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During university I consciously set out to win a ton of awards. 4 years later I have some 200ish awards like Top Whatever Under Whatever, Person of the Year, scholarships, fellowships, essay contests, design contests, innovation contests, public speaking awards, hackathons, etc.I have a ton of ribbons, medals, and certificates hanging on my wall.

Now it is advised that the resume for a fresh graduate be only one page. I have had three internships during my time in university and I prioritized putting those. I stuffed some of the scholarships under "Education." All of that aside, I have about 10 extra lines which lets me list 5 awards

None of these awards is a Nobel Prize or anything, so they need to be explained. Some fellow alumni might recognize some of the awards, but that it is it.

Here are some samples and my question follows below:

Here is my best award (I consider it the best because it was the most time consuming and the most competitive):

Issuer: Large American Bank

People beaten: ~600

Teams beaten: ~150 from around the world

What I did: I built a prototype for their retail banking division that improves customer trust (I can't say a lot as winning causes it to fall under a non disclosure agreement).

Standings: We came 3rd place

What we won: $5000 along with guaranteed interviews (those are pending).

Here is another award:

Issuer: My University

People beaten: ~100 (most people self selected out)

What it was for: I was named one of the top 100 alumni, staff, and students of the past X years.

What I did to win it: Truthfully, I wrote 6 nominations for myself and handed them out to friends to nominate me. But it is an award for general achievement and engagement with my university and I have some of that too. My name shows up alongside many people with Wikipedia pages.

Standings: Top 100 people. They did not rank us.

What I won: A glass tablet with the award name and a free dinner.

If I weren't such a socially awkward and fearful person I would have had a job from that ceremony but oh well. Maybe ill ask another question about this later.

Here is a third one: Issuer: A major hackathon

People beaten: 600

Teams beaten: ~180ish?

What it was for: 2nd place at a major hackathon for my hack.

What I did to win it: Created a great hack.

What I won: $800 bucks and a bunch of random hardware.

What is it that matters most about an award?

  • The number of teams beaten? The number of people beaten?
  • The issuer? Is an award from NASA where I beat 50 people better than one from Dow Chemical where I beat 150?
  • What I actually did to win the award? I have a great prize for a paper in the blockchain space I wrote with some classmates, but I only beat 11 other teams. I consider it some of my best work, but it is unknown whatever outside that niche.
  • Is a more prestigious 3rd place better than a more mediocre 1st place? What if I came first in Dow Chemical and 3rd at NASA?
  • Is more recent better? Should I choose ones from 2019/2020 or is going back to 2017 ok?
  • Is relevancy the most important thing, even if the award is not particularly impressive otherwise?
  • Is it better to show a variety of skills or proof of repeated success in one? Im a software engineer and that is what I study, but is an award for public speaking beneficial or does it detract?

I mostly focus on using the awards as proof that I outperform others when set against them, but is that the correct strategy? I select for big names with lots of people defeated and usually do not have space for the prize amounts.

I basically just want a framework for narrowing 200 down to 5 in any given circumstance. What matters most to hiring managers?

I am mostly looking for software engineering positions just after graduating as my original offer got canned by the covid pandemic. Part of my conundrum is that most of the better awards are for doing software related things (so I delivered a prototype as part of them), but rarely did they ever judge the code, just the final product. I have some coding related achievements, but they are things like programming contests from first year.

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    What you put on your resume largely depends on the position you are applying for. Give some examples of positions you are interested in.
    – nicola
    Jun 17 '20 at 6:57
  • @nicola I am interested in software engineering roles. See edit. Jun 17 '20 at 7:04
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    Also I'd be careful framing the awards into 'beating' people. You may be seen as overly competitive if they are looking for people to collaborate.
    – LaintalAy
    Jun 17 '20 at 10:26
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    "Truthfully, I wrote 6 nominations for myself and handed them out to friends to nominate me" - this is why a lot of people who hire, like me, take all awards with a big pinch of salt. Some are just popularity contests; some are contrived ways to get candidates in the door of a place that wouldn't otherwise appeal; some are more about cheap publicity for the organisers. Very few actually translate directly into "this person will be better as your employee than the people who don't have this award". Jun 17 '20 at 11:45
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    If I saw someone mentioned they won "200 awards while at university" in their resume, I'd have to wonder how they found the time to complete their studies...
    – HorusKol
    Jun 18 '20 at 23:18
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Your goal with a resume is to get people interested in interviewing you. More specifically your goal is to get people more interested in talking to you than the other people who have submitted resumes.

Employers aren't going to be interested in the prize you won, how many people you beat, or even necessarily who issued the award unless it's particularly prestigious and/or relevant (other than the fact it's likely to be part of the title, or if you're applying for a job at the organisation that awarded it).

They're going to care about why it makes you someone they might want to employ for the role they want to fill.

Describe (briefly) your role in the team (if you were in a team), and summarise what you did that lead you to be awarded it, highlighting the bits of what you did that are most relevant to the role.

If you can't find a way to do that that's relevant to the role you're applying for, then leave it off.

I'd also suggest you list them where they're most relevant on your CV - things like your "Top 100 Alumni" award may go well in your education section if you leave out the specifics of how you got it. It's not going to be as impressive as the next level of degree, but it may be enough to tip the scales in favour of interviewing you over someone with an equivalent degree and similar experience.

And finally, as soon as you get some real industry experience, I'd suggest leaving them off altogether (unless you are awarded other, relevant, awards during your tenures with your future employers). These are assets you have that may make you stand out from other graduates, but they're unlikely to make you stand out from other experienced professionals, unless they're extremely prestigious.

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I don't see a need to go into details, especially people beaten and things that come across as boastful. The University one has some weight because it's an inhouse achievement. The bank one is mostly useful for the bank concerned.

Others I suggest you pick any that seem at all relevant to the job you're interviewing for and put a few others in just to fluff the resume out a bit.

This is quite a useful bunch of achievements because most people at your stage have very little to put in their resume at all. In terms of the achievements themselves most people wouldn't care about the details unless it's in an area of particular interest to them, in which case they may ask some questions.

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In the CV you add the information which is relevant. It can be either information directly related to the job, or information indirectly related to the job.

Information indirectly related to to the job is any information which proves that you can learn, that you can achieve, that you can manage...

However, an award for distributing fliers (your "another award") is useful only if you target a job as a fliers distributor. Other than that, this kind of award could actually be detrimental - it tells the recruiter / company that you are not able to understand what is important to present to them and what not.

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All those competitions and hackathons you completed contributed to your employable skills and that is how you want to put them on your CV, in a section like Misc. (or whatnot, choose your own title): "Throughout my study years, participated in numerous code competitions and hackathons that have taught me, and improved my skills in, coding (in languages such-and-such), project, and time management, and teamwork".

This way you: 1. show immediate value to a potential employer by listing all the actionable skills you claim you have that are useful to the employer, 2. don't come off as the cocky, self-absorbed, think he's god's gift to humanity person your OP makes you sound like.

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Awards can make a lot of difference in hiring, if the hiring manager is convinced that they matter.

From experience, on both sides (an applicant with more awards that can fit into a resume, and a hiring manager seeking outstanding people), I'd suggest some guidelines:

  • Only list awards that are relevant to the role. Both in function and in seniority (leadership awards for mgmt, skill awards for developer).
  • Don't be proud of your awards. If you do list awards, list them near the bottom, list at least two, and be brief about them. Downplay them, as if they were par for the course. And more than three awards is probably too many.
  • Be as specific as possible about what exactly you did to get the award. In a hackathon, describe what you built, not how many people you beat or what you won.
  • If possible, fold the awards into something else. Say, "Built X system that delivered Y impact; awarded Z by organization W".

As overused as humblebragging has become these days, it remains the best way to go about awards in your resume. You want to mention them, but you want to draw as little attention to them as possible. Your skills and achievements are what matters, awards are just to show that someone other than yourself has seen them as such.

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