Adding Industry Certifications to Your Résumé

A graphic showing the fake résumé for a Peter S. Burg.

When you need to update your résumé to reflect your latest industry certification and be captivating at a glance, you have a few choices and a couple must-do’s. Our quick guide below will walk you through industry-certification specific tips, to help you land an interview after getting certified.

Choice: Listing your Certifications in your Heading

For single credential holders, or those with stackable certifications with their own unique title (think CompTIA Secure Infrastructure Specialist (CSIS) that implies CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+) including your credentials in your heading, after your name, might be a perfect fit. However, once you have amassed multiple credentials, this information is better in a short positioning statement at the top of your résumé, or even better, in a Stand-alone Certification section.

Choice: Stand-alone Certification section or Education & Certification combo

Whether you choose to position yourself using a traditional chronological résumé or trendy functional résumé, your certifications should help you stand out. I recommend a Certification section above your Education, especially if you hold more than one valid credential. You may choose instead, to list your certifications under your Education section, because creating another certification-specific section, may take up valuable space on your résumé.

I feel it is a personal choice that can be based on the amount of other information you would like to list on your résumé. Keeping in mind résumés should be one page long, and no longer than two, for high-level applicants. A veteran in their field may have more compelling Experience and value to highlight. A new-to-the field candidate could be better served by placing their Certifications front and center.

In my opinion, a dedicated certification section says just that—you are dedicated to building your specific technical skillset and your credentials can validate it.

Computer Science student works on a computer.

Must-Do: List the full Title and Acronym of your certification credential

It might be tempting to list only the acronym or common term for your certification (think CEH.) Given that most résumés are run through Applicant Tracking Systems before ever landing in front of a Recruiter or Hiring Manager, stack the deck in your favor by listing both terms: Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH.) This way, no matter how the system is tagged with the skillset they are looking for, your résumé will match it.

Must-Do: Note the Date you Certified, the Expiration Date, and any Unique Identifiers

Employers will be curious about your certifications. Help take the guesswork out of their process by explicitly stating your certification date, and expiration date (if applicable.) Include any unique identifying numbers associated with your credentials, in the same place. This will help Hiring Teams audit your credentials from your Certification Vendor’s website. Many times, without listing your credential ID number, or association number, your certification cannot be validated until you directly share further details with the hiring manager. Help them take the next step toward you, and share this information with them on the front-end.

Choice: List your Education after your Experience, or before

Traditionally, Education follows your Experience section. However, for students who have been certified or graduated recently, with less relevant experience in the workforce, I recommend listing your Certification and Education sections before your Experience. While waiting tables and computer networking administration have similar words in common (Server) the old workforce you, should not stand in the way of the new MCSA-certified you. If you are changing fields, list your latest education first.

Choice: Include Expired Certifications or not

If you have let a credential lapse because your most recent work did not require it, but your technical skillset is still valid and relevant for the positions you are applying for, you will need to decide how to incorporate it. Some experts suggest listing a lapsed credential under Education and in parenthesis noting expired. Otherwise, consider listing something similar in your Technical Skills Summary, a popular component of today’s IT résumés. If your expired certification was Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) but your (still) relevant technical skillset is Cisco Routing & Switching, list that under skills, and forgo the expired CCNA under Education.

Also important, if a skillset is no longer relevant because the industry has grown and changed since then; remove antiquated skills from all sections of your résumé. Leaving them takes up valuable space, makes it harder to find your latest skills, and might make you appear out-of-touch with your industry. Likewise, list only certifications and skillsets relevant to the jobs you are applying for, regardless if the certification is valid.

All of this to say, once you have added an industry certification to your professional portfolio, there are important considerations and choices for you to make when you take the next step in the workforce. Ensure you have a well-structured and relevant résumé that displays your credentials. Determine how your certifications, education, and experience, should be organized to position you best with these tips in mind. Are you looking for Career Development-Certified expertise? Connect with your campus Career Services Team.

Do you have any practical tips about how you positioned your certifications on your résumé with great success? Let me know in the comments below.

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