Monday, September 8, 2014

Resumes: To Include or Not To Include, The Burning Question

Recently I was involved in a discussion with my peers regarding the Education section on a resume. The question posed lead to some interesting points presented by those involved. However the discussion never lead to a firm conclusion or if there was even a firm conclusion to be made. Curious to see if there was some sort of rule of thumb or general consensus to be had I wanted to explore this further. I didn't however expect that there was necessarily a wrong or right to the question. I felt that researching this further could provide some useful advice and/or direction to candidates as they look at their own Education section of their resume. Of course this certainly does not apply to everyone but I’m certain pretty much everyone knows someone who is does apply to and you never know when you might even be asked this question as a friend or co-worker seeks your advice.

So I contacted 20 accomplished Human Resources professionals that I know and asked them the question:

“If a person attended one or two colleges before attending at the one from which they obtained their undergraduate degree, do they include those colleges on their resume? Or do they only include the one in which they actually obtained their undergraduate degree from?”

The responses first confirmed that indeed there is no wrong or right. In addition there seems to be no real rule of thumb or general consensus. The responses varied and really seem to be a matter of opinion over anything else. Overall there looks to be a slight edge to only listing the final school in which the person obtained their undergraduate degree. However it can also depend and here are some interesting thoughts that should be considered when an individual creates this section of their resume.

  1. Sometimes listing all colleges attended can catch the eye of a fellow alumni of a particular school and create interest. (Within my company we actually see this quite frequently. There seems to be a stronger bias in certain areas of the country such as the deep south. Hiring managers specifically look for alumni from their alma mater.)

  1. If it could benefit you by listing the other college(s) then by all means list it.

  1. If the candidate took courses at one college that are directly related to the position they are applying for then they should include it.

  1. Another reason for listing all the colleges is that one college may be more prestige and the candidate would like a future employer to know that they attended that college for a period of time.

It was pointed out by all however that all colleges attended must be included on the application. Background checks typically only include graduation date, major and degree obtained.

In summary, look at your resume as a strategic marketing tool. With that in mind, if it will benefit you to include all schools attended, then include them. If it does not benefit and could perhaps even place you in an unfavorable light by creating questions, then do not include.

Some other pieces of advice that came out of my research regarding the Education section of your resume….

Typically put Advanced Degrees first:
Usually, you should lay down your educational background by listing the most recent or advanced degree first, working in reverse chronological order. But there are exceptions. If you earned a degree in agriculture, but are now working in the field of  marketing. If you more recently completed coursework specific to social media or digital marketing, list that first to catch the reviewer’s attention.

Attended but did not complete Degree? Mention it anyway:
It is completely acceptable to list completed coursework  List it something like this:
Master of Business Administration degree candidate
Anticipated completion June 2015
Drake University, Des Moines, IA


20 credits earned at Drake University towards undergraduate degree

List Honors, Not GPA:
If you graduated from college with high honors, make note of it. While you don’t need to list your GPA (especially if it’s under 3.0 or if you’ve been out of school for more than three years), show the summa cum laude status or the fact that you were in the honors college at your university.

Position it strategically:

Most people list educational background at the end of the resume, which is perfectly fine. However, if you have a degree from a prestigious university or one that may serve as an advantage for the types of positions you’re pursuing, consider listing your education at the beginning of your resume instead.