How to List Certifications on Your CV or Résumé

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Putting certifications on your résumé or CV can sometimes take a backseat when ensuring you’ve got the right buzzwords and soft skills down on the page, but it is still a vitally important section.

Your career objectives and employment history, on the other hand, are subject to your own spin. Whereas your key qualifications and certificates speak for themselves; they are undeniable proof of your competencies, and without them, your application might hold no weight.

Therefore, we’ve compiled a handy guide on what kind of certifications you should include, as well as how to correctly format them.

What Certificates Should I Include?

Knowing which certificates you should include requires a bit of thought, so before making a decision, consider all the points listed below.

1. Are They ‘Serious’?

It’s human nature to be proud of our achievements, and when we receive recognition for them, it’s understandable that we want to show them off. But your 50m swimming certificate, or that Level 1 Food Hygiene from your college waitressing days, isn’t going to impress the recruiters at McKinsey & Co.

For that reason, the first thing you need to do is put all your certificates and qualifications on the table and remove the ones that have no bearing in your employment search But, before throwing they away, you need to ask yourself the following questions…

2. Are They Relevant?

As discussed, that food hygiene certificate may not win you any fans in corporate finance, but if you’re applying for a chef position or any other role where you may be responsible for handling food, then it’s entirely relevant.

You should always tailor your résumé directly to the position you are applying for, and your certificates are a part of this process, so think about whether or not each qualification will enhance your credibility and suitability for that exact role.

3. Are They Sought-After?

For better or worse, specific industry courses can carry a lot more weight than others. A great example are project management positions where candidates who possess a top management qualification, such as the PMP certificate, are going to be instantly preferable to those who hold a lesser known credential.

Of course, this comes down to you doing your research on industry trends and enrolling on the right courses in the first place. But if you hold a certificate that’s outdated and unwanted, then not only should you think carefully about whether or not to put it on your CV, but you might also want to consider updating your skillset, too.

4. Are They Important in Your Industry?

Not all professions put great stock in certification; in graphic design, for instance, employers will likely be more interested in your portfolio and your technical skills than anything else.

In, say, the IT industry, though, it’s essential to be able to prove what systems or applications you are competent to work on. In this instance, it would be wise to list all your relevant certificates, especially if they are known to be in demand.

5. Do They Add to Your Résumé?

In some sectors, such as in healthcare, you need to list your professional licenses. These are not optional – they are mandatory – but they are also not particularly interesting; think of them as the bare minimum of what your potential employers expect.

Therefore, think about including supplementary qualifications, too, to make your application a little more special. In particular, focus on any extra courses you’ve done in your own time online or at night school; for instance, you don’t need a leadership qualification to be a nurse, but if a recruiter sees one on your CV, then it can identify you as possible management material. This is a good example of a ‘complimentary’ certificate that is not only relevant to the role (see point 1), but that could also be the defining difference between you and a rival candidate.

How Should I Include Them?

Generally speaking, there is no right or wrong way to format a CV (within reason, of course). There are numerous examples of ways in which you can present your qualifications, and ultimately the final decision comes down to your own tastes. As an overall guide, though, you might want to consider the following approaches.

1. Include Key Certifications in Your Career Summary

If there is a particular certificate that is significant to your proposed role, then it’s acceptable to refer to it briefly in your opening description. For example, if you were applying for a personal trainer role, you could say:

Experience personal trainer with a proven track record of improving client health and wellness. Capable of delivering general and customised health and fitness programmes for all ages, with particular emphasis on personalised goal attainment, innovative science-backed delivery and the development of a safe and fun client environment. ISSA certified.

Straight away, this lets recruiters know that you’re credible and that you are have achieved direct recognition from a respected industry body; it gives your entire application more weight. You can then expand on what exactly your certification is, with additional details, further down the page.

2. Your Designated Certification Section

Most CVs and résumés are split into sections, and if you have more than one relevant certificate, then it’s a good idea to have a designated section. This can go towards the end after you’ve listed your employment history, education and skills.

Unlike in your career summary, your certification section needs to contain all the details of your certificate, including:

  • Name: The full, official name of the certificate or qualification. If you are unsure, check the certificate itself or consult the certificate provider.
  • Issuing body: The full name of the issuer / provider. Note that this refers to the body issuing the certificate and may be different to the training provider; for example, in accounting, the CFAB certificate is issued by the ICAEW, but the training may have been provided by an education contractor, such as Pearson.
  • Date: The month and date of when you were issued the certificate (again, this may be different to when you did the actual training). Many certificates – particularly in healthcare, for instance – expire and require retraining, so it’s important to date them. If you want, you can also make a note of the expiration date, although this is optional (you shouldn’t be listing expired qualifications anyway).
  • Location (optional): If you want, you can list the location that you did your course or training at, although, again, this is optional.

Ideally, it should look something like this:

CV certifications section example

As you can see in the example, these certificates for our personal trainer applicant are relevant and industry-recognised. While the CPR & First Aid qualification may not be a requisite, it is still a very useful (and in-date) certificate to have in an environment where people are pushing themselves to their physical limits.

Also, note that education and certification are different; on a résumé, education usually refers to your degrees or high school education, whereas certificates are generally stand-alone courses.

Listing your certificates is a relatively straightforward exercise; it’s crucial that you get it right, though, as listing wrong, irrelevant or out-of-date certificates can potentially discredit your entire application. Simply follow the tips in this guide, and you should be on the path to a successful job search with ease.

Do you have any other tips for listing certifications on your résumé? Let us know in the comments below.