When searching for a new hire, different employers look for different things, but they’re all trying to answer the same overarching question: can this individual add value to my business?
As a strong potential candidate, it’s your job to help them reach the right conclusion. It can be a difficult task to set yourself apart from the crowd, but showcasing your completion of relevant online courses is a great starting point. With that in mind, here are three reasons why you should add online courses to your resume:
1. It makes for a better interview.
Employers use interviews to gauge the value you can add to their company, and it’s important to set yourself apart from the other applicants. It’s not every day that an interviewer sees a MOOC on a resume (though it is becoming more common). Adding relevant online coursework can really help you stand out. It’s unique and invites conversation, so be prepared to answer questions. You could expect to be asked:
- What drove you to enroll in these courses and further your education?
- What knowledge did you gain from the courses?
- What can you do now that you couldn’t do before?
One of our edX learners, Akshay, who landed a job at Microsoft, explains how discussion of his online courses helped him get hired: “With Microsoft’s shifting strategy towards cloud, most of the interview questions were around cloud computing and how much we understood it… I told them about the courses I had taken and that I was also a TA in the edX course. They were so impressed that while other candidates got grilled for hours with technical questions, my interviews were short and mostly HR based because of all the courses I took at edX.”
2. It displays a relevant set of skills.
Applicants often struggle to convey what they can actually do for a company. Speaking confidently about a skillset that you’ve developed can help guide interviewers in the right direction. Whether your expertise lies in social media, graphic design, or online courses on your CV provides a clear-cut example of what you know and what you can get done.
Akshay, for instance, used MOOCs to develop new skills that he then added to his resume. He provided a practical example of exactly what he could do, and was able to convey the extent of his knowledge during the interview. With an important set of relevant skills, the interviewers knew that he was a good fit.
3. It shows character.
Pursuing professional education not only helps develop important
Enrolling in an online education, in and of itself, is impressive. It demonstrates personal drive and discipline, intellectual maturity, curiosity, and a strong willingness to learn: all of which are important to employers. It’s difficult for interviewers to always gauge these qualities, but it’s what they’re trying to do. They want to see that you’re willing to go the extra mile, because that indicates passion, and passion indicates value.
Bear in mind, though, that this only applies if you’ve actually completed the course and can talk about what you learned and how it’s relevant to the position.
For example, if you’re applying for a software engineering job, don’t list a course you took about the American Civil War as relevant work experience*. Something like HTML5 from W3C or Introduction to C# is a much better fit, provided that you can speak knowledgeably about what you’ve learned. If you can’t talk about it, you shouldn’t include it.
*An interest section on your resume is a great place for this, though. Employers are searching for talent, but they’re also looking for personality. If you’re passionate about it, include it.
But how should you actually go about adding online courses to your resume?
One of the best ways to incorporate online courses into your resume is by means of a cover letter. It allows you to connect with a recruiter or hiring manager on a personal level, and is a great place to discuss the professional skills that you’ve acquired and how they relate to the position. If you’re submitting your resume electronically, you can even link to the course profiles.
A second option is to create an entirely new section, such as “skills and objectives,” “personal advancement,” or “professional development.” Another is to include your online learning experience in the education section of your resume. This can be especially useful if you haven’t completed a degree program, or if you’re applying for a job that’s unrelated to your degree.
In any case, only include the courses that you completed or earned a certificate in and the major takeaways of each. Don’t sell yourself short, but don’t overdo it either. Be concise, and make sure that everything you include is relevant to the job.
This might look something like:
- Becoming an Entrepreneur – Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2018)
- Learned to perform market research and select a target customer.
- Introduction to Project Management – The University of Adelaide (2017)
- Developed the communication skills needed to manage a project.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Bachelor of Science: Mechanical Engineering (2016)
edX, Inc. (MOOC platform)
Used edX.org, a massive open online course (MOOC) platform, to take courses offered by accredited universities and training programs, including Harvard and Microsoft, to acquire skills in: C, PHP, HTML, Excel.
- Introduction to Computer Science – Harvard University (2017)
- Analyzing and Visualizing Data with Excel – Microsoft (2017)
- Learned to create models in order to explore, analyze and visualize data.
Also: don’t forget to update your LinkedIn profile with all of the course certificates that you’ve earned. EdX has a helpful feature built into the dashboard that allows you to add certificates directly to your profile! Once added to your profile, make sure it appears in the correct category.
Want to start adding MOOCs to your own resume? Here’s two to get you started: