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Resume Tips: What Employers Look for in Your Education Section

- April 21, 2015

Resume Tips: What Employers Look for in Your Education Section

When it comes to the relative importance of each subsection in your resume, the “education” section doesn’t usually land at the top of the list. Most employers skim through your “summary” section first, and if they like what they see, their eyes dart toward the section titled “work history” or “relevant experience”. Only then do most employers travel back up the page to investigate the details of your formal education.

But that doesn’t mean this section is unimportant. In fact, your education credentials and accomplishments can make or break your chances of landing your dream job, and some employers use the details of this section as hard cutoffs—For example, some hiring managers won’t even consider candidates who lack bachelors or master’s degree. Here are five common things that most employers will look for when they reach this stage of the resume review process.

1.  They Make Sure Your Education Section is There

First and foremost, a standard professional resume should include this section. If it’s missing, something is seriously wrong. Most employers will stop reading if they see that this information has been accidentally or deliberately left out of your profile. Address this aspect of your background even if you don’t have much to say. (For example, if you haven’t finished high school and haven’t earned your GED, you can still use this section to discuss the job training you’ve received over the years.)

2.  They Check Your Institution for Brand and Name Recognition

This is where an Ivy League pedigree can move you ahead and a degree from a for-profit online university can hold you back. By the time you’re submitting resumes to employers, there’s not much you can do to go back in time and change the name of the school where you earned your degree. But fortunately (or unfortunately) this name can make a difference if it falls at one end of the reputation spectrum or the other. Most names in the middle—state schools, land grant colleges, small liberal arts universities—are perfectly acceptable as long as your coursework aligns with the requirements of the job.

3.  They Check your Course of Study or Degree Program

If this open position falls into the “accounting” category, most applicants in the pool will hold degrees in “accounting”. But many will also hold degrees in finance, economics, and any other program that suggests similar or overlapping themes. Wise employers will also happily consider candidates with degrees in math, English, history, biology, engineering or any other subject as long as they can fulfill the requirements of the job. Coursework alignment becomes less important as a candidate’s graduation date fades into the past.

4.  They Make Note of Grades and Grade-Related Accomplishments

If you have a high GPA, this is your chance to shine. Go ahead and include this number in your resume for the first three years after you graduate (then take it out). You can always proudly include your cum laude status, valedictorian status, or special awards you won for high grades.

5.  They Look for Signs of an Ongoing Interest in Learning

If you spent the years since your graduation pursing advanced degrees, enrolling in courses on your own, seeking formal training, advancing your certification status, or pursing state licensing, make this known. Even if you haven’t finished a course yet, include the title and your expected completion date.

For more on how to shine a spotlight on your academic prowess and put your long study hours to good use, explore the tools and resources at MyPerfectResume.

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