Over the last couple of years I've taken a couple of online courses through Coursera: Applied Computational Fluid Dynamics, and Machine Learning. I've also been to a summer school on plasma physics.

Most of these courses were of the format of (video and IRL) lectures, with (mostly) multiple choice questions as their assessments.

As such, even though these are all listed on my CV, I certainly do not feel that I confidently took in the content, meaning that if I was to be quizzed about my knowledge of these areas, I wouldn't be able to say anything.

This leads me to worry whether having sat certain courses and putting them on my CV will lead to employers and interviewers expecting me to be proficient in the thing being mentioned in the course listed.

If I do not feel confident in these things, would it not just be better to leave them out of my CV to avoid any potential deleterious impacts on the expectations of the interviewers?

  • "I wouldn't be able to say anything" -> I think that this clearly answers your question.
    – nicola
    Commented May 14 at 10:15

5 Answers 5


It's very important that your resume accurately represents your skill levels. So this will depend on HOW you include the skill to set proper expectations. Normally interviewers expect you to be proficient in the skills you list (why else list them ?). If you want to add something you are more shaky on, just add it in parenthesis (introductionary, one class, limited course work, etc). If in doubt: leave it out.

Cautionary Anecdote: I once interviewed a candidate who listed are rather esoteric and unique assembler dialect on their resume. Unfortunately (for them) I had worked on this processor so I asked them a few very basic but practical questions around that. Turns out, they knew nothing; meaning that they never wrote any actual code in that language (but may have read some documentation).

Not only did I not hire that candidate I also put them on the "do-not-hire" list the company. The problem here is NOT the lack of the skill (which wasn't needed for that job anyway) but the misrepresentation. I need to be able to trust people and so they need people to communicate accurately and truthfully. In my book "lying" is way on top of my "unforgivable & fireable" offenses. Pretty much anything else we can work through together.


I think including this information in your CV can lead to additional anxiety during the interview. You will likely be worried about being asked questions related to these courses. And this anxiety can affect the quality of your answers to other interview questions.

So, I think it might be better to focus on highlighting your strengths and areas where you feel more confident.


Most of the other answers seem to saying you shouldn't include something you don't know well. They will quiz you and if you can't answer to the standards they want you are, at best, not getting the job. I don't really agree with this.

Firstly, if I really felt I learned next to nothing from the course I wouldn't include it. I also wouldn't include a bunch of things that are not relevent to the job I am going for. By this I mean I wouldn't include a course in plasma physics if I am applying for a programming job in a bank. However I probably would include machine learning even if that wasn't a job requirement since that is a skill they might find useful, or more likely imagine they might find useful in the future. This still assuming I had gained at least a basic knowledge of that from the course(s) I had done.

Next, I would not apply for jobs that required an expert level in a skill that I had only a basic knowledge of. I would consider that to be wasting everyones time and kind of insulting to the interviewer. You should be aware of your own skill level.

Lastly you should be upfront with your knowledge. If someone put down "basic knowledge of machine learning" and didn't know the answer to a question I asked but was able to tell me that they had only learned X, Y and Z and their course either never covered the question or they had missed it then I wouldn't hold it against them. Provided this isn't a required skill for the job I don't see why it should block their hire and they haven't misrepresented themselves. If they had said they were an expert and I discovered they didn't know the basics I wouldn't hire them even if that skill was irrelevant. As another answerer said, one lie makes me wonder how many other lies this person has told and will go on to tell if they are hired.

There is a risk to throwing the kitchen sink on to your CV though. I interviewed someone for a programming job that did not involve machine learning at all. They included machine learning on their CV. The other interviewer was a big fan of ML and only asked them questions about this during the interview and in the end veto'd the candidate because they didn't like the answers. Perhaps this candidate would have gotten the job if they hadn't included ML on their CV (they were well qualified to do the actual job they were there to interview for). On the other hand perhaps they would never have been called for interview if their CV hadn't appealed to the machine learning fan on the hiring panel.


Short answer is that you can mention them (if they have relevance to your job), and if the job really needs you with those skills they will quiz you on that -- you have taken the courses (indeed you have!) but worst case you just did not remember your materials well.

Lots of people take the approach of just listing all relevant courses that have been taken (plasma physics vs. ML usually in industry are very different skillsets. Most jobs probably will only quiz you on one of them. If you apply for an ML job list these hard physics classes near the end or deprioritize), and then upon getting past the resume screen actually start prepping for the materials.

  • But what if I didn't learn the courses well in the first place? Commented May 13 at 10:43

Anything that you listed as a "skill" on your CV is fair game.

What do I mean by this? If you list something as a skill on your resume, I expect you to know it. If you don't, then that makes me wonder what else you 'exaggerated' about on your resume. Big red flag to me.

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