There’s been some recent discussion about whether CFA candidates should include their exam scores when applying for a job. Should you bullet your scores on your resume? Are employers interested in seeing your passing scores? Are lower scores going to put you at a disadvantage compared to someone who has a higher score?
It’s completely understandable for new CFA charterholders to have such questions. After all, you probably included your GPA on your resume alongside the name of the university you attended and the degree you earned when applying to previous jobs. Besides, when evaluating a high school graduate’s application, most colleges consider AP exam scores (where applicable) and SAT/ACT scores.
So, when it comes to whether employers should factor in your CFA exam scores as part of the job application process, here are a few things to consider.
Your resume is a useful document that employers use to assess your work experience, transferable skills, potential to fit into their culture, and job expectations. If they are looking for someone who already has the Charter (or is planning to do so), your resume is a great place to start.
Let’s assume you already passed all three CFA exam levels. If you decide to list your scores for each section, it could either help or hurt you. Suppose you passed all three levels with consistent scores across the board. In that case, that consistency is a good indication that you studied adequately for all parts and have a pretty good understanding of all the concepts tested. However, if your scores are inconsistent, they might raise a red flag in a prospective employer’s mind.
Sure, in this scenario, you passed all three levels, but because of your inconsistent scores, your employer might wonder whether you put as much effort into some areas. Some employers could even conclude that you didn’t and perhaps still don’t quite grasp the concepts in your weaker areas.
You worked incredibly hard to pass the CFA exam, and if you passed with flying colors, you might be tempted to want to showcase your success on your resume. You might also think that putting down your scores, especially if they are higher than most, would set you apart from other candidates applying for the same position, thereby putting you ahead of the curve. But that’s not necessarily true.
What Employers Really Think
As your potential employer sifts through hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes to find the right candidate, they don’t have the time to review each CFA charterholder’s CFA exam scores and rank them from lowest to highest. Since they review so many resumes, the last thing they are looking for is a numerical value of the different levels you’ve passed.
You also don’t want to risk being perceived as arrogant if you put down your scores among a sea of applicants who did not. Recruiters looking to place a CFA charterholder with the right firm want to know if you’ve met all the requirements of becoming a charterholder. Besides, hiring managers at finance/investment firms know that the CFA Exam is one of the most rigorous professional certification exams, requiring a considerable sacrifice of time and money.
This means that they are aware that you possess attributes that can’t be reduced to the numeric value of your scores. They know that this feat speaks to your ability to overcome obstacles, your ambition for career advancement, your dedication to continuing education, and desire to perform at the highest level in the profession. So, your CFA charter already sets you apart from the rest; your scores don’t need to speak for you.
That said, in the rare chance that you do encounter an employer who asks for your CFA exam scores, then yes, by all means, share them accordingly.
Employers understand that CFA candidates are hard-working and ambitious people. More importantly, they want to know who you are as a person, what you can bring to the table, and what value you can add to their organization.
More pertinent than your CFA exam scores are questions like, What does your educational and previous professional experience say about your work ethic and goals? What does your current job search say about what you would like to achieve or accomplish in the future? How can you contribute your knowledge and talent for the betterment of the team you would be joining?
The fact is that prospective employers won’t be able to answer these questions by scrutinizing your CFA exam scores. Your chances to land an interview or get hired aren’t based solely on passing the CFA exam, let alone what you scored on each level. Employers will consider your background, extracurricular activities, skills/abilities, education, and whether you would make an excellent cultural fit within the organization.
This means that you could have the most impressive CFA exam scores of all time and still not be hired by your preferred firm. If that firm thinks you’re “not the right fit” or lack the required experience in the field, they may pass on you for a candidate they deem to have more relevant qualifications.
So, ultimately, remember that you are more than a score. The culmination of your unique personality, education, experience, and CFA charterholder credentials are enough to secure your ideal job. You just have to trust the process, write a resume that makes the most compelling case for your candidacy, and have a great interview. Good luck!
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