FAQ about Resumes from Engineering Master’s Students

View the answers below to some of the most frequently asked questions about resumes from the Engineering Master’s population.

  • What goes into a job or internship application?

    When submitting a job or internship application you will be asked to submit supporting career materials. Supporting materials could include a cover letter (a document that introduces you to the hiring manager), a resume (a document that provides a summary of your strengths, motivation, and fit), a CV (a document that provides a full, detailed account of your skills, abilities, and accomplishments), and perhaps other documents like professional references, transcripts, a writing sample, or other examples of your work.

  • What are the differences between a CV and resume?

    In some countries, there is no difference between the CV and resume and the words are used interchangeably. In the US, it is common to utilize the resume for most internships and jobs, while those entering academia will most often use the CV. We suggest that you do not use these words interchangeably in the US, as these documents serve two different purposes. The three major differences between a CV and a resume are the purpose, length, and layout. 


    A CV, curriculum vitae, is a detailed, in-depth academic document that provides exhaustive details about your achievements throughout your career. The CV includes a complete record about your education, accomplishments, awards, honors, and publications, presentations, and patents.
    Duke Career Center CV Guide


    A resume is a concise document that you create for a specific audience and role. It includes bulleted points with short, impactful, impact-oriented statements. A resume should be crafted for a particular field and/or role and should demonstrate your interest and investment in the organization through the research you have done to prepare for the opportunity.
    Resume Advice
    Resume Samples of Engineering Master’s Students

  • What are common sections in a resume?

    Contact Information

    Your contact information should include:

    • your name in a large, appropriate font
    • one cell phone or home phone number 
    • one email address
    • professional profile link, commonly LinkedIn (optional)
    • mailing address (optional)

    This section should be at the top of your resume.  It should be visually appealing and easy to read. If an employer wants to invite you for an interview, make sure they can easily find your up-to-date contact information. You do not want to lose an opportunity because you are not checking your email or your voicemail is not set up.


    An education section will include all of your college degrees with your current, highest or most recent degree listed first and the rest following in reverse order by date. 

    As a current student, expect to position this section at the top of your document, though there are times when those with work experience prefer to move it to the bottom. Most importantly, be sure to add Duke to your resume! 

    For each item in your education section, include:

    • college, university or institution’s name
    • location 
    • official degree and department
    • attendance dates, include month and year of anticipated graduation
    • relevant courses
    • gpa, converted to 4.0 scale (optional)
    • selected honors and awards (optional)


    Experience Sections (include 1-3)

    Plan to include a variety of experiences that align with the sections you’ve selected, not just those that align by title. You will add impact statements to show the reader why each experience has been included.

    In addition to jobs, internships, and clubs, some common types of experience that students overlook include:

    • personal businesses or entrepreneurial ventures
    • volunteering for service or family commitments
    • projects, personal or academic
    • hobbies and athletics

    Format each experience in your document consistently, regardless of section. Each must have these four components:

    • organization (answers the question: What was this experience part of?)
    • role (answers the question: What did you do or contribute?)
    • location (answers the question: Where did this happen?)
    • dates (answers the question: When, and for how long, were you doing this?)



    Depending on the circumstance, the skills section can be listed in the second or last position. Placing it second showcases technical depth, or a variety of experience when it’s a list with many items. It can also be useful for online submissions. Applicant Tracking Systems that scan resumes for keywords often prioritize frequency and placement of terms.

    Placing the skills section last treats it like an index and invites the reader to look immediately at your experience. This method can be useful for bringing attention right to professional themes and accomplishments, while trusting the reader to reference the skills, as needed.

    Presentations, Publications and/or Patents

    If you have presentations, publications and/or patents that are relevant to the field, organization, or role of interest, include them on your resume. Listing these as an impact statement within the related experience typically makes the most sense for the reader and saves space. In the case that you want to bring extra attention to expert knowledge on a technical topic, as a writer, or in your speaking skills, this can be its own section.

    • How do I write effective bullet points to describe my experience?

      The description of your experiences is intended to show how that part of your life helped you to be better prepared for the opportunity you’re applying for. Don’t make the mistake of focusing on the project or role description, focus on what you did, what you learned, or the hardest challenges you had to figure out.

      This is why we recommend focusing on writing “impact sentence” for each of the bullet points you include in your resume. Try approaching it this way: Think carefully about what you want the resume reader to know about this experience and why it connects to the opportunity you are pursuing. It usually helps to consider impact in two directions:

      • How did you make an impact during this experience?
        Did you produce something, make suggestions, have work that was used? These are all possible options for impact sentences.
      • How did this experience impact you?
        Because you spent your time on these things, what do you know better? What can you do better?

      Each of the ideas you have in mind becomes the start of an impact sentence that hasn’t been written yet. For different resume uses, you will select and write different impact sentences, developing a library of choices over time.

      • ACTION – Focus on the verb, this is a critical decision. What single action word best describes the impact?
      • TASK – In a few words, describe the thing that you did.
      • IMPACT – Use the rest of the sentence to share details that describe how the action happened.
    • Who reads my resume at each point of the hiring process?

      Resumes are closely scrutinized against many candidates vying for limited interview spots. They must be effective when scanned by computers (if applicable) and human eyes. Consider how your resume must be effective across these different situations.


      All good search processes have an outreach component, where you actively cultivate your reputation and relationships in a field separate from a specific job application. For these individual conversations, emails, events, and other occasions, you will want a copy of your resume or a link to a professional profile to share. 


      During the application process you have two potential types of viewers: an applicant tracking system (ATS) and human readers. While the ATS is a common technology, there are plenty of organizations that do not use it. You will need to consider how to customize your resume so that it will pass both ATS’ critical keyword test and impress human readers. Organizations use ATS because it allows them to more efficiently manage the hiring process. What is ATS you might ask? The ATS is a system that filters out applicants that do not meet a position’s predefined criteria. It does this through scanning resumes for the job description’s key words. Your resume is not likely to move past the first stage if it  lacks these keywords. Including keywords in your resume is an essential piece of career application documents customization that will appeal to ATS and also the human viewer. 

      If you advance to the next stage in the process or if the organization does not use ATS, human readers will review your resume to determine whether you align with the organization and hiring manager’s needs. The first stage of the human reader process is often conducted by a human resources (HR) professional and/or a recruiter. Recruiters and/or HR professionals screen applications and resumes to determine which candidates meet the minimum requirements for an advertised job.

      Strategically craft your resume! Use keywords found in the job or internship description, that are valued by ATS, but also appeal to people. Put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager, does your resume look appealing to the human eye? Is it easy to read? If the answer is no, think about how you can craft a resume that appeals to both ATS and the human reader. 


      If the human reader or recruiter decides to move you along in the hiring process, you will have an interview with the recruiter, the hiring manager or both. The interview process is not the same for every organization, so some recruiters conduct initial interviews while others may send you directly to the hiring manager. 

      The hiring manager will review your resume with the specific needs of the organization in mind. If you are applying for a technical position, the hiring manager will play close attention to your technical skills and abilities and you will be asked questions about your experience. Customizing your resume allows you to show the employer that you have the skills do to the work, are motivated to do the work, and will fit with the organization. Remember, anything on your resume is fair game for an interview question!