Having certifications on your resume is more important than ever. Why? Because the job market is rapidly evolving towards skills-based hiring. 

Skills-based hiring means employers are less focused on college degrees and job titles. Instead, they care more about the specific skills and abilities you bring to the table. 

Certifications show employers that you have the skills they want. This will help you stand out from other candidates with similar backgrounds who lack certifications. 

In this article, we’ll show you how to list your certifications on your resume properly. This will allow you to take advantage of the new trend toward skills-based hiring.

What are certifications?

Certifications prove you have learned certain skills. They are usually awarded by professional organizations or universities. 

How are certifications different from regular school degrees? Degrees provide a broad overview of a field. Certifications are more targeted, focusing on one specific area. 

For example, you can get certified in network security, medical coding, Google Analytics, cloud computing, or project management.

To earn a certification, you need to complete a course and pass an examination. You can take these courses in person or online.

Why should you get certifications?

Certifications help you learn new skills or get better at what you already know. This can lead to better job opportunities and promotions

In industries with lots of fast-paced innovation, certifications are especially valuable. This is because they can keep you up-to-date with the latest technologies and trends. 

Certifications also show employers that you’re committed to professional development. This is especially useful for those looking to advance in their career or pivot to a new one

In short, certifications are a good way to boost your career and stay competitive!

How to list certifications on your resume

Properly listing your certifications on your resume can improve your chances of getting an interview. So it’s important to get it right.

1) Formatting guidelines

When listing your certifications, follow these guidelines:

  • Name of certification: Start with the full name of the certification. Use bold or italics if you want to make it stand out.
  • Issuing organization: Follow with the name of the organization that issued the certification.
  • Date of certification: Include the date you received the certification.
  • Expiration date: If applicable, mention the expiration date.
  • Location: If relevant, include the location where you received the certification.

Here are a couple of examples:

Two examples of how to list your certifications on your resume.

2) Where to put certifications on a resume

Where to list certifications on your resume depends on a couple of things:

  • How relevant is your certification to the job? 
  • How many certifications do you have? 

If your certifications are NOT highly relevant to the job you’re applying to, list them in the education section of your resume. 

Here’s an example:

How to list your certifications in your resume education section.

If you have a certificate that’s highly relevant to the job you’re applying to, you need to show it off in your resume headline. 

Your resume headline is a one-line statement at the top of your resume that features your main area of expertise

For example, this resume headline immediately tells employers that the candidate is “RHIT-certified” (RHIT stands for Registered Health Information Technician). 

An example of a resume headline with a certification.

You can also list the most important certifications in your resume summary. 

Your resume summary is a short statement that goes under your headline. It’s like an elevator pitch: a quick, punchy way to say “Here’s what I can do.”

Here’s an example:

An example of a resume summary with a certification.

Do you have multiple certifications that are relevant to the job you’re applying for? If so, create a separate section titled “Certifications”.

Usually, this section comes after education. However, it can be placed higher if the certifications are very important for the job.

List multiple certifications in reverse chronological order, with the most recent one first. Here’s an example:

An example of a dedicated certification section on your resume.

3) Leave out certifications that are not relevant

If your certifications are not in any way relevant to the job you’re applying for, leave them off your resume.

When you add certifications that don’t relate to the job, it can confuse the hiring manager.

Let’s say you’re applying for a financial analyst job, but your resume shows a culinary arts certification. While this might be an impressive personal achievement, it’s not relevant to financial analysis. 

If a hiring manager sees this, they may doubt your understanding of the job requirements. 

4) Tailor your certifications to the job

These days, simply listing your certifications on your resume is not enough. To truly stand out, it’s crucial to tailor your certifications to the job you’re applying to.

Why? Because most companies use computer software to sort and filter resumes. This software is called an applicant tracking system (ATS). 

How ATS works

When you submit your resume it goes directly into an ATS database. Hiring managers search the database for suitable candidates by typing keywords into the ATS search bar. These keywords can be skills, job titles, or certifications. 

