Today’s job market is highly competitive, especially for those who are just graduating from school. They often find themselves up against other candidates with far more actual work experience. Unfortunately, they typically need to rely on their entry-level 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 and impress hiring managers, they need to demonstrate that they have real achievements and ambition. The best way to do that is to properly list accomplishments, honors, and awards on a resume.
Your awards, honors, and accomplishments can help bolster your resume and improve your chances of getting noticed by hiring managers.
Why list awards, honors, and accomplishments on a resume?
The fact is that hiring managers need to see something that suggests that you’re a better employment prospect than those other applicants. Without valuable soft skills or a solid work history to rely on, you will need to focus attention on other key achievements. The good news is that your academic achievements in school can often help to showcase your capabilities during the job search. They can serve to demonstrate your ability to complete tasks, your ambition, and your competencies. More importantly, they reveal to future employers 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.
Which awards, honors, and accomplishments matter?
Most career advice 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 professional 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 resume format and message, and how you document those academic awards, honors, and accomplishments. For example, let’s look at some common professional achievements that you may want to include in your resume:
Academic or athletic awards Scholarships
Awards provided for excellence in voluntary activities
Awards that target specific academic achievements
Job-related awards, if you have ever been employed
Placement on the Dean’s list or honor roll
Exceptional grade point average
Leadership positions at your school
Keep in mind that achieved recognition 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 relevant honors, awards, and academic excellence, you should focus on your truly exceptional achievements.
Examples of awards and honors on a resume
You should be listing these awards on honors at the very bottom of your resume - beneath your education section.
Possible titles include:
Awards and Honors
Professional Development and Awards
You can even combine it with your education section:
Education and Awards
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 personal achievements and awards 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 professional 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
Accomplishments on a resume
Accomplishments on a resume should usually be listed as a bullet point within 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.
Creating a separate section for awards and honors
Finally, you should work to highlight these career achievements in a separate awards 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:
The type of award, honor, or achievement – and when you received it
What it recognizes
Why it was important, and what you did to achieve it
Whether it was a school, city, regional, or national award or honor
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.
Your awards, honors, and accomplishments could make all the difference! 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.
The ZipJob team is made up of professional writers and career experts located across the USA and Canada with backgrounds in HR, recruiting, career coaching, job placement, and professional writing.