The engineer’s job hunt

Jack of all trades = Master of none

You’ve heard the expression “Jack of all trades.  Master of none”.  Think about that when you are promoting yourself for a new job.  Recruiters want to hire somebody for a specific task.  They are looking for round pegs to fit round holes.  No recruiter is interested in hiring somebody to do “everything”. 

Despite that, you may be tempted to use your resume and cover email to describe how each and every one of your skills can benefit this new company.  But put yourself in the shoes of the recruiter.  They are bound to see lots of resumes for every position offered.  The job of your resume and cover email is to get you a meeting, and nothing more.

Your next thought may be that the more items you put in your initial communication, the greater the likelihood that something in the deluge of skills you’ve unleashed will resonate with the employer.  That’s unlikely because of the signal to noise ratio that the recruiter is dealing with.  Take a careful look at the job description and limit yourself to a few key points.

Does this approach mean that you’ll miss on the occasional job application when you failed to mention the one thing that would have got you the interview?  Absolutely.  But compare that risk to the risk of getting screened out of almost every job because you didn’t convey any specific expertise.  I submit that the second risk is greater. 

The key to a successful introduction is to communicate what is unique about you and how that will enhance the new company.  When you get the meeting you’ll have an opportunity to round out the recruiter’s picture of you face to face. 

So what items from your skills do you pick?  Be sure to highlight the best parts of your resume, such as a name brand employer or graduating from a top 10 school. 


And make your skills appear specific rather than general.  For example, don’t say you are organized.  Instead, mention how you ran a large complex engineering project on time and on budget.  That will show how organized you are. 

If the job posting requires a specific skill, such as knowledge of a particular CAD program, describe an example design that you have done with that program.  If you have worked with a similar application, but not that one, then again say how your experience relates. 

If you haven’t got that specific experience, save yourself the trouble.  You are not the round peg they are looking for.