Hobbies on Your Resume – Yes or No?
There once was a young MBA student who asked me to critique her resume. She inquired whether she needed to include hobbies on your resume. It was a typical resume of someone targeting an accounting job. For her undergrad degree, she had a double major in Business and Accounting. She had some experience in some summer jobs in junior bookkeeping roles and part-time positions helping with tax return preparations. She also had volunteered as the Treasurer for the local chapter of the Heart and Stroke Foundation. It closely resembled the resumes of many of her classmates. What caught my eye was the final line where she mentioned she had an extensive collection of Transformers.
Including your Interests
I inquired if this collection was toys or electrical components, and she confidently explained she had collected the “toys” as a kid, as she found them more interesting than dolls. Now she was keeping them to pass along to her baby nephew when he was older. Admittedly she had put those hobbies on her resume back when she had no work experience and barely had anything to fill a page. It was still on her resume because employers always seemed to begin interviews by mentioning it, just as I had. It was mentioned that once she provided an explanation that proved she was not as weird as the oddity might make her seem, the interviewer would move-on to more common questions.
I agreed with her that as long as employers were bringing-up that seemingly small thing, particularly if it was the first thing they mentioned, chances are it peaked their curiosity enough to be one of the reasons she got the interview. Therefore, having hobbies on your resume can pay off! Whenever you can identify something in your cover letter or resume that is resulting in getting interviews, you want to keep it on your cover letter or resume.
What Are Recruiters Looking for?
It is an ongoing debate between Professional Resume Writers and Career Development Practitioners as to whether or not to include extracurricular interests, sports, or hobbies on a resume. I always argue that as long as your resume can be kept within two pages, job seekers, and especially students, should include that extra section. Although it should be the last section on your resume, it can definitely play an important part.
There are at least seven reasons to include hobbies on your resume:
- It’s a place to include volunteer experience (if the volunteer experience is not enough to warrant a section of its own).
- You can highlight skills, attributes and accomplishments not evident through your employment or education experiences.
- For example, you may not have had a chance to demonstrate your leadership skills at school or in your work experience but are the captain of your neighbourhood baseball team or teach a few swim classes at the local recreation centre.
- It shows that you are well rounded, not a workaholic. It displays that you have an outlet to combat stress or have a passion for a sport or hobby.
- If related to your field, it demonstrates a strong interest or passion for what you do.
- For example, if you are a Structural Engineering student and in your spare time build bridges out of popsicle sticks or go to amusement parks to analyze how roller coasters are put together, that’s related ,and shows your strong interest in that field.
- As shown in the example above of that MBA student, it can create curiosity to make the reader want to know more.
- It makes you more interesting, especially if you have something in-common with the reader or interviewer.
- Furthermore, it may be a tie-breaker.
Set Yourself Apart from the Competition
This last point may not happen often, but I have seen it happen with Co-op students. In one instance, a hiring manager was debating between two engineering students. These two “kids” had taken all the same classes, had very similar grades, were best friends and did all the same summer jobs together, and seemed nearly identical on-paper. If the manager could have hired two students, he would have because he liked both, and felt either would fit well with his team. As it turned out, only one of the students had chosen to include his extracurricular interests/hobbies on his resume. This included playing hockey. The company had an interdepartmental hockey tournament every year and the manager’s department was in-need of a defenseman, which the student happened to be and so was hired. He now believes in the worth of listing hobbies on your resume!
What are Your Hobbies and Interests?
I encourage you to think about what you do/did when you are not in school, working, eating or sleeping. Put substantial thought into what you choose to include in your resume, and not just what you say, but how you include extracurricular items and hobbies on your resume. Another client I assisted with a resume liked to play pool. The job he was targeting involved using geometry. So, in his extracurricular/hobbies section, we stated that he “Used geometry skills to improve in billiard games”.
Keep the Reader Interested
I have also seen some interesting points such as:
- Won County Fall Fair Baking Contest three years in a row with family cheesecake recipe
- This resulted in an interview because the reader loved cheesecake and wanted the recipe.
- Have eaten over 5,000 bowls of Quaker Oatmeal
- This person was applying to Quaker Oats and honestly ate oatmeal everyday of their life for breakfast.
- Aspiring connoisseur of craft beer with particular interest in Canadian microbrewery start-ups
- Definitely more interesting and with less negative connotation than “Enjoys drinking beer”.
Describing Hobbies on Your Resume
Again, pay attention to how you say what you say. For instance, do not just list “Sports”, add some context. Do you watch sports, play sports, coach sports, collect sports cards, or enjoy researching the history of sports? If you play sports, are they team or individual? Are they competitive or just for fun? What role or position do you play on the team?
If you read, what types of things? Crime novels might indicate you are an analytical thinker. Self-help or personal development books indicate a desire to grow and improve. Historical biographies and science fiction books could be the choice of entirely different people, although both types love reading. It’s those details that make points meaningful and provide insights into you as a person, and potential employee.
The Debate Continues – Hobbies or Not?
Lastly, I have had the privilege of being able to ask recruiters and hiring managers whether or not they look for, or read, an extracurricular section on resumes. I have been told “yes”, “no”, “depends”, “sometimes”, and “perhaps”. However, for those who said “no”, I would follow with a question as to whether including hobbies/interests on a resume would have a negative impact on an applicant’s chances and that answer was also a “no”. In my mind, if even one employer expects or wants to see such a section on a resume, then it should be included. If a reader doesn’t care about such things, they simply won’t read that section.
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons to include extracurricular activities in a resume yet the debate will likely continue indefinitely. However, despite what anyone, including “experts” say, your resume has to reflect you, you have to be comfortable with it, and only you can decide what will, or won’t be, on your resume.