Getting a good job as an engineer can mean secure employment for the rest of your life. In most places, engineers are highly valued employees with proprietary knowledge that make the companies that they work for a lot of profit.
That said, good engineers are hard to find in the industry, so a company will do whatever it takes to find the best of the best for their engineering roles. That means that as an engineer looking for an employee, you need to make sure to put on your best face from the get-go. Not only is an engineering job a secure one, but it's also relatively high-paying, compared to the rest of the job market.
The best thing you can do to look good from the beginning of the hiring process is have an amazing cover letter and resume.
In order to help you as an engineer seeking employment, get your dream job, let's lay out some best practices for engineering cover letters.
How to structure your cover letter
Cover letters are just that, letters that go on the cover of your resume speaking to your potential employer about why you're a good fit for the role.
You'll want to structure the letter like this:
- Introductory Paragraph
- Body Paragraph
- Closing remarks
If you follow this flow in your cover letter writing process, you'll end up with something that is more coherent than 50% of other applicants. As you likely know, engineers aren't always known for being the best communicators, so if you can lead with strong communication, you'll be better off.
For each of the sections we've mentioned above, you'll want to include specific aspects to mention.
For the heading, you'll want to add your name, your contact information, as well as the name & contact of the hiring manager (if you know it).
In the greetings part of the letter, you'll want to offer up an initial salutation to whoever is reading your letter.
The first paragraph is going to be where you'll call out the role you're applying for, why you're interested, and how you came across the job listing. This first paragraph is key, it needs to catch the reader's attention – just like a work of fiction would.
While you could write, "I'm applying for the role of Design Engineer I after finding the role listed on a job website and I'm interested in the role because I qualify for it."
You should write, "After years of work as a design engineer in the product manufacturing sector, I decided it was time to pursue a new challenge, leading me to find the role of Design Engineer I on a job site and determine that it would be a perfect fit for my skill set."
You called out the role "Design Engineer I." You stated how you found the job, "on a job site." You also mentioned why you are interested, because you wanted a "new challenge," as well as throwing in a little flare about how experienced you are for the role in getting the reader hooked. Some creative pizzaz can really make your introductory paragraph for your cover letter pop.
For your middle body paragraph, this is where you're going to expand upon why you are the best most perfect engineer for the role. List some of your job experience – the most applicable to the role you're hiring for – but do not rewrite your resume. A cover letter is meant to be a taste to get the hiring manager wanting more. Lead with your impressive experience and let your resume fill in the gaps.
For the closing paragraph, round out everything you've said before with a thank you, a final thought on why you should be considered further, and a hope to meet for an interview soon. Open strong and close strong, but don't give away too much in the cover letter where the employer immediately dismisses you. You want them to spend more time looking at your information.
Cover letter tips
At the end of the day, there isn't one cover letter format that is going to work perfectly for everyone. You want your cover letter to check all of the boxes you need it to check while also uniquely expressing who you are.
One other thing you'll want to make sure of is that your cover letter is free of grammatical errors. Be sure to run a grammar check and a spelling check on your work. The last thing that you'd want is for you not to get hired because you spelled the word engineer wrong.
Checking for punctuation errors and other common formatting problems can save the day as you work to get hired as well. Your resume and cover letter need to be perfect, so if you don't have someone else to read through it, utilize a grammar checker to get the job done.
As for how long your cover letter should be, it should fit nicely on a well-margined page. Don't overwhelm the hiring manager on first glance, chances are at that point they'll just push you aside.
As for other small tips and tricks, be sure to choose a professional font like Arial, Times New Roman, or Calibri. You'll want to make sure that your text flows well, and everything you say is clear and concise. Remove anything in the cover letter that is superfluous to why you should be hired. Don't mention that you have a dog, or a family you need to support, be professional and concisely state why you're better than anyone else they could ever consider.
At the end of the day, as an engineer who has hired others for technical roles, utilize your cover letter to grab the attention of the hiring manager and convince them to read your resume. Use your resume to prove to the hiring manager why it was worth them reading further. Tailor your job experience and everything on your resume to the role you're applying for.
That said, writing the proper engineering resume is an entirely different post.