If you’ve ever used a resume template you might have noticed a section for “extracurricular activities” or “hobbies and interests.” Today we’re going to talk about how to use this to your advantage, as well as what to avoid.
A key element to any resume is distinguishing yourself from other applicants, and in the absence of unique work experience, personal interests and endeavors can help make you stand out. For example, an employer has received two applications for the same position that have very similar work experience and education; however, one of the applicants included their membership to an online chess club and their ranking on their resume, while the other did not include any identifying characteristics outside of their work experience and education. In this case the employer may be more inclined to respond to the first applicant for the simple fact that their hobby demonstrates their dedication and drive to improve and succeed.
Realistically, not everyone plays chess or has achieved Grand Master status, yet the philosophy still applies. Certain hobbies and interests can help to highlight an applicant’s knowledge and intelligence, loyalty to a cause, way of thinking, or any number of positive personality traits that will make them more appealing to potential employers. Other good examples include a love of reading, interest in world history, participation in athletics, musicianship and other artistic endeavors, or your charitable efforts.
Certain hobbies and interests may be relevant to the job you are applying for. Let’s say you are applying for a position as a video editor at an advertising agency and your favorite hobbies include playing video games (more on that later), listening to music, and watching movies. In this case, watching movies is directly applicable to the position, and helps to illustrate an interest in the medium from both a professional and personal standpoint.
Now we will deal with the gray matter. It is important to always research any company you are applying to with the intent to learn as much as possible about not only the position, but the culture of the company. More often than not a company’s website will feature an “about” section that talks a bit about its workplace culture, which will sometimes be accompanied with the management team’s profiles. This can be useful when tailoring your resume to be specific to a company’s needs, as well as for deciding which hobbies and interests would be advantageous, or perhaps problematic, for you to include.
Let’s say for example you are applying to an executive assistant position at an accounting firm that was established in the 1940s, with a CEO who is the founder’s grandchild. In this case, it is likely best to omit hobbies such as playing video games or collecting comic books. On the other hand, if you’re applying to be a staff writer at a popular culture website then playing video games and collecting comic books might just make you the ideal candidate. The bottom line is it’s all about what works best in any given situation.
It’s also worth mentioning that including a bit about your hobbies and interests is also helpful to pad out your resume if you have very little or no work experience. When entering the workforce for the first time, this may prove invaluable in breaking away from the pack and highlighting your own unique interests and personality.
Lastly, when structuring your resume always take care to include your hobbies and interests towards the bottom while prioritizing your academic background, work history, and relevant skills. Your favorite hobby might just be the key ingredient your resume needs to get the job you’ve been looking for.
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