People say that a resume is a living, breathing document of “you”—a single piece of paper that serves as your only first impression. However, if we’re talking about the traditional resume, that’s an inaccurate claim—unless maybe you’re all work and no play. It’s fine to be passionate about Excel spreadsheets and business proposals, but it’s equally OK to have an interest in baking pies or playing soccer. On the weekend and outside of work hours, you engage in activities that shape your personality, and since those things are an important part of who you are, they’re an important part of your resume, too.
Whether you have a strong interest in giving back to the community, you like to run marathons in far-flung states, or you play bass in a band, it’s likely that your applications will hold more weight if you’re able to show originality, stand out from the other applicants, or make someone reading it smile. One way to do that is to add your interests in an “Extracurricular” section at the very bottom.
In case you’re unconvinced, extracurricular activities, now more than ever, play a role in who gets hired for the job and who’s forgotten. In fact, LinkedIn added a section in 2011 called “Volunteer” to list topics and causes you care about. And one out of every five hiring managers in the U.S. has hired a candidate because of her volunteer work experience.
So, it could be well worth your time to consider adding this section to the bottom of your resume. Here are the three biggest reasons why:
1. It Helps to Highlight Transferrable Skills That Are Useful to the Role
A successful salesperson is confident, outgoing, and personable. So the fact that you’re active in your monthly book club and play intramural softball every weekend further supports the claim that you are a team player: friendly and sociable, with a strong drive to win.
A marketing company will love that you blog on the weekends because it understands that being a successful blogger requires social media knowledge and the ability to create intriguing content.
If you choose hobbies and experiences that are appropriate for your position, you’ll be proving that you’re even more of a fit. Don’t go overboard though—two to three examples are perfect.
Here’s how it might look:
2. It Can Get a Conversation Started
There’s a lot to be said for something that can alleviate a bit of the expected, often-stiff interview pressure. Hobbies and interests can act as an icebreaker at any point during the conversation.
Once I figured out a way to incorporate my hobbies into my resume (without drawing attention away from my professional skill set), I started seeing the benefit of doing so play out in interviews. Because I like racing a lot, I listed “Traveling the country experiencing and exploring new cities/events” under my extracurriculars section. When one interviewer asked what I liked to do for fun (Ugh—new question please!), I simply referred to the area at the bottom of my resume and grew animated as I explained how my love of travel led me to different tracks to watch car racing.
Little did I know, my interviewer was great friends with one of the big-name car owners of the sport and had recently discovered his passion for it as well. 20 minutes later, we were still swapping stories about our experiences. By the time came he got around to asking the inevitable hard-hitting questions, I felt confident and ready.
Company websites usually have employee profiles that include hobbies, interests, and past experience. If you can find a similar connection with the person or people you’re meeting with, definitely include it on your resume.
Starbucks, for example, is a company that puts a lot of emphasis on its brand. In fact, if you go to its recruiting page, you’ll find that its workers are referred to as “partners” not “employees.” In a short video advertising #extrashotofgood, the company discusses the importance of community involvement and how it partners with organizations to improve the neighborhoods it serves. While I would normally suggest excluding outside interests in a resume destined for a corporate company like Starbucks, your hobbies might actually work in your favor here.
3. It Can Prove That You’re a Culture Fit
We are seeing a strong shift in priorities for modern-day job seekers. Now more than ever, you want to work for a company that you feel matches your personal values, has a flexible (and maybe fun) work environment, and appreciates its employees. As for the employer point of view, companies find that their employees are more motivated to perform well and are more likely to stay in the position longer when they feel satisfied at work. Listing your hobbies plays a role in demonstrating how you’ll relate to the company’s culture.
Any extracurricular work that supports what you know about the culture is extremely relevant and should be present on your resume. Note your love of oil painting for a creative startup or the fact that you participate in a running club that supports cancer research for a nonprofit company. Be honest about what you enjoy, but always think in terms of how it can relate back to the company itself.
By now, you’re saying “This is all great Lauren, but how do I know when I should include these hobbies and when I use that space to list a relevant internship from five years ago?”
Research the company you’re applying to. What is its mission? What types of people does it currently employ? If it’s very corporate, err on the side of adding more experience. If it’s a fun startup, include your hobbies. One easy way to see which way the company leans is to check out the organization’s social media pages. Pay attention to how it engages with the audience on Twitter, Facebook, and even Instagram. Chances are, if its a little quirky online, it’ll gravitate to the applicant who is just as quirky.
In the event that you're really unsure, assess the hobbies you have down and ask yourself, “Does this make me look like a stronger candidate for this job at this specific company?” If it doesn’t, leave it off, and focus on the things that do.
Long story short: The recruiter’s going to use your resume to answer the question: “Is this person qualified for the job?” mostly relying on your past work experience to decide. Once she’s determined that you meet the qualifications, she’ll start thinking along the lines of fit: “Does this person fit within my company and can he succeed?”
At this point, the recruiting manager’s aiming to get to know you as a multi-dimensional person, and if she’s interested in you as a candidate, she’ll spend time reviewing your resume in detail. This is where the hobbies and interests come into focus. Including them will help shape you as an actual person and not just a faceless applicant—and that might just make the difference in getting you the job.