Recognition is an important tool in people management, so when a hiring manager is considering the merits of someone’s career, they will value the objective nature of external awards. Your achievements might speak for themselves but when you receive recognition for going over and above the call of duty, it may be worth including on your resume.
Many successful employees will have accumulated awards over the course of their career. It is worth carefully considering which are worthy of inclusion.
We consider the following when deciding how to list them:
- Why you should list awards on your resume
- Which awards you may wish to include
- Where to share the awards and how to describe them
- Examples of how to write them for maximal impact.
A job search is the time when those educational, workplace and industry awards could really come into their own. And you thought that it was just a pretty paperweight….
Awards are different from achievements
Achievements are what you accomplished in the role while an award is the recognition that you received from others to say well done for making a specific difference. Whether an award is educational, work-related or industry-based, it is a shining beacon to highlight the scale of your achievements.
Why list awards on your resume
Job seekers spend much of their job search talking about themselves. Listing awards reveals their worth through the eyes of others and confers a halo effect to all their other claims.
An award is an indication that you seek to set yourself apart and strive for peak performance. Including the most significant awards in your resume will not be considered boastful – they are simply a sign of your dedication.
A resume without awards or standout achievements is a sign of a career where mediocrity is acceptable, and challenges are ducked. Show that you value success.
You don’t need a separate section for awards
Unless you are an industry giant in your field, it will be unlikely that you have many high-profile awards. A separate resume awards section is rare – they are normally listed with education and work experience.
Which awards can you include on your resume?
While a resume should primarily be about the skills and achievements that will allow you to thrive in your next role, there may be several awards that you consider including. Pick a maximum of 3-4 and choose with care based on their relevance and recency.
- Academic achievements
- Dean’s list or honor roll
- Fellowships or grants
- School leadership roles
- High GPA
- Awarded the Dean’s award (2019) for academic excellence for my thesis on Blockchain.
- Received a fully funded grant for genetic engineering research lab costs.
- Elected fraternity president by 450 fellow students two years in a row (2014-2016).
- Qualifications and certifications
- Employee of the month
- KPI-related recognition
- Best performer awards
- Innovation awards
- Awarded employee of the month the most times (nine) of any employee over 3 years.
- Beat my quarterly budget by a company-record 157% and received a chairman’s award.
- Passed accountancy qualification with distinction (in the top 2% of the class).
- Industry press mentions
- Industry association awards
- Published books or articles
- My personal blog was highlighted in “must read” lists by 20+ industry publications.
- 2020 John Hever award for the most impactful innovation in the logistics industry.
- Won “Best Newcomer” at the International RecTech conference.
- Community or civic awards
- Charity or voluntary work
- Arts and culture awards
- Sporting awards
- Won the mayor’s award for charity contribution of the year for fundraising $450k.
- Featured as a community leader to watch at my city’s annual fundraising gala.
What is the impact of including irrelevant awards?
Every hiring manager wants to read a resume and feel that it is written for them. Including an award that is unrelated to the role might be mildly impressive, but they may feel that you are sending out the same generic resume for every position. Consider what a future boss might think about each award.
Best places to include awards on resume
Your entire resume should be peppered with achievements, so there are a number of options of where to include your awards:
The education section of the resume is obviously only suitable for education awards, but the rule remains to only include them if they are impressive.
There is no requirement to include a GPA or any academic details such as the title of your thesis, so think carefully about just how much space you wish to use. Scholarships and leadership roles are often included.
The most recent work experiences in your resume will likely include a number of bullet points, so dedicating one to an award is an ideal way of adding credibility to your career story.
Try to only include awards from the most recent roles – older awards are less impressive as it may seem as if you have nothing recent to talk about.
While those 4-5 lines of the resume summary should be reserved for only the hardest-hitting aspects of your career story, if there is an award that marks you out as being in the top percentile of applicants, then it would be worth including.
The external recognition aspect of a prestigious award will lend gravitas to any summary.
Separate awards section
It is rare that there is a separate awards section in a resume – including them with work experience or education allows the hiring manager to consider them with some context.
There may be certain careers in which awards are more commonplace. Academic resumes are one example of where awards and citations are particularly important and demand their own section.
Avoid controversial awards
Only include awards if you are confident that the hiring manager considers that the cause is worthy. Religious or political awards might mean a lot to you, but you can’t be sure that the hiring manager will share the same beliefs.
How to describe awards on your resume
When you list an award, you often need to dedicate more than a couple of words to describing it. Treat an award like any other accomplishment – use a strong action verb to give it some emphasis and tell the hiring manager why it means something to them.
Include the essentials
The following should ideally be included when you share an award on your resume:
- The name of the award
- Date or year received
- Who gave the recognition?
- The reason for the award
- Context of the award (scope / frequency)
While this might seem like a lot of information, you can use brackets and hyphens to shorten the sentences. Perfectly punctuated sentences are not required here.
Quantify the recognition
If you were chosen for the award ahead of 500 other peers, consider quantifying your achievement. Don’t be shy – bask in your excellence. What did you have to do to receive it? Was it a national award or maybe even international? Add brief context where possible.
Share the impact of the award
What did the achievement mean to those around you and how did it change the trajectory of your career? Keep the description of the impact factual and resist the temptation to exaggerate. Give your future boss a sense that you moved on from the award and went on to enjoy greater achievements. They won’t want to hire someone who rests on their laurels.
Awards are the cherry on the top of a compelling career story. If your resume is lacking in detail about awards, you risk seeming as if you are blowing your own trumpet that bit too loudly. What other people think about you matters. In summary:
- Include a mix of awards, but only if they are directly relevant.
- Share the background and context of an award where possible.
- Spread the awards across your resume – a separate section is optional.
- Think carefully about whether the award will impress your future boss and list it on your resume.
You should be rightfully proud of the awards that you have received during your career, just don’t be tempted to take the trophies into the interview – that is one step too far! If you need more inspiration on how to incorporate an award in your resume, have a look at our resume samples and resume templates.