The Importance of Certifications and Your Resume

Your resume is the first impression a potential employer will have of you. It is important to objectively indicate your level of knowledge or aptitude in the skills sets you choose to highlight. The addition of certifications on a resume is an important step when updated your job search correspondence. Including certifications will not only help you when negotiating a salary, but also put you one step ahead of other applicants. Here are some suggestions on how to do it effectively in order to get an interview.

Certifications cover a broad range of activities so it is better to list them separately from your education section. You can use your most noteworthy certification as a headline if it’s in high demand. A headline appears after your contact info just before your summary of qualifications. The closer to the top you place your certifications, the less likely they will be overlooked. Most often times, certifications are listed toward the bottom of a resume. Depending on the amount of previous work experience, especially recent graduates with little to no relevant experience, adding this information at the top is a better strategy. If you are applying for a job that requires certain certifications, they need to be listed in a prominent place so they will not be missed.

Create a Certifications/Professional Development/Relevant Training section to list certifications you have earned over the span of your career. List them in reverse chronological order starting with the most recent first. Include the type of certification, the certifying organization, and where and when it was obtained. When listing the dates of your training, it is common to list both the month and the year of completion. This allows you to highlight your most recent achievements, which are assumed to be more relevant to your job target. If you like to abbreviate, it’s also important to include the full name of the certification in case the initial reader of your resume is not familiar the technical terminology of the industry. The full names of certificates can also be keywords that employers are looking for and can easily be picked up by commonly used applicant tracking software. If you have certifications that expire, be sure to list the expiration date as well. It is okay to list certifications that have already expired because it shows you are capable of passing again if needed.

If your certifications carry more weight than your degree, don’t be afraid to list them before your education section. If you have obtained certifications that do not relate to your career objectives, you can always leave them off; you only want to include those that are directly related to the career you are pursuing. It is best to create a master list of all education, certifications, training, and licensures to facilitate the process of tailoring your resume to each position.

If you are currently in the process of obtaining a certification, you can list it as well, but instead of listing a completion date, include an anticipated completion date. This shows your passion for the industry and your willingness to learn what it takes to be successful.

Note that certificates of training differ from certifications and should be listed as such. Certificates of training are the result of an educational process that allow you to demonstrate your knowledge of the course content at the end of the designated courses. Certifications result from an assessment process. They indicate competency measured by a set of standards after satisfying a required score on an examination. They usually result in some type of designation or credential (e.g. CHSM,CSP) and have ongoing requirements to maintain them.

Taking the time to include your most relevant training and certifications on your resume is one of the best ways to set yourself apart from the applicant pool   In today’s competitive job market, it’s the little things that make a difference. Something as simple as adding your certifications may be just enough to give you that competitive edge. Not only do they show that you have the drive to stay current with industry trends, but that you are passionate enough to improve in your career now and in the future.

Note:  Heather Kimbrel works at Columbia Southern University (CSU).  Our partner, OSHAcademy, has a learning partnership with CSU.  Please click the here for more information.