Rules are meant to be broken (within reason)
Résumé creation has a lot of rules and there’s good reason for that. So, when experts say to put your education near the end of the résumé, that’s where you should put it, right?
Like everything else in life, résumé writing has many “it depends” scenarios. There is actually quite a bit of strategy involved and what makes it complicated, confusing, and frustrating for many people.
To make things a bit easier, I recommend that you stick to the modern résumé format (a.k.a. combination/hybrid,/targeted résumé format) which combines the best of the reverse chronological and functional formats.
(If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I advise you click on this link to read about the different resume formats and which one you should use from here on end.)
The fact is, you might need to customize the layout a bit to ensure that you present your content in a way that’s going to work best for your unique situation.
Using the education section as an example
In most cases, you would place your education near the end of the résumé – after the work experience section.
Just to be clear, when I say “education”, I’m talking about any kind of professional development that involves taking courses, workshops, and training for the purposes of acquiring a degree, diploma, certification, designation or credential that would matter to the employer.
Education becomes dated
Education is typically placed near the end becomes it becomes dated quickly as the candidate accumulates more and more work experience.
While you do acquire valuable knowledge and skills from education, it’s usually the work experience that the employer is looking for in candidates who are not fresh out of school.
Think of education as the cherry on top which can tip the scales in your favour, especially if it’s a key job requirement.
Not every candidate will have the desired education, so if your résumé clearly shows that you do have it along with other required qualifications, your résumé has a way better chance of being placed near the top of the stack.
Back to the “it depends” scenario……
This is why it might make more sense for you to put your education near the top of the first page and not buried at the end of the résumé where no one is going to find it.
If you lack work experience
If you are a recent grad or have no experience in the field you are targeting, your education might be the thing that you need to focus on. If your education is directly related to the target position, you could move it to the first page of the résumé.
If you have the desired education
Even if you have the required work experience, you might still want to showcase your education on the first page, but only if it’s considered an asset by the employer.
Regardless of how much work experience you have or don’t have, there’s no point in drawing attention to education if it’s not relevant, not a requirement, or from a long time ago.
Move important education to the résumé sweet spot
Showcasing your education upfront and centre could make a huge difference and be that one thing that distinguishes YOU from the other 200 applicants. Implementing this tactic can push your résumé onto the hiring manager’s “must call” pile.
A good place to put your education is below the professional profile which is located in the “résumé banner” (top 1/3 of the first page).
If you have no idea what a professional profile is, it’s that short paragraph at the top of the résumé that summarizes your unique value proposition. It replaces the outmoded objective statement and should focus entirely on how you help organizations and stakeholders.
Include it in your summary
Your education is something that you might also want to add in the professional profile provided that it is a key job requirement and something that you have completed successfully. There’s no point in highlighting a degree that you never finished.
That way, when the Human Reader opens up your résumé, one of the first things that will jump out at them is that you possess one of the key, desired qualifications. This will encourage them to read further to see what other “matches” they find.
Communicate education as an achievement
A degree, diploma or another impressive educational piece could be presented as an achievement provided it is relevant to the target job requirements and supports your value message.
The way to do this is to create a short sentence that communicates whatever the educational achievement is.
The achievement could be a high GPA (e.g. above 3.4), a double MBA from a prestigious university, a sought after and rare designation, an Honors designation, an award (e.g. Award of Distinction) or something equally as awe-worthy.
You could add this statement to the education section (wherever you decide to place that) or in another section of your résumé that is appropriate.
The objective with the placement of a statement of achievement is that it is noticed in the first 6 to 10 seconds which is precisely why it makes sense that it goes somewhere in the top half of the first page.
List courses completed
You might want to list the courses you completed but I would only do this if:
☑ It’s not taking up valuable real estate on the résumé that could be used for something that will have more positive impact
☑ It’s not pushing a two-paged résumé to three pages for no good reason
☑ You don’t have enough practical and recent work experience
☑ The courses you list are relevant to the target position (this will appease the Human Reader who is looking for a specific skills and knowledge base)
☑ The courses contain important keywords (this helps the ranking of your résumé as it’s being scanned and scored by the computer applicant tracking software systems)
So, just because you learned that your education has to be on the last page, that isn’t necessarily true in all cases. You need to make that judgement call based on the situation at hand.
What to do next
I highly recommend you retain the services of a career professional to help you with your résumé. One wrong move can get you disqualified from the running. Feel free to contact me here.
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Hi! I’m Diana.
I leverage over 10 years recruitment and sales/marketing experience to create attention-grabbing résumés, cover letters, and Linkedin profiles that help job seekers stand out, get noticed, and get hired. You can learn more about my story here and about how I can help you here.
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