Certifications on a resume: ways to impress recruiters before they meet you

Jelena Lukic

Published 1st December , 2020

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Job offers are getting more and more scarce. Hence, it is understandable to want to stand out from the competition. Listing certifications on a resume can help highly qualified candidates do just that. However, doing so can get very tricky. For this reason, we are here to give you some CV tips. We hope to help you leave a great impression. Start on the right foot even at a casual glance!

What do certifications on a resume mean?

Certifications, also known as qualifications are documents earned through different courses. They are issued by official certifying bodies that have proved themselves to be authorities in the field. These certifying bodies are usually universities. Other examples include professional societies and certificate-granting agencies. The purpose of a certification is to show that an individual is able and knows how to perform a job. While diplomas are valid forever, most of the other certifications are time-limited. On one hand, some will expire after a time period, while others have to be renewed. Renewing a certification usually requires a person to attend courses. This ensures they remain informed and up-to-date with new technologies, advancements in the field, and scientific studies.

Why are certifications important?

To put it simply – extra qualifications of any kind are a clear indicator of a hard working and dedicated candidate. Not everyone is willing or capable to continue working on their professional skills or education. They also show a candidate’s curiosity and passion for the field.

Illustration of seven men of different vocations.
Skilled work demands skilled employees!

For this reason, certifications can be a great addition to a resume. They make it very clear a candidate is capable and skilled. Additionally, they can be a leverage to get a more favorable contract when it comes to a candidate’s paycheck. Thus, you can clearly understand why they can do wonders for a resume. List them for head start when the competition is numerous and strong, and especially if you don’t have a lot of work experience.

Certifications suitable for a resume can be

  • Vocational
  • Technical
  • Academic

How do you list certifications on a resume?

A resume has no space for unnecessary details. You want it to be as concise and easy to read as possible. For this reason, we do not advise to list all of your certifications. Some certifications can help propel you ahead of the competition. Others are, in turn, redundant. In other words, you have to know which certificate is relevant to the position you are applying for.

Secondly, it is important to make a distinction between certifications and awards. To put it simply, the Certificate section of a resume is relevant to your skills and knowledge. Their purpose is showing you are educated. Awards and honors, on the other hand, concern your accomplishments and results. They should be listed in a separate part of your resume.

Lastly, you should make sure all your certifications are cited the same way. You have the freedom to cite them as you please. However, you should decide on a citation style. Then stick to it throughout the resume. This will give it, and in turn, you, an air of uniformity and organization.

Illustration of a certificate.
A certificate can be a great addition!

Which certifications should you include?

It is normal to feel uncertain if you are looking for your first job in a certain industry. In this case, it is important to read the job description listed in the posting. Additionally, you should research jobs in your industry to see which certifications are most valuable. If your line of work requires a specific certification, make sure to list it first. On the other hand, jobs where no certification is necessary are more common. If you are applying for such a job you don‘t have to list your certifications. Namely, we can‘t recommend including ones that have no connection to the job. However, if you own one that can be connected to the position in any way, including it can be that final little push necessary to get you an interview.

Generally speaking, obtaining a certificate takes time and effort, and also shows a candidate is capable and willing to learn and develop as a professional. However, including an irrelevant certification can take up valuable space on a resume.

Some technical guidelines

Your certifications should be listed in chronological order. Begin with the most recent one, whether it is completed or currently in progress, and go back.

You should disclose the date your certification expires (if it does) clearly.

You should never list an expired certification on a resume. If you are currently taking courses for a certification, mark it as ”in progress”.

Write all acronyms in full at least once. This will make them understandable and easy to navigate.

No matter how you decide to format your certifications, some rules have to apply. You have to include the name of the certification. Adding the name and location of the certifying institution is also mandatory.

A job interviewer holding a candidate's CV.
Make sure your resume looks polished before you apply for a hob!

There are two ways to include certifications into a resume. The first option is to add your certificates in Education or Training section. The second option is to create a separate section for certifications and licenses. This is a great choice for candidates looking into jobs in fields that require licenses. For example, they are necessary in IT, nursing, teaching and hospitality.

Here are some examples

Now you know what certifications are. Here are some examples on how to list them.

  • Professional Certificate in Materials Management. The Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management, Singapore, Singapore
  • First Aid. American Red Cross (exp. August 2022)
  • Certification in Risk Management Assurance. The Institute of Internal Auditors, Altamonte Springs, FL
  • Digital Marketing Certification. University of California, CA
  • Certified Public Health Inspector. Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors, Alberta

Whether a certificate is necessary for the job or not, don’t miss the opportunity to impress your future employer.


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