Yes, Include Volunteer Work on Your Resume

Sonia writes:
I’m currently looking to improve my resume. Can you please advise if the volunteer work should be added? If you need a copy of my resume please let me know.

The Career Doctor responds:
The quick answer to your question is yes you should include volunteer experience if it is relevant to the job you are seeking.

Now let’s take a step back and discuss resume strategies more broadly. The most important thing to remember when writing or updating your resume is that it is a marketing document not a historical record of your life. You should only include relevant information to the job you are seeking. And if you are a mid-career or mature job-seeker you should only include the most recent experiences — from the past 10 to 15 years.

What is relevant information? It’s work experience volunteering experience education training certifications skills and accomplishments — information that relates directly to the qualifications that the employer is seeking in qualified job applicants.

In fact if you remember nothing more please understand that every resume you submit to a prospective employer should be specifically targeted and tailored to the job and employer. Your experiences should match as closely as possible to the qualifications the employer seeks and you should describe yourself and your experiences using some of the same words the employer uses to describe itself and the ideal job candidate.
Some other key issues to consider at you write edit and update your resume:

  • Keep your resume tight and concise. Employers are not going to waste time searching for through your resume for the information they seek. Use bullets and short phrases to describe your experiences.
  • Load up on keywords. Because most job-seeker resumes are now kept electronically in computer files loading your resume with relevant keywords makes it more likely that a hiring manager looking for someone with your qualifications will pull up your resume in a search.
  • While there are no hard and fast rules on resume length most job-seekers should keep resumes to two pages. If yours is longer take a hard look at how you can cut unimportant information — and make the relevant information more concise. You can also consider resume addendums to include more detailed information such as details about key accomplishments certifications professional association experiences and the like.
  • Consider including a section such as “Summary of Qualifications” or “Profile” which can help sharpen the focus of your resume — as well as providing an opportunity to use keywords.
  • Only include factual information on your resume — and don’t make something you did into something else (like the executive who claimed a weekend retreat at Harvard somehow translated into an executive MBA).
  • Always leave time for editing spellchecking and proofreading — and when possible have another person review your resume for errors you may have missed.

Find more key resume information tools and samples in the Resume Resources Section of Quintessential Careers.
800-652-8430 Mon- Fri 8am - 8pm CST
Sat 8am - 5pm CST, Sun 10am - 6pm CST