June 25, 2018

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5 Skills Hiring Managers Look for in Engineering Grads


You are now an engineer on the job hunt.

You know that you’re a highly skilled engineering graduate, but the job hunt can feel like a particularly arduous task.

Maybe you have a couple strong internships or some engineering competition wins under your belt. Maybe you were a project team leader or a volunteer with a STEM outreach program.

But even with all your qualifications, it’s difficult to know out what will catch a recruiter’s eye.

So what skills are recruiters and hiring managers looking for?

1. Technical Skills

Technical skills will still be the main skillset recruiters look at when assessing candidates. They want to know that you have the education, credentials and experience that the job requires.

According to Froistad, technical skills are critical to success in a technical role. A company hiring software engineers, for instance, will likely require that applicants possess strong technical ability in computer programming languages such as Java and C++.

Durham agrees, offering the example of a chemical engineering graduate student being much less likely to appear as a strong candidate if they do not have at least one formal internship position on their resume.

2. Communication Skills

In both personal life and work life, communication is key. Many engineering jobs are exceptionally information-heavy. This means engineers must be able to handle multiple modes of communication: technical and non-technical, written and verbal, online and in person.

Good communication skills are essential for team activities such as brainstorming, project meetings, product design and problem solving. Across all of these tasks you are likely to interact with clients and colleagues at all levels of the organization. This means, being able to communicate your ideas clearly is an essential skill.

As many engineering jobs are heavily project-based, being able to keep track of yourself, your team and your project as a whole is also critical. You must be able to coordinate, prioritize and schedule multiple people, tasks, resources and projects in order to meet your deadlines and achieve your goals. This all rests on a foundation of reliable and efficient communication.

3. Interpersonal Skills

Closely related to communication skills, interpersonal skills are an important component of success in the workplace.

These days, it’s a rare job that requires no cooperative work with other people.

Cultivating your interpersonal skills will make you an effective team or group leader, enable you to build and maintain strong relationships with both coworkers and clients and help you manage staff efficiently and effectively. Conflict resolution is an essential part of this, as problems both in and out of your control will happen, and not everyone will be happy all the time. These types of leadership skills are essential as you advance in your career.

4. Problem Solving and Critical Thinking

If you believe in Murphy’s Law, you know that technical problems, miscommunications and misunderstandings will happen, bringing with them the risks of stalling or derailing a project or causing tension between team members. This makes problem solving and critical thinking essential soft skills for any engineer.

When these issues inevitably crop up, you need to be able to identify, assess and analyze complex problems, quickly make decisions about how to handle the situation and then offer and implement solutions.

This isn’t just so-called “out of the box” thinking. A large part of this skillset is simply the ability to organize your thoughts and present a well-reasoned argument to coworkers, managers and clients.

5. Enthusiasm, Motivation and Commitment

You want that new job– make sure you show it!

Employers and recruiters want to see that you are sincerely interested in the topics you studied for your degree, as well as the new job you are applying for. Demonstrating the enthusiasm to advance in your career by being open and expressing the desire to learn new skills can go a long way toward getting hired.

According to Monachino, a learning orientation, the desire to grow and develop your skills and experience and the ability to lead and take initiative for yourself and your projects are some of the top attributes that recruiters will look for.

You can also demonstrate interest by pursuing additional training both internally at your company, and externally through a school or professional association such as IMechE or ASME.

Durham also offers this reminder: “Personal traits like honesty, integrity, and a strong work ethic will never go out of style. Every employer wants to hire a leader with these characteristics.”

On to the Job Hunt

Knowing what skills are most in demand is the first step toward making yourself an attractive job candidate. With this list as a guide, you will be able to build your skills to successfully get interviews and pursue your dream engineering job.

Seek out additional technical training. Practice your communication skills. Get involved with groups and events to learn how to work with others. Think about problems and offer solutions. Sell yourself and your skills with enthusiasm and honesty.

A great career is waiting for you. Happy job hunting!

Author: Meghan Brown

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