The “Interests or Hobbies” section on resumes can be overlooked and underused; however, that’s better than the opposite problem. Care a little too much about this section, and you could be sending the wrong message about yourself. Your personality and interests are just one component of the hiring process, but they shouldn’t take away from your experience and education – and the overall quality of your resume.
Five Rules for the Hobbies and Interest Section on Your Resume
Think twice before you ignore that section at the bottom of your resume right before your list of references. I have five rules that I use when I evaluate candidates for a job.
1. The solid choices.
The following choices are usually both safe and impressive: volunteerism with a charitable organization, activities with family (such as coaching daughter’s soccer team), or spending time with family in general. It’s the activities and engagement that matter, not just the relationship building.
2. Continuing obligations are better.
Helping with the 2018 Food Drive for the River City Homeless Shelter is good, but sitting on their board of directors is better, as it shows more of a commitment. I realize that you have to be asked to do this in most cases, but don’t hesitate to be proactive and ask the organization if they need volunteers for their decision-making boards.
3. Leadership gets my attention.
If you are a leader in some capacity, such as sitting on a board, coaching a team, teaching volunteer classes, or organizing an annual event, it can sometimes close a gap in a resume void of leadership job experience. Again, you do not have to search hard for these opportunities; they are everywhere.
4. Don’t overreach.
I once saw a resume with 15 ‘Interests/Hobbies/Other” items listed. I wondered when the person ever had time for work. In addition, if it really is not an interest, talent, or accomplishment, do not put it down. You may be called on it and the result will not be good. I speak about 50 words of Arabic (20 of which are foods), but I am not going to put “Speaks Arabic” in the section, just because I am of Lebanese heritage and it may be expected. You would be amazed how many applicants seem to ignore the words proficient and fluent when it comes to second languages. If you enjoy playing golf, but you only play four times a year, is it really an interest? If you ran a 5k two years ago which nearly killed you, is running something you want to list? Probably not. Stick with what you have really done, what you like to do regularly, and where you show some level of proficiency.
5. Know your audience.
This can be a fine line between overreaching and becoming sycophantic versus tailoring the resume to fit the culture of the organization or personality of its leadership. Do your research on the specifics of what the company is involved in terms of philanthropic activity. Furthermore, do more research on the interests and hobbies of the decision makers of the business or agency. That way, you can avoid the embarrassment of listing something that conflicts with those interests and hobbies (although I would usually list charitable endeavors and family activities regardless). More importantly, it may help you narrow your list down to things that may resonate and present favorably to individuals with hiring authority. Again, it only is good advice, if you are not overreaching. Do not be the person that runs and joins a country club because you find out your prospective boss belongs to it, even though you cannot hit a golf ball out of your shadow or get a tennis ball across the net.
Use it To Your Advantage
So, next time you’re tempted to skip this section, know that you can use it to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to tell an employer a little bit about yourself. Just remember to share – not scare.