What Does Qualifications Mean on a Job Application?

The section of a resume or job application labeled “Qualifications” — sometimes called “Summary of Qualifications” — is the heart of what a prospective employer wants to know about you. Your qualifications are a mini-summary of the skills, education and experience you bring to the table. These elements of your background are usually listed in dry detail in other sections, where you list a full job history with employers’ names and numbers and an education history with the names of schools and when you attended. The qualifications section interprets that information so the interviewer gets an overview of your potential usefulness quickly before wading though the more detailed information.
Your skills are the things you know how to do, and in many ways, skills are the hardest of your qualifications for the employer to see from your job history. The interviewer doesn’t know what software or equipment you used for previous employers, or that you were the salesperson they always gave the difficult customers to because your people skills are so good. When filling out an application or updating your resume for a specific job, learn what skills the employer is looking for and emphasize those. If you are applying for a graphic arts job, for instance, you would make sure you mention what software you have used. If you want a job in the building trades, list the specialized tools and equipment you know how to use.

Though you have listed your college attendance in the education section of your application or resume, the degrees you have earned should be mentioned in your qualifications. Depending on the job, however, the qualifications section may also be the place to mention other education, such as regional occupation training classes and even non-certification courses if they are germane. For instance, a nurse would want to mention ongoing education courses in patient education if he is applying for a job as a home health worker. A construction applicant should make sure that courses and certifications in safety, special techniques and equipment are mentioned under qualifications.

Experience is the bottom line, especially if you are applying for a non-entry level position. Even unpaid work, such as running the cash register at your club’s thrift store, can count. The interviewer wants to know that your prior work experience is germane to her company’s needs. The qualifications section is not the place to list individual employers but to talk about what you learned or achieved in those jobs. When applying for a supervisory position in manufacturing, for example, you could mention that you often worked as a substitute foreman at your last job, or that you were recognized for outstanding production. This tells the screener that a prior employer thought you were trustworthy and skilled enough to be given responsibility.

Minimum, Preferred and Equivalent
Many companies include their desired qualifications in job ads, and these are often listed as “minimum” and “preferred.” Minimum qualifications are the rock-bottom skills, education and experience that you need to have to be considered. Preferred qualifications are the ones the employer really wants to find. The more of the preferred qualifications you can demonstrate, the more likely you are to get the job. Sometimes, would-be employers are willing to consider equivalent qualifications in lieu of desired qualifications. Equivalent qualifications are experience or jobs you have had that taught you the skills the employer seeks, or demonstrates a track record in the skill or degree area desired.

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