When you’re writing your resume, it’s all about standing out from the pack. Sure, you have the experience and skills you need for the job, but so do many other applicants. How do you really hammer home that you’re the best choice for the job? One way is to list awards on your resume.
Awards are official recognitions of your work and accomplishments. You can receive awards from the company you work for, the school you go to, a group that evaluates or governs the industry you work in, and even a city, state, or country.
“Including relevant awards on your resume will solidify and highlight your results [and] accomplishments and help you stand out to future employers,” says Muse career coach Jennifer Smith, founder of Flourish Careers. Awards can also help prove that you have some of the key qualifications or traits for a given job opening, says Muse career coach Tara Goodfellow, owner of Athena Consultants—such as strong leadership skills or reliability.
What Awards Should You Put on Your Resume?
Before you add every award you’ve ever gotten to your resume—from your fourth grade perfect attendance certificate to your middle school soccer championship—take a second to make sure each one is relevant to your job search. Does it prove that you excel at a soft or hard skill that’s important for the job you’re applying to? Does it show that you’ve been recognized for the type of work you’d be doing in this role? Is the award especially prestigious or well-known in your field (think Oscar or Pulitzer, but for your industry)?
If you’re a recent graduate, you can go a little broader, Smith says. For entry-level resumes, you won’t have much or any work experience, so you should include any award that shows you have skills that will transfer to a professional setting, which could include diligence, teamwork, creativity, or perseverance.
No matter where you are in your career, think about how your award sets you apart from the competition and whether it shows the value you’d bring to a prospective employer before you list it on your resume, Goodfellow says.
Here are some examples of the types of awards you might include:
These are awards that showcase your achievements in an academic setting. In addition to showing mastery of the subjects you studied, these awards can also speak to your soft skills. For example, GPA-based awards tell people reading your resume that you’re hardworking, have good time management skills, and are goal oriented. These awards are mostly relevant for early career job seekers unless they’re especially prestigious (such as, for example, a Rhodes Scholarship, which you might keep on your resume further into your career).
- Academic programs (such as an honors program at your college)
- Dean’s list or honor roll
- Departmental awards
- Honor societies
- Research or project grants
- Latin honors
- Scholarships (including scholarships awarded by your school, other organizations, or the government)
- University awards
Awards given by your current or past employer show that not only do you have the skills you’re touting on your resume, but you also excelled when using them. Every company will have different awards, but here are a few examples:
- Employee of the Month
- Mentorship or leadership awards
- Peer awards (awards your coworkers nominate you for speak to your skills as a team player as well as whatever the award is for)
- Top performer awards (for example, Salesperson of the Year)
These awards show that you’re getting recognition beyond just your company. Sometimes you’ll win these awards as part of a team or company, but they can still go on your resume—just be clear about your specific role was!
- Inclusion in a prestigious list or roundup (for example, “Best of…” or “40 under 40” lists by well-known publications in your industry)
- Professional association awards (such as CSS Design Awards or Webby Awards)
Other Types of Awards
These awards are especially helpful if you’re an entry-level candidate. But you can add them to your resume later on too when they’re relevant to the job you want or show a key transferable skill. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, you might add that competitive art contest you won. Or if you’re applying for your first management job, that award you got for organizing volunteer events might deserve a spot on your resume.
- Arts and cultural awards and contests
- Athletic awards (primarily relevant for early-career applicants)
- Community, service, or volunteering Awards
- Leadership awards (from organizations not directly related to your work)
- Military awards or honors (if you’re a veteran)
- Other well-known awards (for example, the Gold Award for Girl Scouts or the Eagle Scout for Boy Scouts are great additions to entry-level resumes, Smith says)
How Should You List Awards on Your Resume?
Once you know which awards to add to your resume, you can decide where and how to list them. As you consider your options, think about how important the award is to selling yourself as a candidate for the job you’re applying for. You always want to make sure the most important information on your resume is easy to spot and understand by someone quickly scanning your resume.
Where to Put Awards on Your Resume
You can include your awards in one of two primary places:
- In your experience or education sections: You might add awards you won while working at a certain job, volunteering for a certain organization, doing a certain side project, or attending a certain school to the corresponding entry already on your resume. This generally takes the form of a bullet point and can be listed either first or last to draw attention to it.
- In a dedicated awards section: Alternatively, you can include awards in their own section if they’re not tied to a specific entry elsewhere on your resume. Smith also recommends an awards section when you have more than one award, to help them stand out. This dedicated section usually goes near the bottom of your resume, Smith says.
If you’ve won a relevant award that’s especially well-known or prestigious, you might also mention it in your resume summary to emphasize it (particularly if the person reading your resume will know what the award is without more details).
What Information to Include About Your Awards
When you’re deciding what information to include about your award, “the first thing to consider is the knowledge base of the reader,” Goodfellow says. For example, “[a] recruiter or hiring manager probably won’t know the qualifications of your company’s ‘Rockstar of the Year’ award,” and you’ll have to fill them in about what the award is given for. However, if you’re applying for an internal promotion, she says, you won’t need to include these details.
You should include the following details about any award you list on your resume, unless it’s well-known enough to the intended reader that it goes without saying:
- Name of award
- Year awarded: If the award is given out monthly or quarterly, include that as well.
- Who gave you the award: Add this information if it’s not obvious from the award’s name. If you were given an award by a particularly polarizing organization, Goodfellow says that you might list something like “local service organization” or “state political party” so the reader doesn’t get caught up in their reputation.
- Purpose of the award/why the award is given out: Unless it’s very well-known or self-explanatory from the name, state what the award signifies or recognizes.
- The scope of the award: How big is the selection pool for the award? Were you chosen from your team, department, company, university, state, region, or even the entire country?
- Why you won it: This is optional if it’s obvious from any of the above, but even in this case you can share some context or color—like what specific customer satisfaction numbers made you the “Customer Service Rep of the Year” or how you contributed to your team winning “Best Digital Marketing Campaign of 2019.”
What Should Awards on a Resume Actually Look Like? (Examples!)
So what does this advice look like in action? Check out a few ways you might list awards on your resume.
In an Education Section:
Bachelor of Arts in Communication | University of Virginia | Charlottesville, VA
Expected Graduation: Spring 2021
- Dean’s List, Spring 2019–Fall 2021
- Jefferson Award, 2017–2021: Four-year full-tuition scholarship awarded for academic excellence in high school.
- 2021 Cavalier Speaker’s Award: Awarded by university faculty to the best speech given by a senior communications student (approximately 200 students) based on both content and delivery.
In a Bullet Point Under a Job Entry:
- Most Valuable Teammate (MVT) 2018: Recognized out of 80-person engineering team for mentoring junior coders, stepping in to help whenever needed even if it meant staying late or coming in on weekends, and offering to help diagnose problems in code.
In a Dedicated Awards Section:
Colorado Volunteer of the Year 2020, Food Bank of the Rockies, Denver, CO
- Awarded to one volunteer each year among 200+ volunteers at Colorado locations of Food Bank of the Rockies.
- Volunteered 5 days a week throughout March and April during the COVID-19 pandemic, organizing inventory and distributing food to families in need.
- Designed, wrote, and printed 3500 “Help Cards” directing people to financial, employment, and housing resources available during the pandemic and distributed them with food packages.