Society Memberships


I was reviewing resumes today and thinking about qualifications and memberships. Not undergraduate and graduate degrees, but the memberships such as the PMI, Chartered Institute, Society of... type memberships. People very often display these on their resume - often at the top, because they think they are very important. Unfortunately, recruiters have a different view.

To be clear, there are three types of these society memberships. There are some where you can pay to join, and there is no 'qualification' other than having available cash. There are some where you need to pass exams, or prove you have a certain amount of experience. Finally, there are some where you need to have the membership in order to practice your profession.

If you need the membership in order to practice, then this is absolutely a yes/no question for a recruiter. If you don't have the qualification, your application goes no further. The other types are more complicated. Take project management for example. In some countries you need to pass exams to join the Institute or Society. This only tells the recruiter that you can pass exams and keep up with your professional development. It isn't actually evidence that you can deliver a project on time, on budget and to quality. With two resumes in front of you, one which lists the PMI membership but no specific project delivery information and the other which lists 5 projects of approximately the right size and complexity delivered on time but no PMI, it's likely the one without the PMI will be invited to interview.

Paying to join a society may be evidence of your willingness to keep up with your industry, it isn't the deciding factor your might think. As a recruiter I know that companies sometimes pay blanket dues for people in certain positions. Larger companies tend to pay these more often than smaller companies. Another candidate might have all the right experience but work for a smaller company, where the dues are less likely to be paid. Should I discriminate on that basis? I wouldn't, because it doesn't tell me anything about her ability, only about the kind of company that she works for.

Those of you hiring, how important are society memberships in your decision making process?

Society memberships or certifications?

Nice analysis, Wendii! The "useful" class of memberships almost classifies as a certification....

I am not a recruiter, but I can tell you that for certain jobs I have rejected people based on resumes that proudly displayed a completely misplaced (MSCE) certification.... This could be taken as another lesson to customize your resume for the job!



PMI Membership

PMI membership is important because it gets you a discount on the PMP exam and access to a significant amount of documentation and potential learning... but the PMP certification itself is far more important, I would think. You don't need to be a PMI member to get, or keep, the PMP.

I list my PMI membership and PMP on LinkedIn, which in recent interviews the callers were looking at while they called me. I list only my PMP on my resume where space and attention are at a premium.

Society Memberships

Thank you for this interesting post.


Not a major factor, but a discriminant and a source of questions

My experience is that the world of science, at least, is somewhat different, particularly for positions requiring a Ph.D.  For general business, I agree, and I've paid little difference to certification or society membership for journeyman-level software developers, for example.  For a doctoral level scientist, however, the two-page version of the resume should show one to three professional society memberships.  And it should preferably indicate some level of active involvement in the professional society -- as an indication of critical networking activity in this business.  And in general business, if someone lists an active role in a professional society (beyond writing a check), I would likely view that as a differentiator between two otherwise well-qualified candidates (with a record of accomplishments). 

Thank you all for your contributions!

@Rwwh - Certifications definitely follow the same rules. People are generally more proud of them than recruiters value them.

@Shirgall - thanks for the clarification between PMI & PMP.

@ Ryan50 - you're welcome

@Refbruce - Thank you for pointing out the difference between membership and 'active membership'. Between two otherwise equal candidates, leadership of a society might be the differentiator.


A little harsh maybe

I agree with you Wendii that membership of an organisation that has the sole requirement of the payment of a fee shows willing, but not much more than that.

I find the statement "This only tells the recruiter that you can pass exams and keep up with your professional development." to be a little damning as you seem suggesting that it's not worth much of anything to study and pass professional qualifications unless they are a requirement of your industry. If the qualifications are relevant to what the person is doing now or demonstrate that the person is looking to qualify themselves for a better future position I'm not sure what is wrong with that.

One of the interview questions I recall from one cast was for the interviewee to talk about a business book that they have read recently and to talk about the takeaways and actions that from reading the book. I could just as easily say that "This only tells the recruiter that you can read a book and keep up with your professional development."

Yes, of course, if one person has extensive experience and one has a relevant professional membership, even if it has an accompanying qualification, the real-world experience is likely to take precedence.

As with all things, I'd like to see a balance between willingness to self-improve and real-world experience. If people don't have a good answer to 'what do they get out of being a member of...' then that's worse for them than if they'd left it off, but if people can talk cogently about the reason why the joined, the value they get out of it for themselves and for their current/desired roles then I believe it's a good thing.

I should say, however, that one thing I'm not that keen on is the use of logos on CVs. I am, as it happens a Fellow of the British Computer Society and a Chartered IT Professional. As such I am entitled to use the "Chartered Fellow" logo on my CV and business card, except I can't think of a good occasion when this would be appropriate (unless I knew the recruiting manager was also a member of the same society). For IT it's definitely not (yet) regarded as a sign professional standing in the way that Chartered Engineer or Chartered Accountant is, even though the BCS (and others) are trying very hard to achieve that. 

With the sitiuation @rwwh mentions, I would agree that a large MCSE logo plastered across a CV for a senior position would be a turn-off for me (as indeed is any poorly formatted CV) but a tiny mention under professional qualifications wouldn't put me off.

Thank you

@David Buck, thank you for your comments. Recruiters are cynical, but you're right, my sentence was a little harsh. I'll be more careful. Your question 'what do they get out of being a member of .. ' is an excellent one, and goes the heart of the issue.

I agree with you about logos. I've seen resumes with employer brand logos on as well as memberships, and they really do not add anything persuasive that plain text would have not done. There's such a thing as standing out for the wrong reasons.