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Should You List a Certification that is Not Yet Done on Your Resume?

Obtaining a new certification or license can open doors. But, you shouldn't always include that information on your resume. Here is what to know about including the upcoming certifications on your resume and how to do it right.
Should You List a Certification that is Not Yet Done on Your Resume?

Obtaining a new certification can open doors to new jobs. It may also make the process of switching careers easier. But, you may not always want to include that certification on your resume. Here is what you need to know about whether or not to include a pending certification on your resume.

When Not to Include the Pending Certification on Your Resume

There are times when you should not include an upcoming certification or license on your resume. Here are the times when not to include that future certification on your resume and what to do instead:

  • You haven't actually started. Thinking about a particular certification or license but haven't actually taken the step yet? In that case, do not list the information on your resume yet. Doing so will only make for awkward and unnecessary questions in your interview. Instead, wait until you have made it official before including the certification or license on your resume.
  • You may or may not pass. Some licenses or certifications are really hard. The pass rates may be relatively low or you may not be feeling totally confident in your abilities. In that case, hold off on putting the certification or license on your resume. Instead, include reference to the interest in exploring additional certifications or licenses in your cover letter. This will make it all that more impressive when you do pass.
  • It isn't relevant. Becoming a yogi or sommelier? That's pretty cool, but it may not be applicable to the jobs that you are applying to. Instead, it may make sense to put these items in a personal interests section on your resume. Or, to simply leave them off entirely to make room for those items that are relevant.
  • It is part of your current job. You may have to get certifications to keep your current job. This could be organization-specific credentials or things that aren't relevant outside of your current industry. You should complete those items to keep your current job, but you won't include these company-specific certifications on your resume if they don't advance your message with other employers.
  • It discredits your message. You may have obtained a certification or license to brush up on your skills. However, you may not want a potential employer to know that you had to do some skill-building. Or, you may want to learn a particular software to include that keyword on your resume, but you may not want to represent that you are an expert in that system. In that case, you would leave off those pending certifications and instead include the skills gained from the certification on your resume (i.e. Salesforce, Excel, Data Analysis, etc.)
  • Not from a recognized provider. Not all providers of a certification are equal. For some certifications, the company or organization that issues the certification is not relevant. But, for other types of certifications, it definitely matters where you obtained the credential. If the who matter for your upcoming certification, then you would leave the certification off of your resume and include the skills you are obtaining instead.

If any of these circumstances are applicable, then the best option is probably to leave the pending certification off of your resume until it is complete (or completely in some cases). But, you should include the particular skills that you are gaining through the certification or licensure process on your resume. Including these skills or competencies on your resume will improve the performance of your resume with the applicant tracking systems (ATS) that are used by the employers to scan your resume.

You may not hit all of the requirements for the job and not yet having the certification or license may disqualify you from some positions. But, the inclusion of the skills will improve the performance of your resume for many jobs where those additional skills are valued and the certification itself is less important. And, that is exactly why you are pursuing the certification or license in the first place.

When to Include the Certification in Progress on Your Resume

There are times when it makes sense to include a certification or license on your resume before it is completed. Here are the times when you should include that information on your resume:

  • You are actually in process. Include that upcoming certification or license on your resume when you are already making great progress towards the credential.
  • The Certification will be done soon. Make sure to include the credential on your resume if you are nearing completion of the process. That date certain or final approval step will be important to showing just how close you are to completion.
  • It is relevant to the job/company that you are applying to. Including an upcoming certification or license on your resume when it is relevant to the job that you are applying to, the industry, or the particular business line of the company. This will improve your credentials and include important keywords on your resume.
  • It qualifies you for the position. You may need the certification or license to be deemed qualified for the role by the company. In that case, make sure to include the certification on your resume and to include the details about when it will be completed. In some cases, the employer will see it as close enough.
  • It shows commitment to the career change that you are saying you want. Claiming that you want to make a career change is one thing, but enrolling in and completing a certification as part of that process is a whole other level. If that's you, then make sure to show that drive to make a change by including the additional certifications or training on your resume.
  • The upcoming certification is on message. You may be obtaining a certification that isn't directly relevant to the job that you are applying to, but that could help your overall message to the employer. In that case, include the details about the upcoming certification on your resume and include an explanation of that certification in your cover letter to connect the dots for the potential employer.  

How to Include the Pending Certification on Your Resume

To add the certification to your resume before it is done you will want to include all of the right details. The upcoming certification or license will be added to the bottom of your resume typically. It will go in the skills section with your software, awards, language abilities and other skills. This information should be in the same font and style as the rest of your resume to ensure that it works with the ATS and the person skimming your resume.

To properly add your upcoming certification, you will want to add all of the relevant details to fully list the information. To do this, include the following details on your resume when including a pending certification or license:

  • The official name of the certification
  • Any relevant or commonly used acronym for the certification
  • The organization that you will receive it from
  • Timing of completion. Make sure to include the future date with an "Estimated" or "Anticipated to show that it is not yet done.
  • Additional test dates if scheduled if the certification or license is completed in parts.

Here is an example of what it should look like:

Project Management Professional (PMP), Project Management Institute (Estimated Summer 2022)

Here is an example of how to list the certification or license with multiple parts:

Certified Public Accountant (CPA) (Anticipated 2022), Auditing and Attestation (AUD) (January 2022), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) (part 2 test scheduled for April 2022)


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