Today’s job market is highly competitive, especially for those who are just graduating from school. They often find themselves up against rival applicants with far more actual work experience. Unfortunately, they typically need to rely on their resumes to separate themselves from that competition and land the interview they need to get hired. But how can they do that without the relevant work experience that others may possess? To overcome that challenge, they need to demonstrate that they have real achievements and ambition. The best way to do that is to properly list awards, honors, and accomplishments on their resumes.
The fact is that hiring managers need to see something that suggests that you’re a better employment prospect than those other applicants. Without a solid work history to rely on, you will need to focus attention on other achievements. The good news is that your accomplishments in school can often help to showcase your capabilities. They can serve to demonstrate your ability to complete tasks, your ambition, and your competencies. More importantly, they reveal that you were a cut above other students at your school – something that could indicate that you’ll also be an exceptional employee if you’re hired.
Most experts will recommend that you focus attention on the most relevant awards, honors, and accomplishments. The problem is that few define “relevant” in that context. How can you tell which achievements will matter to any given employer? Yes, you should be proud of all your awards, honors, and accomplishments – but will a hiring manager care about the same things you value?
In the end, it depends upon how you shape your message, and how you document those awards, honors, and accomplishments. For example, let’s look at some common achievements that you may want to include in your resume:
Keep in mind that achievements should only be limited to things that go above and beyond ordinary expectations. There is no added merit attached to showing up on time, getting along with others, or doing required work according to instructions. Those are all admirable, but they involve nothing more than meeting basic expectations. When you’re listing awards, honors, and accomplishments, you should focus on your truly exceptional achievements.
You should be listing these awards on honors at the very bottom of your resume – beneath your education section.
Possible titles include:
You can even combine it with your education section
Since these awards, honors, and accomplishments are often difficult to tie to employment qualifications, you need to be careful to properly shape your narrative. Only include information that bolsters your prospects for getting hired. That means omitting any awards or achievements that are completely irrelevant to employment. Forget about that state fair cook-off award you won several years ago – unless you’re applying for a job as a chef. Chances are that an accounting firm won’t care that your chili was voted best in the state three years in a row!
Be specific about the awards, honors, and accomplishments and avoid vague language. If you were on the Dean’s list for two straight years, don’t just write that you received good grades. Instead, write:
Dean’s List 2016-2017, with 3.9 GPA. Received Student of the Year award in 2017, while at ABC University
We wrote a good post here on how to include making the dean’s list on your resume.
Accomplishments on a resume would usually be listed as a bullet point under the work experience section – or under your education/internship section.
For leadership posts or other accomplishments, detail not just what you did but the impact that your actions had.
University Student Advisory Council, 2016-2017. Introduced two fund-raising programs that increased student participation by 28% and overall donor activity by 132%. Also worked to establish the ABC Student Scholarship program, which helps disadvantaged students cover textbook expenses.
Finally, you should work to highlight these awards, honors, and accomplishments by separating them into their own section. This will enable you to make sure that these high-points are seen by the hiring manager. This also provides an opportunity for you to develop some consistency in how the information is presented. For each of these achievements, include:
For example, suppose that you were honored for your work as a student journalist on campus:
2017 Student Journalist of the Year
Given in recognition of outstanding contribution to the world of student journalism and awarded for my series of stories on the increased student dropout rate at ABC University. The award offered national recognition from a coalition of newspaper and broadcast media.
The bottom line is clear: in a competitive job market, even your school awards, honors, and accomplishments matter! Just be sure to tailor your resume to accommodate them and shape your message to highlight their relevance. Used properly, they could provide the push you need to get your foot in the door for that job interview you need.
Be sure to check out our Resume Writing Instructions and Checklist for more helpful tips for a better resume!