If your resume contains these keywords, the hiring manager will find it. Perhaps they’ll offer you an interview.

If your resume does NOT contain these keywords, it will remain in the database. This means you probably won’t get the job. 

Read the job description to find keywords

How do you know which keywords the hiring manager will use to search the database? Read the job description. 

The job description lists the skills, job titles, and certifications the employer wants. 

If you have certifications that don’t appear in the job description, don’t list them on your resume. (Or mention them in your education section if you think they have some relevance to the job).

But if the job requires a “Certified Scrum Master” and you have this certification, be sure to include it in your resume heading and summary.

Use the same language found in the job listing

Try to use the same language on your resume that’s used in the job description.

For example, if the job description says “Certified Project Manager,” list your certification the same way. 

Why? Because the hiring manager will probably type that exact phrase into the ATS search bar. If your resume says “Qualified Project Management Specialist”, it might not be found.  

Use a resume optimizer to tailor your resumes

Most job seekers create one resume that they send out with every application. This allows them to apply to lots and lots of jobs quickly.

But creating only one resume isn’t the best idea. You’ll get more job interviews if you tailor each resume to the job you’re applying to.

If your resume isn’t tailored to the job you’re applying to, it’s less likely to contain the keywords hiring managers are searching for. So they’ll never even see it.

Tailoring your resume is the smart way to apply to jobs, but it’s also time-consuming and takes extra effort.

That’s why job seekers are turning to online resume optimization tools like Jobscan’s resume scanner.

The scanner uses AI-powered technology to analyze your resume against the job description. It then provides you with a match score. This tells you how closely your resume matches the job description. 

The scanner works like this:

Step 1: Paste your resume into the tool.

Step 2: Paste the job description into the tool.

Step 3: Click “scan”.

Jobscan’s resume scanner also tells you how to increase your score by adding keywords. Here’s an example of a report with a match score and keyword suggestions.

Example of Jobscan's Power Edit resume score and suggested keywords.

By adding the skills highlighted in red, you’ll increase your match score. The higher the score the more likely a hiring manager will find your resume and offer you a job interview.

NOTE: Only add skills if you have them. Don’t misrepresent yourself!

When should you include certifications on your resume?

You should include certifications on your resume when:

  1. They are required – Some jobs specifically require certain certifications. Even if one is not required, certifications can give you an advantage.
  2. They are relevant – If the certification is related to the job you’re applying for, include it. It shows you have the skills or knowledge the employer is seeking. 
  3. They add value to your application – Include certifications that enhance your professional profile. Even if they’re not directly related to the job. For example, a project management certification can be valuable in many roles.
  4. You lack experience – If you lack experience, certifications can show that you have the skills and knowledge needed for the job. This is especially helpful if you’re a recent graduate or changing careers.

Free certifications to add to your resume

If you recently graduated or lack relevant work experience, free certifications can help you stand out. 

Free certifications might not be as impressive as paid ones. But they still show employers that you’re interested in professional development. Plus, you’ll learn some useful skills! 

Here are some free certifications anyone can get online:

Marketing: HubSpot Academy’s Inbound Marketing Certification – This course covers the fundamentals of inbound marketing, including content marketing, social media strategy, and SEO.

Project Management: Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Project Management Basics – An introductory course that covers basic project management concepts and practices.

Data Analysis: Great Learning’s Free Data Analytics Courses with Certificates – These courses cover the basics of data analytics and are taught hands-on by experts. 

Cybersecurity: Cisco’s Introduction to Cybersecurity – A course that introduces the basics of cybersecurity and the potential career paths in this field.

Human Resources: OpenLearn’s Introducing Human Resources Management – A course that covers the basics of HR practices and theories.

Finance: Corporate Finance Institute’s Free Finance Courses – These include introductory courses on financial analysis, accounting, and reading financial statements.

Digital Marketing: Google Digital Garage’s Fundamentals of Digital Marketing – A comprehensive course covering all aspects of digital marketing, including email marketing, social media, and e-commerce.

Healthcare: Alison’s Diploma in Healthcare Management – Covers essential topics in healthcare management, including decision-making and managing change in healthcare.

Paid certifications are usually more comprehensive than free ones. Some are highly valued as they show a deep level of knowledge and skill in their field. 

Here are some of the most prominent paid certifications: 

Marketing: Digital Marketing Institute’s Certified Digital Marketing Professional – This program offers extensive training in digital marketing strategies including SEO, PPC, social media, and email marketing.

Project Management: Project Management Professional (PMP)® Certification from the Project Management Institute – Recognized globally, this certification demands extensive project management experience and knowledge.

Data Analysis: Certified Analytics Professional (CAP) – Ideal for data analysts and data scientists, this certification focuses on end-to-end understanding of the analytics process.

IT and Cybersecurity: Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) – A globally recognized certification in the field of IT security, focusing on areas like risk management and network security.

Graphic Design: Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) – Specializing in Adobe products, this certification is ideal for graphic designers looking to validate their skills in Adobe Creative Cloud software.

Human Resources: SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) – Offered by the Society for Human Resource Management, this certification is aimed at those who set up policies, act as a liaison for employees and stakeholders, and handle day-to-day HR tasks.

Finance: Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) – Offered by the CFA Institute, this certification is highly esteemed in the fields of investment and financial analysis.

Healthcare: Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ) – Offered by the National Association for Healthcare Quality, this certification focuses on healthcare quality management at all levels.

Environmental Science: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Professional Credentials – Offered by the U.S. Green Building Council, this certification is key for professionals working in green building and sustainable design.

Key takeaways

What are certifications?

  • Certificates prove you have specific skill sets; they are usually awarded by professional organizations or universities.
  • Certificates are increasingly crucial in a job market favoring skills-based hiring.
  • Certificates are more focused than degrees.

Benefits of certifications:

  • They enhance skills and knowledge, leading to better job opportunities and promotions.
  • Certificates keep you updated with the latest technologies and trends.
  • They show commitment to professional development.

How to list certifications on a resume:

  • Formatting – Include the certification name, issuing organization, date of certification, and expiration date (if applicable).
  • Placement – Highly relevant certifications should be added to the resume headline or summary. Others can be listed in the education section or in a separate section.
  • Relevance – Exclude certifications that are not relevant to the job to avoid confusion.

Resume optimization:

  • List certifications as they appear in the job description for better ATS (Applicant Tracking System) compatibility.
  • Use online tools like Jobscan’s resume scanner to match your resume to the job description.

FAQs

What other sections can you list on your resume?

In addition to your work experience and education sections, your resume can include skills, volunteer experience, awards and honors, projects, publications, and languages. 

How do you list certifications on a resume?

List the certification name, followed by the issuing organization. Include the date you received the certification. If applicable, mention the expiration date.

Place highly relevant certifications in your resume headline or summary. Others can go in the education section or a separate certifications section.

What certificates are good on a CV?

Certificates that are good on a CV include:

  • Certificates that are directly relevant to the job or industry you are applying to.
  • Certifications that demonstrate essential skills for the position.
  • Well-recognized or accredited certifications in your field.

Is there a situation when you DON’T list certifications on your resume?

Don’t list certifications that are not relevant to the job, as they can distract or confuse the employer. Avoid listing outdated certifications that no longer hold value in your industry.

Is it OK to put in-progress certifications on your resume?

Yes, you can list certifications that are in progress. Indicate that they are ongoing by writing “in progress” next to the name or expected completion date.

Should I list online course certifications on my resume?

Yes, especially if they are relevant to the job or showcase important skills. Ensure they are from credible sources and add value to your profile.


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Robert Henderson, CPRW, Resume Expert

Robert Henderson, CPRW, is a career advice writer and a resume expert at Jobscan.

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