complete and moving on to the next project, that type of work environment really doesn’t exist anymore. You will be expected to work with others, both in and outside your company, and that requires good communication skills.
Not only do you need to have the ability to explain (and sometimes defend) your ideas and your work to colleagues and customers, but you will be likely be called upon to create technical documents (including manuals and spec sheets) that are accurate and understandable. Therefore, it’s important that you work on developing your communication skills, and highlight them in your application materials and interviews.
Closely related to communication skills, your ability to work well with others is also going to be assessed by engineering employers. Again, how you function in a team environment is important, so be sure to highlight the work you have done as part of a team and demonstrate your ability to get along with others.
Precision and Accuracy
Engineering projects require a high level of precision and attention to detail — and you need to begin demonstrating your skills here from the moment you submit an application. Your resume must be perfect, without any spelling or grammatical errors. However, you must also be precise in your descriptions, and be able to support all of your claims with evidence.
For example, it’s not enough to simply say that you have great communication skills. Show the hiring manager that you have those skills by listing any awards, publications, or other experience that speaks to your ability to communicate. In fact, listing some of the projects that you worked on in school and during internships with a short, one or two-line summary, is a great way to show employers not only your skills, but your ability to be specific and attend to the details.
There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that engineering graduates are actually highly desirable in the business world, thanks to their attention to detail, creative problem-solving skills, and technical abilities. That pendulum actually swings both ways though, with more engineers being hired for their business skills as well as their engineering knowledge.
Be prepared to show that you have at least rudimentary business knowledge, and an understanding of how your role fits in to the overall business goals and strategic plan. If necessary, consider taking a few introductory business courses while attending an online engineering master’s program to at least get a grasp of the basics.
You might argue that engineering itself is the study of problem solving. Much of your work is going to be focused on finding new solutions to complex issues. However, be prepared to demonstrate your skills in solving day-to-day issues, as well as your critical thinking abilities. Employers want to hire those who not only can identify and analyze problems, but who can quickly find and implement a solution. Before your interview, think of a few examples from your experience that demonstrate your ability to solve problems.
In today’s competitive job market, standing out can be challenging. With an understanding of what employers are looking for, though, you have a better chance of getting an offer. Take care to not only focus on your technical skills, but on the additional skills that make you a well-rounded and desirable candidate, and you will have a much more successful job search.