How to make the most of your qualifications

Job seeker

We look at how qualifications should be presented on your CV, to put you in the best possible light.

  • “I haven’t got any.”
  • “My qualifications aren’t relevant.”
  • “I’ve got loads of qualifications and look overqualified.”
  • “I haven’t got certificates but I’ve been on training courses.”

Some employers put a lot of value on formal education whether it’s from training courses or from colleges / universities. This section doesn’t need to be at the top of the CV (and in the UK it is usually underneath your work history) but your qualifications do give you credibility and value. You need to include:-

  • The qualifications you’ve gained and the dates you attained them.
  • Subjects you’ve trained in and level of achievement.

Your qualifications give you value and credibility.

If you left school and didn’t continue into further education enter details of all examinations that you took and passed. Don’t enter exams that you failed and whatever you do don’t lie about your grades.

If you continued on to further education and completed a degree there’s no need to your school examinations since your degree supersedes these. On the other hand if you have a postgraduate or qualification still include your degree since employers will still want to know what you studied at this level. If you’re a recent graduate, you may want to include your school examinations to give the section a bit more body.

Professional qualifications come under the same section especially ones that you have a certificate in and that required an examination. Professional training should also be included don’t list them all but mention the area you’ve trained in.

Do not include qualifications with no relevance to the job.

You can include qualifications for which you are currently working as long as you make it clear that you have not completed them yet.

For university education, if you studied something directly related to the role you are going for, you can provide more details of your knowledge by including modules, projects and your dissertation.

Consider using a CV writer

Over my career, the majority of CVs I’ve seen have been extremely weak in both presentation and content.

Not only do job seekers need to choose their words carefully but they also need to present them in a well formatted document using typical conventions for their industry. It’s pointless using a creative CV supported by an online version if you’re applying for jobs as a doctor or solicitor !

Now using a CV Writer is one way to rid yourself of the stress but you do run the risk of paying for something which is really not as unique as you thought. Many of these CV writers simply cut and paste from previously created CVs and don’t really understand how to sell your skills in the best light. So you really need to check reviews carefully and make sure they are genuine.

A budget CV writer will make your CV as ATS friendly, make the presentation attractive and introduce ‘power’ words. Though helpful, it won’t improve the quality of the content. At the more expensive end of the market you’ll also get extensive interviews by an experienced hirer, a number of written CVs, reviews and ongoing support. The middle part of the market will contain only some of these elements. All services (should) seek to draw out your Unique Selling Points (USPs) and specific achievements. These include ones you may not be aware of, or not included, dismissing them as not of interest to employers.

Chris Cutting,

Most job seekers understand their industry much better than the CV writer so it only makes sense they have the first stab at writing the content themselves. The problem is that writing a CV begins with creating a CV template. This upfront distraction leads to a rushed writing of content and badly marketed skills and experience. It’s these types of CVs which will leave you unemployed for months on end without an interview in sight. Use a pre-made quality CV template that has simple formatting which is unlikely to confuse a machine, should one be used. There is no need to pay for one and in my experience, the paid CV templates tend to ignore CV design best practice in favour of looking pretty. There plenty of better, simpler free templates on the web – try for example.

Getting a job is all about using your time wisely. Focus on what you know best and what will sell you to the recruiter. The format and presentation need to be good but you don’t want to waste time focusing on it. Once you’ve done a first version it’s a good idea to get your CV reviewed by a professional to ensure you’re using all the right words to sell yourself in the best way possible. This could be a professional CV writer, or someone within the industry who has adequate HR knowledge and experience.

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