I Studied for a Professional Certification But Haven't Passed Yet... Should I Include It On My Resume?

 iStockphoto.com |  Olivier Le Moal

iStockphoto.com | Olivier Le Moal

Certifications can be a big deal. There are certifications for technical folks, the bar exam for attorneys, boards for doctors, even the PHR (Professional in Human Resources) for HR professionals.

If you've studied for a test, and haven't yet passed, should you include the classes you took to study for the exam on your resume?

I consulted with an individual who recruits human resources professionals for global firms. Here’s what he had to say on the matter:

"People that show they went to an HR certification class on their resume but don't have a PHR…It tells me that in almost all cases they took the test and failed. Not so impressive and maybe not even worth listing if you analyze things the way I do."

It’s a judgment call, but it can make sense to include these classes on your resume. Let’s say you studied for a certification and are scheduled to take the exam in two months. Listing the course on your resume shows forward progress.

If, on the other hand, you studied for the exam years ago, and either did not take or pass the certification test, then it’s probably a good idea to leave it off.

Of course, there are exceptions. Let's say there's a job for a procurement specialist who reviews contracts. A law school graduate who didn’t take or pass the bar examination might still be a highly qualified fit for such a role. And the accountant who never attained the CPA may be able to perform many of the duties within an accounting department while continuing to prepare for the test.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.