How To Assess Online Coursework on a Resume

467376423Resumes are shifting to reflect the digital world. With an increasing number of candidates using online education to upgrade their skills or fill in resume gaps, it’s important for hiring managers to determine how to best assess new online credentials. This new horizon of online education presents recruiters with new challenges, however. While a degree from a traditional university can be easily recognized and verified, how can you tell if an online course is legit?

What to Look For
If you’re scanning through a candidate’s resume and see a short Photoshop course or an Associate’s degree from an online institute, do you take this at face value? The truth is, just like traditional universities, some online institutions are more reputable than others. There are a few key attributes to look for in a resume-listed online course.

  1. Accreditation. Accreditation proves at the very least that a particular online program has met academic or industry standards. If an applicant lists an academic qualification from an unaccredited course, you have no way of knowing whether or not they’ve learned relevant skills and are ready for the workplace. Schools can be accredited by professional bodies, the Department of Education, or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, for example.
  2. Certificate of completion. It’s not unheard of for candidates to list a course or degree program without having actually completed the full course load. Many online courses provide a certificate of completion, or even a digital badge that can be added to the applicant’s LinkedIn profile. Ask for verification if you’re unsure.
  3. Online presence. If you Google the online institution, what appears? If all you can find is a shady Facebook profile, it’s best to dismiss the credential. Reputable online programs should have professional websites, links to research or other institutions, and reviews in education directories. As a busy recruiter, you don’t have the time to go into super-sleuth mode to find all of these facts. If the school is legitimate, this information should only be a single click away.

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Potential Pitfalls
One downside of online or distance learning is that it doesn’t give the same social experience that an in-person session would provide. If the role you’re recruiting for relies heavily on interpersonal and communication skills, you would need to see further evidence of these on the resume. An online oral presentation course simply cannot give the same experience that an in-person course would give, and both pale in comparison to real-world experience. Look elsewhere on the resume for evidence that the candidate possesses these types of soft or social skills.

The Bottom Line
When you’re looking for a better job and need to upgrade your skills, many experts recommend taking short courses. Just as a student would look into courses to make sure they’re accredited, hiring managers can verify these credentials in the same way.

Overall, online education is just one piece of the puzzle. If an unfamiliar digital course is supplemented on the resume with relevant experience, foreign language or IT skills, and other desirable attributes, it shows that the candidate is interested in keeping their skill set fresh. Use your best judgment, but this could warrant an invitation to interview to speak further.

MORE: Recruiter’s role in creating a fantastic resume

Rachel MacDonald

Rachel MacDonald
Rachel MacDonald is a freelance writer with an interest in how technology is shaping the future workplace.

Rachel MacDonald

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