There is always much conflicting advice from career experts on what to include on CVs. One of the areas that has an opinion divide of Grand Canyon proportions, is whether to mention your personal interests and hobbies on your resume and if they can actually make a difference to the selection process.
Hannah Morgan, Career Sherpa says “No one really cares that you enjoy knitting, wine tasting and training for marathons. That is, unless, you are applying for a job in one of those areas. Save the space for more meaningful, work-related information. Have you included professional memberships or volunteer activities?
Personal interests: 10 CV dos and don’ts
Do: Remember that what is relevant will depend on the company culture and nature of the open position. Not all company cultures or teams look for, welcome or need, the person who does a fitness boot camp at 5.00 am every day before work.
Do: include some personal interests especially if they can showcase or endorse your professional skills and particularly if you have achieved some level of excellence or expertise.
Do: give a range of personal interests which showcase your personality. I think Hannah’s example of a wine tasting, knitter, who runs marathons could be a potentially interesting character.
Do: be strategic and highlight those personal interests which could be professionally relevant, but with a balance: team and leadership roles, as well as introverted and extroverted, competitive and non competitive. Depending on the nature of the opening, I would certainly pay attention to someone whose interests were exclusively solitary or exclusively competitive. Generally personality traits will be identified via any type of testing or assessment process anyway.
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Do: include if you played a sport to a high or professional level or represented your country in any activity, even if it was some years previously. It demonstrates focus, discipline and energy. Plus skills!
Don’t: include if you claim to be an international athlete light years before and it looks as if it was 50 pounds ago and walking from the desk to the door will induce a coronary.
Do: be sensitive with regard to any of your interests which might be “hot” issues for others: certain causes, or political or religious activities fall into that category. It’s impossible to know the personal biases and perceptions of the reader and interviewer unless they are in the public domain.
Do: share if you are using that skill currently via coaching, mentoring or volunteering.
Do: if you think your personal interests will be a social ice-breaker and professionally relevant. It is becoming increasingly easy to research interviewers and companies. If the hiring company sponsor an activity which genuinely interests you – include it. I was participating in a search recently where the company sponsored the fine arts and one of the candidates was a serious opera buff. The panel Chair and candidate had a brief aside on Liudmyla Monastyrska‘s role as Aida. It was a clear differentiator in that particular hiring process with a number of equal candidates. Confirmation bias exists.
Don’t: claim to have interests which are not real. If the last book you read was the Spark Notes from a university course, or the last movie you saw was Ghost or your idea of haute cuisine is opening a takeaway carton, best not to mention them as interests. You could be asked.
I interviewed someone who said they were a “huge tennis fan“, but couldn’t comment on the last Wimbledon final. As John McEnroe would say “You can’t be serious.”
So like any other part of your CV the personal interest section is an opportunity to be strategic. So I say use it – but wisely!