In a highly competitive job market, job applicants need to go the extra mile in making sure their resumes shine. One way to grab the attention of recruiters and hiring managers is to include -- when you build a resume -- relevant information about your activities and interests outside of work.
There is a fine line to walk when it comes to adding this information, so let’s review how to go about including activities and interests in your resume in a way that will get you noticed (for all the right reasons).
How Activities and Interests Can Help Your Resume
Many hiring managers, as a way to differentiate between job applicants, will take notice of what an applicant puts down on their resume as their interests, activities, or hobbies. If used right, this information can help set you apart.
Any number of activities and interests can be looked at as professionally relevant, and can showcase your potential for leadership, your teamwork skills, and your professional experience.
A LinkedIn survey found that 41 percent of recruiters and hiring managers find information on an applicant’s interests, as well as their volunteer work experience, to be as equally important as the applicant’s work experience.
What Activities and Interests Should You Include?
If you are a student or recent graduate sending out your resume for the first time, the activities you list can include the college clubs you were a member of, plus community involvement activities, athletics, or participation in fundraising events.
If you are an older, seasoned worker, include activities and interests that will prove beneficial to the particular job you are applying for.
For example, if you’re applying for a marketing or public relations position and you have volunteer fund-raising experience with a non-profit, discuss that activity, and how it can equip you to communicate the business’ brand to customers.Mention any memberships in professional societies. Any organization that has licensed or certified you for a specific occupation can count under activities since you may be active within that professional field.
Other memberships could include board memberships to non-profits, like a local chamber of commerce or a branch of a national organization. These memberships can show your interests in the business and civic atmosphere of a community.
Activities and Interests Can Help with Rebranding
There are a number of times when including activities and interests on your resume can help with rebranding. For example, perhaps you want to transition from one career path to a very different one. You might encounter problems with hiring managers viewing you through one specific lens. In other words, they aren’t able to see you doing a job different than the one you do today. Your diverse, personal activities and interests can help add dimension and variety to your background.
I experienced this when I transitioned away from computer and systems engineering. Computer and systems engineering is like a combination of computer science and electrical engineering. To compound issues, I went to a private, competitive engineering school in Upstate New York for college. For a very long time, every hiring manager I spoke to couldn’t picture me being anything other than a computer programmer.
To help overcome this objection, I added an interests section to my resume. I made a point to include very relatable interests, such as travel, yoga, and cooking. These interests gave the hiring manager a new perspective into who I am. And, it gave them something to talk to me about in interviews ... other than technology.
Eventually, I successfully transitioned my career into marketing. I will never forget a great job interview that I had where I spoke with the interviewer for twenty minutes about a shared interest—ice hockey.
What to Avoid
Some activities and interests are either not appropriate or suitable for resumes. Think of interviewing for a job like attending a dinner party with strangers. At the dinner party, you are interacting with people you've never met before. Since you don’t know them, you (generally )avoid topics around politics, religion, and money. This same approach applies to your resume.
The last thing you want is to be dismissed for a job that you’d be great for because of a personal activity or interest that’s unrelated to the job’s duties. For example, explicitly partisan activities should not be in your activities and interests sections unless the job you’re applying for is explicitly political.
Controversial or potentially illegal activities and interest should also be excluded. In other words, avoid activities or interests that would either cause you to appear to be a member of a fringe group or otherwise very un-relatable as a person.
Finally, very personal activities and interests, such as those related to your religious affiliation, should be kept to a minimum or eliminated entirely. The exception to this advice is when you apply to a business that has a religious or political foundation. There are a number of businesses, such as the well-known fast food chain Chick-fil-A, where the aligning of religious views would be considered a positive attribute.
Or, if you are applying to work on a political campaign, you will want to include all of your relevant political activities and interests. The bottom line is this—you need to be selective, and exercise good judgement, when it comes to including activities and interests in your resume. The last thing you want is to be judged negatively on things that don’t tie to the job you’re going after.
Your activities and interests should make your resume stand out for the right reasons, and show hiring managers and recruiters what you know and what you’re passionate about.
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