You might not have a projects section on your resume — and that’s okay. Including projects on your resume is entirely optional, but it can be a good idea if you’ve completed any personal or educational projects that highlight transferable skills or are relevant to the job you’re applying for.
What you need to know about including projects on your resume
There is a place for both personal and educational projects on your resume. Educational projects might include projects you completed at university, during further education, or as part of a professional or career change program. It doesn’t include regular coursework, unless it was particularly outstanding (ie. award-winning).
Personal projects can be anything you’ve completed in your own time, as part of a side venture, or during the course of volunteer work. If you’ve completed a large number of projects — for example, running your own freelance or consulting venture — you might want to consider including that in your work experience section.
If you choose to include projects on your resume, they should be formatted like your regular work experience. Use bullet points to emphasize your skills and accomplishments using action verbs and quantifiable metrics.
When to include projects on a resume
If you lack relevant work experience
If you don’t have a lot of paid work experience, projects can be a good way of demonstrating your skills and experience. If this is the case, the projects you choose to include need to be both relevant and significant — remember, it’s better to have a very short resume than to pad it out with unnecessary fluff.
If you’re changing careers
If most of your paid experience is in a different role or industry, projects can help demonstrate your competence with a more relevant skill set. This is especially true if you’re trying to break into a highly specialized or technical field. For roles involving software development, coding, or data analysis, a few relevant projects may even be more worthy of inclusion on your resume than a lot of work experience in a different industry. If this is your situation, consider dropping some of your older or less relevant work experience in favor of a dedicated projects section that can highlight your hands-on experience with specific technical skills.
If you’re a student
Current students or recent graduates without a lot of paid work experience can use university projects to highlight your relevant skills in a more practical setting. If this is the most relevant experience on your resume, it’s fine to list your education section first and use projects to bulk it out.
Getting past Applicant Tracking Systems
Some Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) or other types of resume screening will automatically reject candidates who lack certain skills or keywords. To get around this, you can use projects as a way to legitimately include skills that are required by the job listing if you have no other way of demonstrating them. Again, this can be particularly important if you’re trying to break into a technical field, so it’s worth taking the time to develop those hands-on skills before you start applying.
Do’s and don’ts for projects on your resume
- Use projects to demonstrate hard skills. Technical skills like programming, proficiency with specific software programs, or experience with social media marketing are all appropriate skills you may want to highlight.
- Tailor the projects to the specific job you’re applying for. Not every project is relevant to every role, and not every single task within a specific project is related to all roles either — be selective about what you include.
- Use hard numbers and metrics whenever you can. If you attended a coding boot camp, mention the specific programming languages you learned. If you used Facebook ads to sell your craft projects, state how much you were able to improve sales. Always be specific about what you achieved, not just what you did.
- Don't use projects for soft skills like communication or leadership. These skills are easy for anyone to claim and difficult to quantify, so you’ll want to use more relevant examples of how you’ve demonstrated these in a professional setting.
- Don't include projects in your regular work experience section. No matter how hard you’ve worked on them, they lack the accountability and oversight that paid work experience requires, so don’t try to frame them as something they aren’t.
- Don't include projects just to bulk up your resume. Only include them if they’re truly relevant to the role and will strengthen your candidacy.
How to feature projects on your resume
So, you’ve decided to include one or two well-chosen projects on your resume — but how do you format them? Here are a few practical examples you can follow.
In a dedicated projects section
If you have the space for it on your resume and you have one or more significant projects you want to make a focal point, having a separate section for your projects may be the way to go.
If you decide to give your projects their own section, this should be formatted in the same way as your work experience. List the project name and your specific role, then use bullet points to highlight the hard skills you used. Remember to begin each bullet point with an action verb and use numbers to demonstrate the impact of your role whenever possible.
If your projects demonstrate hands-on experience with specific programming languages or other practical skills, use your projects section to link to an online portfolio. Hiring managers in fields like software development, graphic design, and writing will want to see examples of your actual work whenever possible, since that’s the best way to see your skills firsthand and judge whether they’re a good fit.
This is another example that explicitly demonstrates your skills and expertise. It includes relevant keywords, which will help your resume get past any ATS and allows employers to see that you’re qualified at a glance. It also uses hard numbers to good effect, showcasing not only what you accomplished but also the impact it had on the overall project.
Under another section
If you’re a current or recent student and want to include university projects, these can fit neatly inside your education section. You should especially consider including projects in your education section if you completed a specific pre-professional program, like an MBA. This example shows how including projects can explicitly demonstrate your achievements, even if your degree is your only relevant experience in that field. Highlighting what you’ve actually accomplished is far more compelling than simply listing the completion of a degree. If you’re looking for more ways your education section can help you stand out to hiring managers, check out our guide on how to list education on your resume.
For personal projects, if you don’t have the real estate to dedicate to a significant projects section, it’s fine to include these in a small ‘Other’ or ‘Additional Projects’ section like in the next example. This should go at the bottom of your resume, or on the side if you prefer a two-column format. This example demonstrates how you don’t need to dedicate a large amount of space to a project for it to be worthwhile including.