Not every occupation is going to have certifications, but if you are in one that does, this is a critical section. First, don’t list your certifications in your summary, even if you have 987394857435 of them. Actually especially if you have 98273498381 of them. You are wasting valuable real estate by doing that and there are much better ways to use your summary. There’s a section for certifications and it’s set up nicely to let you showcase them.
Don’t list a massive string of certifications after your name either. If you have one (or maybe two) major industry certifications that define you as an expert in your field, go for it but don’t dilute your name with a bunch of alphabet soup. In many cases, people won’t know what the heck they are and if they are looking for specific certifications, they will show up in search from the certifications section anyway so you aren’t gaining anything. Finally, keep in mind that by putting even a couple in with your name, you are defining your brand – make certain that they are how you want to be immediately categorized.
Keep in mind while you are doing this that it is the Certifications section – not the Courses section. Some people will list courses here but that isn’t appropriate even if they are required to obtain the certification. Yes, some courses are all that is required to obtain a full certification, that’s fine – but if they are just part of the process, put them in the Courses section. Overall that will help your profile look more complete anyway and you can update that section as you work towards your certification, giving yourself a bump on the update feed. Generally, certifications require some sort of exam, test or case study presentation and not just “time served” in a seat.
So, on to the how – start by going to your profile and selecting edit profile. Scroll down to the Certifications section and click the Add link to the right. You will get a form that looks like this:
Start with the FULL NAME of the certification as it is listed on your certificate – do NOT use acronyms or abbreviations here unless they are well known (and don’t make assumptions that since you know what they mean, others do). Even if you do include the acronym, do it parenthetically – Project Management Professional (PMP). There are exceptions for extremely well known certifications where the acronym is actually more recognizable than the full name but go with the parenthetical instead of just the acronym as a rule of thumb.
Move down and enter the certifying authority and license number (if there is one) as it is listed on your certificate – this will actually in most cases give you a drop down so you can select (and therefore provide viewers with a link) to the certifying group. If yours doesn’t show in the dropdown, don’t panic, just type it in. Don’t skip this part – WHO certified you is as important as WHAT you are certified to do. License number may be a specific license number or it may be something more general such as your associated Microsoft Certified Professional number or ITIL candidate number. This is somewhat optional whereas the certifying authority is not – it will help someone confirm that you do have the certification in some cases, so use your judgment based on your field as to whether that is key information. This just shows up as text next to the certifying authority.
I consider the certification URL optional as well – if you have a very well known certification in your industry and field it is likely not necessary. If you have obtained a very specialized certification or one with which people viewing your profile may not be familiar, go ahead and include a link to the OFFICIAL certifying authority’s URL for that qualification. Don’t link to anything other than the official information, however. Note that this does not come in as a separate line but rather when someone clicks the name of the certification, it will take them to the link you provided rather than a search of LinkedIn for that certification.
Finally, dates of certification. You have two options here – date to date or does not expire. You actually want to update these periodically – some certifications do not expire until they are replaced by a newer certification, some are only good for a certain period, some are eternal. The first date is obviously the easiest – just enter the month and year the certification was obtained. If your certification requires renewal, the second date should be the renewal date and you should update this when you renew – not only does it keep your information fresh and show that you are on top of your career, but it will show up on the update feed for visibility when you do this.
So now the big question – what about expired certifications? Frankly, just like expired meat in the fridge, get rid of them. Old technology makes you look old and out of date. Expired certifications can also tell people that you didn’t take the time or make the effort to stay current. In short, they don’t really add to who you are now and can even undermine your brand. I know, it hurts – I have more than 15 old certifications that took me substantial time and money to acquire, but no one really cares that I was once certified on a product that is now 4 versions beyond my expertise. Just let it go and consider it incentive to go do something fresh and new.
So now you should have something like this:
All done? Not quite. See the little up/down arrow to the far right? This lets you set the order (top to bottom) in which your certifications will be displayed by clicking and dragging it up or down. You basically have three choices to consider – newest to oldest, by certifying authority or most significant first. And this may well change as you refine your profile. The one you want on top is the one that is most important for viewers to see – the one that will be their first impression of your certification focus. I tend to move the most recent to the top for a while and then sort by certifying authority with most significant certification first.
When you have finished entering your certifications, scroll back to the top and click Done Editing. One final note – initially you probably want to add all your certifications into the section, but consider adding them one certifying authority at a time over the course of a week or more. This will put an entry in the update feed and will give each set of certifications their own visibility. And now, you are officially certifiable!