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When and How to List Personal Interests on Your Resume

CoachingWhen is it all right to include a personal interest or hobby on your resume?

Most experts will answer "Never!" They recommend keeping your resume focused on your skills and qualifications for the job. Mentioning you're a Girl Scout troop leader, for example, isn't going to make much difference to the hiring manager who's looking for candidates to call in for interviews.

Maybe it won't help, but would it hurt if you mentioned it?

I like to think it shouldn't. After all, when an employer interviews the candidates whose resumes impressed them most, they're interested in a candidate's "fit" with the company as much as their skills and background to do the job. So if your dedication to non-work activities meshes with that of would-be colleagues, it can boost your chances.

Personal example: A few years ago, my resume noted the fact that I was a youth soccer coach. (I still am.) At an interview, after we talked about my fit for the job and company, the hiring manager asked about my coaching experiences. It turned into a brief, genial, and sometimes humorous discussion about youth sports. I left the interview thinking that mentioning that outside interest on my resume had helped my candidacy, even though coaching soccer had nothing to do with the job.

If you feel compelled to list a personal interest or hobby on your resume, follow these four guidelines:

  1. List experience and education first. Mention your interests only after you've detailed your professional skills and qualifications--including your education level.
  2. Beware of taboo subjects. If it has to do with a sensitive topic such as politics or religion, best to not mention it. Exception: If the job is with an organization whose views are known to be compatible with yours, then it can actually help to mention your interest in it.
  3. Time test. If you're going to mention an interest or hobby, it's best that you've been engaged in the activity for at least a year or two. Employers are more likely to be impressed by an ongoing commitment than by a new or fleeting interest.
  4. Connection with the job? Be prepared to talk about the outside interest in the interview, especially if you can link the activity to the job. For instance: Yes, I've thoroughly enjoyed being a Girl Scout leader. Not only do I take great pride in boosting the confidence of young women, I also enjoy organizing and planning long-term activities. And I think that can help me in this role as a project manager.

If you feel uncomfortable listing personal interests and hobbies on your resume, consider listing them in your profile on LinkedIn or some other social networking site. Most employers today look beyond the resume to social media sites to gather as much knowledge as they can on candidates before they extend a job offer.

Has an outside interest or hobby ever helped you land a job? Tell us about your experience.

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'How Do I Make My Resume Stand Out?'
5 Rules for Building a Great Resume
Critique Your Resume Like a Hiring Manager

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