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


Certifications are 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 folks.

If you've studied for the tests, and haven't yet passed, should you include the classes you took on your résumé?

Like so much in life, it depends.

I'd like to quote here an individual who recruits folks in the HR arena:

"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."

Recruiters and hiring managers often "read between the lines" on a résumé. And this is a perfect example.

In other words, if you don't tell something, people will assume.

If you have studied for a certification, and you're scheduled to take the exam in two months, make sure to include that on your résumé. It shows that the studies are a work in process.

If, on the other hand, you studied for the exam years ago, and either never took the test or didn't pass, then it might be a good idea to leave it off altogether.

Of course, there are exceptions to most rules. For example, let's say there's a job for a procurement specialist who reviews contracts. If you studied for the bar but opted not to become an attorney, this might still be a valuable skill set for such a role.

And sometimes, an individual can possess excellent accounting skills without having passed the CPA exam. They may be able to fill the requirements of a less demanding position while they try again to pass.

Know your job market, and then decide whether to include it on your résumé.

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. He is a Human Resources professional and staffing expert with almost two decades of in-house corporate HR and staffing firm experience, and is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC).

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.insidercs.com.