That Piece of Paper - The Importance of Qualifications
That Piece of Paper - The Importance of Qualifications

By Zhou Mei An, Staff Writer

Posted on 20 January 2020

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Way back when I was a polytechnic student, I attended quite a few talks meant to prepare us for the “working world” of job searches and career paths. During one of these talks, the presenter asked our class to list the strangest qualifications and certificates they had ever seen listed on a resume. The answers were pretty wild, with everything from international driving licenses to someone winning the Best Composition in Primary Three award.

We sat and laughed, but accolades and certifications are definitely something to be serious about. For some occupations, a certain certification or course participation is a must. For others, highlighting relevant coursework in your resume helps you stand out from the crowd.

So, where do these go on the resume? And what should you include? Here are some pointers.

1. Should it be included?

There are two kinds of skills – hard and soft skills. Each kind of skill should be featured differently in your resume.

Hard skills are technical in nature, and specific to particular jobs and sectors. For example, if the posting says something like "Minimum Diploma in Nursing or equivalent", that certificate should be included on your resume. These skill requirements also tend to be non-negotiable, so they should be highlighted and placed up front and centre.

Soft skills reflect people skills, social skills and communication abilities. They aren’t measured by specific courses or examinations, and can be a bit trickier to highlight. But a qualification can serve as evidence that you possess these skills. For example, accolades in CCAs such as uniformed groups demonstrate soft skills such as teamwork and leadership.

2. The Certification Section

Depending on the application, you may wish to highlight or downplay the credentials you have. As a rule of thumb, if they are relevant to the job posting, they should be highlighted.

We recommend writing a separate “Certification” section of your resume and including your certificates there. If it is especially important, such as coding language proficiency needed for software positions, you can even make this the very first section of the resume.

Alternatively, if your work experience is more noteworthy, you may wish to place the “Certification” section lower down in a box of its own to better display how it complements your previous employments.

If your qualifications are mostly academic, you may wish to include them in the “Education” section instead.

Be sure to have an explanation and example ready for any of these skills, as you will definitely be questioned about them during the interview!

3. How to Format Certifications

You will want to add:
  • Name of Certification
  • Name of Certifying Agency or Body
  • Dates of Obtainment (and expiry, if applicable)
Do not include expired certifications! If your certification is in progress, add the estimated finishing date.

Make sure all this information is clear and visible, so that the recruiter can see it at a glance. You may wish to bold the name of the certificate, or make the font larger so that it stands out.

A resume is not simply a recitation of your employment history. Listing courses you completed and awards you have won is a good way to stand out from the competition and showcase your unique merits. Go through everything you have accomplished, and add it to the CV.

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