Applying for Positions

Now that you have found positions you are interested in, it is time to apply! First check to make sure that you meet the required qualifications.  If you do not meet all of the required qualifications, it is probably not worth spending the time to apply.  You do not need to have the preferred qualifications, but possessing them will make you a better candidate for the position.  Both required and preferred qualifications are good things to state/mention in your application materials. At a minimum, you will need to submit your resume, but additional information is also often requested.  For some positions, additional documents such as a cover letter or transcripts might be required.  Even when not required, providing a cover letter to introduce yourself and highlight a few qualifications that make you a strong candidate for the specific position is always recommended if you have time to prepare a quality document.  See Step 4 of the Employment Guide for more information on developing your marketing materials.

Employers collect job applicant materials in a variety of ways that include through CyHire, their own career website, email, regular mail, and in person.  When applying online or in person, you may need to fill out an application profile and possibly answer a few screening questions.  It is recommended that you answer all questions to prevent being eliminated from consideration due to an incomplete application.  When supplemental questions are asked (e.g., Describe your experience working with ____.), be sure to answer them fully (similar to how you would answer a question during an interview) as they are an important part of your application. Avoid saying “refer to resume” or only providing one sentence answers. The information from some of the questions (like gender, ethnicity, disabilities, etc.) is used by HR for equal employment opportunity compliance record keeping and is not shared with the selection committee or hiring manager.

Whenever you are applying for a position, read the details carefully, paying close attention to deadlines. Whether a position has a hard deadline or no deadline, you should apply as soon as possible to ensure you will be in consideration before they close the position or get enough qualified candidates. Remember to check your email frequently (at least once per day) when you are applying for positions so that you do not miss any important notifications regarding your application or potential interviews.

Tailor Your Application Materials

It is beneficial to tailor your application materials (i.e., resume and cover letter) to a specific position, because recruiters look for keywords and many employers use scanning software to automatically score resumes and rank candidates.  To be rated as highly as possible, ensure that your materials include as many of the skills and keywords mentioned in the job description as you can legitimately defend.  This is especially important when applying for positions with the federal government where a multi-page resume is perfectly acceptable for all candidates.  It is not effective to trick the scanner by simply listing skills and keywords in a skills section (other than programming languages, software, and equipment that you have used), because the next level of screening will involve a person reviewing your resume.  They will want to see well-written, skills-based work impact statements within your work experience and other sections that provide “proof” of your successful use of the skills and knowledge.

If you are interested in applying to government positions, additional information can be found in our special considerations section.

Your resume should be written to impress both a keyword scanner and a recruiter.

Minimum Effort = Minimum Results

Additional Effort = Additional Results

Know Your Value

The “what is your salary expectation” question is frequently asked by employers to gauge whether a job candidate has a realistic understanding and expectation of the position and the salary.  The question is often included when applying for a position through an employer’s website, and it may be asked during an interview.  Most employers say that the value provided by a candidate is not used to determine the actual salary offered, but expectations need to be in the general range of what they are prepared to offer.  To set starting salaries, many of the larger employers use formulas that include major, GPA, relevant work experience, etc. to calculate starting salary, but not all employers have this capability.  To ensure that you receive a competitive salary and are not bypassed by providing an unrealistic salary expectation (too low or too high), it is important to know your market value.  Below are a few tips to navigate this question.

Review Information Given by the Employer

Start by reviewing the position description of the job and application materials to see if a salary range is mentioned.  If there is any salary information given during conversations with the recruiter, take note of that information to utilize in your research.

Review the Salary Information Reported by Other Students and Recent Alumni

Review the salary information reported by recent graduates and co-op/intern students to determine average salaries for your major:

Make Adjustments for Location and Qualifications as Necessary

Cost of living varies widely from location to location so it is important to take this into consideration.  Use the CNN Money or one of the other online calculators to adjust the average salary for your major for the location of the position. The average salaries from Step 2 represent locations from across the U.S., but the highest percentage comes from Iowa and the surrounding states. Since the cost of living in the Midwest is generally three to five percent less than the national average, you should take this into account when making adjustments.

Bankrate Cost of Living Calculator:

CNN Money Cost of Living Calculator:

Educate to Career Salary Calculator:

Next make adjustments for additional qualifications that make you an above-average candidate.  This could be a high GPA, previous relevant co-ops or internships or relevant certifications.

Applying for Multiple Positions at One Company

Often times, a single company will have multiple engineering positions open that you may be interested in. It is fine to apply for multiple positions at one company, and this can show that you are very passionate about working for them. However, use caution if you are applying to very different positions. For example, if you express a passion for doing a certain type of work in one application, but in another you discuss your strong desire to do a very different type of work, this can make the employer question if you are genuine and/or if you really know what you want to pursue. It can also hurt your chances if you apply for too many positions with a company, especially if they do not align with your qualifications.