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I'm a sys admin with about 6 years of experience. I have a boat load of certs, but I wonder at this level if I should avoid playing them up too much? Initially the first line of my resume looked liked this:

"MCSE (2003 and 2012 Server Infrastructure) and Comptia(A+,Net+,Security+) certified IT professional..."

But I'm beginning to think leading in with a laundry list of certifications is something for entry level resumes. I worked hard to get those certs, but I know as well as anyone the brain dumpers have devalued them.

At the same time I keep hearing about how having a particular certification can help push you to the "top of the pile" and I don't have a college degree to tout.

If I see a job opening saying something like "MCSE is a plus" I'll send them a resume with that opening line, but for the one I throw up on Monster, Dice, etc how/where should someone with my level of experience list these certs?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Jim G., Chris E, Jan Doggen, Garrison Neely, IDrinkandIKnowThings Dec 29 '14 at 14:53

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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how/where should someone with my level of experience list these certs?

In some laundry list at the end, maybe cutting out the ones that are less impressive (A+ for example). That lets the keyword bots still find them, and it still shows you did the work while emphasizing the actual work experience over them.

  • When you say "at the end" do you mean the very bottom of the page or the end of my opening howdoyado paragraph? – user1028270 Dec 26 '14 at 16:35
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    @user1028270 - I mean after your work experience. In the education, personal projects, etc. fluff area. – Telastyn Dec 26 '14 at 16:37
  • But if I see a job post that says "MCSE is a plus" should I then put it in my opening paragraph somewhere or do you think even in that case it should still just be in the fluff section? – user1028270 Dec 26 '14 at 16:42
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    @user1028270: It belongs in the continuing education section. Placing it "more prominently" on the resume isn't going to change its value. Your work experience is your most valuable resume "commodity". They'll figure out you're an MCSE and it'll factor in appropriately. It's not going to disguise the lack of a college degree though. – Joel Etherton Dec 26 '14 at 16:45
  • I actually put my certs at the very top. The reason is that it helps you get past HR. Your typical HR person doesn't know squat about what we do but they do know credentials and acronyms and displaying them prominently gives the HR peon a positive feeling about your resume right off the bat. I'd even put it about education because rightly or wrongly, some people view certs as even more important than a degree because they often have more direct relevance to the position about which you're inquiring. – Chris E Dec 26 '14 at 17:12
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Resume Organization

Generally speaking your resume is split into several sections

  • Introduction (typically a one or two sentence goal for your resume AKA what do YOU want)
  • Relevant Education
  • Relevant Job Experience
  • Relevant Skills and Expertise
  • Relevant Awards / Recognition

Many resumes will have more sections than this such as security clearance, public involvement, volunteer work, ect depending on what's relevant to the potential employer.

Certs

Generally speaking I've found putting your certs toward the end of your Skills / Expertise the best, Awards as an acceptable second though. Basically in your skills section you'll list off all the things you're able to do, as an IT pro it's good to list various OSs you're experienced with, server architectures, etc. Then follow up with your certs that basically tells me. "Here's the things I know, and here's the papers to back up that claim"

Sure Certs aren't the free ride they used to be. (Used to be if you had your CCNA you could practically take a job from someone who didn't), but they still have value. That said it's still a net gain to mention them.

If you have control of formatting

Often when you put your resume over to a recruiter, or on linkedin, or carreer builder you have little control over formatting, in those cases just slap the certs into the skill section unless they have a dedicated place for them.

In the event you're applying directly or you DO have control over formatting (IE you're sending them your resume directly) Take advantage of formatting the layout. As someone who hires I see the same tired default Word resume format day in day out, people who take the time to make something a little nicer are far more likely to catch my attention.

Personally my resume I've split my expertise section off into a small column on the right (15-20% the page width) that just lists my skills, expertise, and certs. I find this works MUCH better as most resumes your skill section is an almost unreadable wall of text. (I've seen some people format it decently inline, but most of the time it's pretty terrible) The column on the other hand makes it easy to spot individual items, list more skills without looking cluttered, and you can organize them in sections like Languages, Operating Systems, etc to make it REALLY easy for the person hiring to see if you have what they are looking for.

I personally have my certs at the very end of my list off skills in that column. Again, they aren't terribly valuable, but at least it helps say. "I'm not dropping buzz words, I actually know the stuff I just listed"

  • I concur with this answer, with one quibble: "Generally speaking I've found putting your certs toward the end of your Skills / Expertise the best, Awards as an acceptable second though" I'd list awards before certs, but certainly include both. I'm not a big believer in certs, but certainly you should include them if you have them. – Jim In Texas Dec 26 '14 at 21:09
  • Sorry I meant including your certs at the end of your awards section if you've got one. – RualStorge Dec 29 '14 at 18:18

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