Presenting Your Educational Background in the Best Light
Many people assume it's necessary to list their academic credentials--the degrees they earned and the schools they attended--near the top of their Resume. This is not always necessary.
How much emphasis employers place on your educational background depends on whether the job you're seeking requires specific scholastic training or certification.
If it does, you would do well to place your Education section where potential employers will notice it. You want the material at the top of your Resume to pique the employer's interest so he or she will want to continue reading it.
Highlight the details of your education by placing it at the top of the Resume if...
- You're a recent college graduate.
- Academic training is a fundamental qualification for the position you're seeking.
- You have an advanced degree or quite specific training as opposed to a lot of related work experience in the profession you're pursuing.
NOTE: If you did not attend college or have a general education degree (GED), it would probably be a good idea to eliminate the Education section entirely. Your Resume is the place to highlight your strengths.
HINT: If you started but failed to complete a degree or certification program, list your primary areas of study [your Major(s) and Minor(s)], followed by the last year you were enrolled as a student. In many cases, employers will mistake this as your date of graduation, which can only work in your favour.
HINT: If you have completed some graduate coursework, but do not intend to complete a degree, you should note that you "Completed graduate coursework in XYZ" below your undergraduate degree.
Here's the formula for listing your educational credentials:
- Name of the college or University, followed by the city and state in which it's located.
- Degree (e.g., BA, BS, MA, etc.), followed by concentration (e.g., English Language and Literature, Chemistry, Marketing, etc.)
What Else Should I Include in the Education Section of My Resume?
The Education section of your Resume doesn't just have to be a list of degrees and certification you've received. It can also include things like your GPA (if it was 3.0 or higher), courses you took that are especially relevant to the field in which you want to work, if you completed any special projects employers might be impressed by, or if you studied abroad. However, be sure the additional education-related data you include on your Resume isn't just filler. Employers hate reading filler, and you don't want anything to turn employers off to your candidacy.
Other Possible Sections of Your Resume
Everyone's background is unique. In fact, you may want to include information on your Resume that someone else might not choose to include there. When you introduce additional categories, you are identifying additional skills sets. Therefore, the challenge is to determine how to organize such information in categories, which will allow employers to quickly find the information they believe is most pertinent to hiring decisions. You might consider including categories like:
- Special Projects
- Civic Activities or Community Involvement
- Awards and Honours
- Professional Development Training
- Computer Skills
- Affiliations or Associations
As a rule of thumb, your resume shouldn't exceed two pages in length...You should avoid adding pages to your resume for the sake of introducing supplementary categories ad nauseum. Less is definitely more when it comes to Resume writing. Use space wisely (and spare your readers the hassle of skimming) by including information that potential employers will want - and need - to read.
NOTE: You should never include personal information on your Resume. Topics that are out-of-bounds include: height, weight, age, and political or religious affiliation. Not only are such things "filler" items, they also create the potential for discrimination. Remember: You don't want to give potential employers any reason not to hire you.
Additional Categories: A Questionnaire
The following questions are meant to prompt your thinking about additional skills to include on your resume.
- Have you ever participated in seminars, workshops or professional development programs? If so, what were they and who sponsored them?
- What computer/technical skills do you possess?
- Do you have any designations/licenses/certifications? If so, which ones?
- Which foreign languages do you speak fluently? Which do you speak conversationally?
- What industry/job-related accolades, honours or awards have you earned?
- Which professional or career-related organizations are you involved in?
- In what organizations have you held leadership roles? What skills did you gain and what did you accomplish in these roles?
- What civic organizations or volunteer activities are you involved in?
- Are you willing to relocate?
Quick Resume-Writing Tips
Resumes are a special kind of written discourse, so they don't follow the same rules as other kinds of writing. Here are three ways that Resumes differ from everyday writing:
- Resumes never use the personal pronoun "I." Even though you do not use "I" in your Resume, you still need to use the first-person verb form-the speaking "I" is implied. For example, it is appropriate to say "Manage a staff of 100", but not "Manages a staff of 100." You're speaking for yourself, not about yourself.
The verb tense that you use should be timely. If you are writing about the present, use the present tense; if you are writing about past events or accomplishments, use the past tense. Make sure to use the past tense even if the events you are describing occurred while you were in your current job.
- Resumes do not use vague words like "etc." or phrases like "same as above." Although you have limited space in you Resume, you don't want to seem lazy. You need to create vivid impressions about your capabilities in the minds of potential employers. They need to know that previous employers appreciated your contributions and thought they were unique. "Etc." and "same as above" are shortcut phrases that sound vague and unoriginal.
- Resumes do not include "filler" information. The following kinds of information should generally be left out of a Resume:
- Your reasons for leaving a job
- Street addresses of employers
- Your hobbies or other outside interests