How to win interviews by putting the right courses and certificates on your CV

Listing skills and qualifications on your CV might seem obvious. But when it comes to courses and certificates, people aren't always sure.

How important are they - do they matter as much?

Courses and certificates do matter, but possibly they don't!

Now, that's not a very helpful answer, but we'll explain further. We know you want to put the very best version of your qualifications, skills and experience on your CV.

So, in this article, we discuss all the what's, where's and how's of putting courses and certificates on your CV.

Courses and certificates on CV example

example cv with courses and certifications

Download this CV example as a PDF

Looking at this CV template, you can see all the courses and certificates are immediately visible to the reader and correspond with Philip’s skills. He opens with the fact that he’s a graduate teacher in the summary. Therefore his qualifications are essential to his application. He also mentions that he has post-graduate qualifications in English and French. The reader knows right away that he’s qualified, but inexperienced. Philip chose the clear and concise Stanford template, which can be used with or without a photo, to stand out. 

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What qualifies as courses and certificates?

It's any kind of further study you've undertaken to improve your skills.

Often people think that only degrees or diplomas belongs on a CV, but that's not the case.

Any kind of training can enhance your CV as long as it's relevant to the job you're applying for.

Whether it was full or part-time, for a day, week, month or years, use it if it increases your knowledge and skills for the job.

That's why it's essential to take your time when applying to job posts and read the ad content carefully before you respond.

Employers and recruiters use keywords in their adverts, usually to help with parsing. Application parsing is a digital means of automatically removing CVs that don't meet the minimum criteria.

(That's also why you mustn't have a generic CV that you send out to every post you see. You'll likely get regretted most of the time.)

Use the main keywords from the job post to establish the foremost job requirements and then build your tailored CV around that. Now, include courses and certificates that relate directly to the details you've included in your CV.

When you compile your tailored CV this way, you'll know what to include and exclude.

What if you don't have many certificates?

How do you know what employers want?

That depends on the industry you're applying to.

You can do some research by reading through current job descriptions that match the role you're looking for. See what skills are listed, and then explore where you can find training.

If you're looking for an entry-level job or have been out of the job market, get training in basic computer skills, such as Microsoft Office.

Basic computer software proficiency is required for virtually every job, so these courses and certificates will improve your CV.

Courses and certificates to include on a CV

Apart from degrees or diplomas relating to the role, include all short courses, in-house training and online courses.

For example, if your current employer upgraded software and all staff were trained on the latest version, include it on your CV.

Conversely, if that happened a few years back, the software is outdated now, so that training becomes irrelevant.

The general rule is to only include courses and certificates that are related to the current working environment.

On occasion, though, some courses done for hobbies and interests can be worth mentioning.

Perhaps you work as a salesperson in the motor trade and have a keen interest in cars. You've gone and taken a layman's course in how car engines work. While what you've learned doesn't make you a vehicle service technician, it will help when customers have technical questions.

Or, you could be applying for a waiter/waitress role, and you've completed a culinary course. Include this in your CV because it shows your interest and knowledge of food.

Very importantly, don’t forget language skills. If you’ve taken a course to speak another language and are multilingual include the certificate. Even if your communication isn’t fluent it can come in useful.

Prepare your tailored CV first, and then go through all the courses and certificates you have. Then select only those that boost your application.

Remember to also include the skills you've learned when listing skills on your CV.

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Courses and certificates to exclude

Don't include a long list of courses and certificates. Just as your CV must be precise and to the point, qualifications must be kept the same.

You want the reader to see what related courses you've completed at only a glance.

Consequently, more recent training is usually the most appropriate when it comes to courses and certificates.

Core education such as schooling, diplomas and degrees usually remain static, but short courses can quickly become obsolete.

Regarding short courses, let's say you've trained in various software applications and have all the certificates. Only list the most recent. In many instances, you can't proceed to an advanced level without completing previous levels, or older certifications are no longer valid.

Other courses, like customer service and sales, get dated too because technology evolves, leading to new ways of doing things. The same applies to most other training; for it to be valid, it must be recent.

Listing rows and rows of irrelevant certificates not only makes your CV look cluttered, but it wastes the reader's time too.

Also, avoid including personal interest courses and certificates that have a subjective slant.

Maybe you're a certified mindfulness or golfing coach. Unless those kinds of certifications relate directly to the job, leave them out.

The same rule applies to any other general-interest certificates.

How much detail must I include?

Usually, all you need to include is the name of the course, the training institution and the date.

In some cases, you might have completed various modules, and mostly, it's not necessary to mention them.

One example of where you can expand is if the modules align totally with the job and you're preparing a skills-based CV.

List courses and certificates in the same way you list working experience. Start with the most recent and work backwards in descending order to your first training.

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Let's recap

Courses and certificates matter if they enrich your CV and increase your chances of winning an interview.

If not, they don't belong on your CV.

Keep these crucial points in mind–

  • The certificates must be relevant to the job you're applying for
  • Use keywords in the job post to identify the main requirements
  • First, craft your CV and then include appropriate certificates
  • Focus on more recent courses relevant to current work
  • Include course name, institution and date
  • List certificates in descending date order
  • Include your knowledge under skills

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