How to shorten a lengthy engineering CV

Engineering is a skilled and technical profession, so your engineering CV is probably packed with experience and qualifications.

Having all that behind you is great; but a CV that runs over more than two A4 pages could bore your reader and make them move onto someone else’s. Being concise and specific is just as important as what you can do.

Recruiters and hiring managers are always busy. So, they’ll initially skim your CV and read it in more detail if they’re interested. To stand the best chance of being noticed and snagging an interview, you’ll need to edit your lengthy engineering CV down to something short, punchy and impactful.

Determine what’s relevant

Short and sharp CVs focus on the most important information, which is refreshing for anyone who reads a lot of them. Wordy paragraphs encourage us to switch off.

It doesn’t matter what niche you’re in, your CV should change slightly for every role. Each hiring manager will be looking for specific areas, so your CV should give them exactly that.

One might be keen to see experience with a certain type of machinery, while another wants to see more leadership skills. Check the job description for keywords and skills – and if you’ve got them, focus on them!

Always check your CV for anything irrelevant or repetitive before you send. Clarity is more likely to get you an interview.

Cut down on older roles

If you’re an experienced candidate, you don’t need to go into too much detail about the roles you had 10+ years ago. If you’ve had lots of short-term contract roles, up to five years is often plenty.

Start with your most recent and work backwards, focusing on what you learned and the impact you made. Recruiters also like to see which stakeholders you’ve worked with, the environments you’re familiar with and the responsibilities you’ve held.

How to format job roles on your engineering CV:

  • The top-level facts – job title, employer name, how long you worked there
  • Brief outline – the purpose of your role, seniority, who you worked closely with
  • Responsibilities – the details of what you actually did, including equipment used, skills learned, and work produced
  • Achievements/successes – the stuff you’re proud of and the difference you made

Still in the first few years of your career? You can afford to take up a bit more space with your role/roles – but don’t let yourself ramble.

Focus on results

The responsibilities you’ve had do matter; but the results you achieved matter more. Each role should summarise what difference you made in the role, rather than just what you did on a day-to-day basis.

Numbers and facts look especially good here because they illustrate the difference you’ve made in a concrete, transferable way. After all, if you did it in your previous role, you can do it in your new role too!

Reconsider the format

Your CV is fairly formal, but that doesn’t mean full sentences are essential throughout. Margins, bullet points and lists can illustrate your points clearly whilst saving space, and helping the reader spot the most important stuff.

Readability is priority number one, so choose a clear font, keep the formatting uniform and don’t overcomplicate things with images or boxes and charts. Remember – once your CVs been attached or uploaded, your reader’s laptop might not read image files properly. The last thing you want is your carefully structured CV looking like gibberish!

Chime in on language

The words you choose are really important when you don’t have much space.

Proactive, positive language shows you in the best light, while passive language is unclear and takes you out of the sentence. For example, ‘I supervised apprentices’ is much better than ‘Apprentices were supervised’.

Clichés aren’t a good idea either because many are so overused they’ve become meaningless. Instead of saying you’re a ‘go-getter’, prove you’re motivated with your experience and quantified achievements. Recruiters are much more likely to believe it.

Shorten your lengthy engineering CV

Engineering jobs are in high demand, but a concise, accurate CV will massively improve your chances of getting an interview for the roles you want.

About the author: Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV – he is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and FastCompany.