Should you or shouldn’t you…
I was asked recently by a subscriber about when – if ever – you should include hobbies and interests in your résumé.
Like everything in résumé writing, there is no one-sized-fits-all answer. This is why you need to use your best judgment based on all the facts that you glean from assessing the situation.
The whole should-you-include-hobbies-and-interests-in your-résumé argument is a contentious one that has been going on forever in the hiring world.
Some employers want to see personal information
There are career professionals, recruiters, hiring managers, and HR who firmly support the importance of including personal information in your résumé.
The argument is that many employers are adamant about finding the “right personality fit” in a candidate.
This is why it’s a good idea to include key soft skills in your résumé and then provide evidence of how they translated into positive business outcomes.
However, the soft skills that I’m referring to are skills and knowledge that you use in your professional work – they having nothing to do with personal activities.
Others believe it’s too much information
Then there are others who believe that including personal information in career marketing documents creates an obvious bias in hiring – which it can.
For instance, maybe your favourite pastime is contributing to environmental pursuits while the hiring manager hates “tree huggers” and decides that you won’t be a good fit based entirely on their personal preference and assumption of you.
Or the company is looking for someone who likes television programs like “The Handmaid’s Tale” (which is a great series, BTW!) but the fact that you don’t watch it translates into you won’t “fit in”.
Employers might be shooting themselves in the foot
The problem with judging people on what they do in their free time is a slippery slope – companies might be missing out on great talent who would perform well in the job despite the fact that their interests don’t align with many of the people in the organization.
There are plenty of examples of organizations who employ people with diverse passions and points of view and everyone manages to do their job.
If anything, diversity in the workplace makes for a way more interesting and dynamic environment. It forces everyone to figure out how to work together to get things done. I think that promotes and strengthens cooperation and team-building which can’t be a bad thing.
The danger with including your personal interests and pursuits in a résumé is that it can generate stereotypes and you might be judged harshly.
After all, humans are naturally judgmental and the very nature of the hiring process is judgmental, so the more personal information you divulge puts you at risk.
There are two sides to the argument
While I believe that including personal information on the résumé can work against you, the opposite can also be true.
The decision to include hobbies and interests is a strategic one. YOU have to decide if and how you chose to share your personal information because it can either tip the scales in your favour or send your résumé into the reject pile.
How do you know what you should include, if anything???
Do your research!
Understanding the goals, objectives, needs, and the preferences of the employer is a great first step.
What do they value in an employee?
What kind of work culture do they have?
What do they stand for?
What are they against?
The employers’ website and their social media posts might provide some useful information.
Another strategy would be to reach out to someone working there and see if they would give you a few minutes of their time to answer some questions about the work culture.
Only after you have gleaned this valuable information can you then decide if you should include or exclude hobbies and interests on your résumé.
Remember – you would have to make this determination for each position you apply to, as each employer will have different preferences.
When including hobbies and interests might be a good idea
If your target position is a people management role for a company that values health and wellness, then you would DEFINITELY want to include your activities and interests that relate to fitness, sports, team-building, leadership, and health/wellness.
Or, maybe the hiring company promotes a “green” work culture. In this case, you should mention that you worked on community fundraising activities that supported local environmental initiatives or that you worked on a year-long project to eliminate plastic from your household.
What NOT to do
Don’t just throw hobbies and interests on your résumé without giving it any thought.
Why does the company need to know that you love goat yoga or origami is your jam? Unless your target position involves animal husbandry or intricate paper folding, there’s NO REASON to include it.
Plus, someone could judge you negatively. At the very least, it will get a few eyes rolling.
General rule of thumb
I do believe that it can be a good strategic move to add carefully selected personal hobbies, interests, and activities provided that:
#1: There is room on the résumé. I wouldn’t push a 2 page document to 3 pages just to fit in this information which is usually not compelling enough to be a deal breaker.
#2: This information supports your unique value proposition. (This describes the benefits of what you have to offer, the kind of solutions you come up with, and what distinguishes you from your competition.)
#3: It’s 100% relevant to the target position otherwise it’s only detracting from your value messaging.
#4: You feel that the recruiter, hiring manager and HR would care about this information and think “Mary participated in several origami arts competitions and won first place in the World Origami Heavy-Weight Competition. Bring her in!”
So, hopefully this clears up a few things about whether or not you should include hobbies and interests in your résumé.
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I draw from over 15 years recruitment, career/job search coaching, and sales/marketing experience to help all kinds of jobseekers stand out, get noticed, and get hired for their dream job.
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