Personal interests: 10 CV dos and don’ts

Can hobbies and interests make a difference in the selection process?

Can hobbies and interests make a difference in the selection process?

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  including your personal interests and hobbies on your resume 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?

Stand out with your hobbies on your job search by  exhorts candidates to share their interests on their CVs. Why? “ Because who you are transfers over to how you work.”

Here’s my input but suffixed as always with the judicious ” it depends”:

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 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 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 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.

Do:   include if you played a sport to a high level or represented your country in any activity even if it was some years previously. It demonstrates focus, discipline and energy.

Don’t :  include if you claim to be an international athlete light years before and it looks as if 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. 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 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.

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.  You are not a wine taster if your  knowledge extends to white, red and pink.  I interviewed someone who said they were a “huge tennis fan“, but couldn’t comment on the 2012 Wimbledon final. (Murray lost to Federer  or Federer beat Murray depending on who you were supporting). As John McEnroe would say ” You can’t be serious

So like any other part of your CV the interest section is an opportunity to be strategic.  So I say use it – but wisely!

9 responses to “Personal interests: 10 CV dos and don’ts

  1. Dorothy,
    You cited many interesting arguments for including interests! I may change my position on this one day, but for now, my suggested compromise is to include those interests on your LinkedIn profile where space is unlimited and many potential hiring entities might go to learn more about you…

    You definitely got me thinking and thanks for the reference!

    • Hi Hannah – As you know I value your input very highly and used your post as an illustration of the divide that exists on the topic. Interests are generally at the end of a LinkedIn profile and I wonder how many actually scroll down. As always for me to include interests on a CV goes back to ” it depends!” Thanks for your comment.

  2. I would personally not include my personal interets in a CV or on Linkedin but will do it on Twitter or Facbook

  3. Thanks Anne. My observation is that many interviewers particularly senior ones will not research a candidate on Twitter or Facebook – or even LinkedIn. So it could depend on who is involved in the process.

  4. Thanks for posting this, I enjoyed reading it. I think with the growing area of social responsibility listing volunteer activities is also a good way to showcase other sides of your personality.

  5. The type of interest you share can convey information about you that you may or may not want to feature. If you like to read, crochet, and swim – those are all individual activities. If you play in a band and lead a girl scout troop – those are all group activities. As well, the more the unusual the activity or interest, the more likely you’re an interesting character… and the opposite may be true as well. And even if it isn’t true, whoever’s screening your resume may draw conclusions based on what you list. That said – I like to see interests listed, if there’s room, and if they’re something unique.

  6. Every resume advice site I consult says you have to be concise and efficient because HR people review hundreds of resumes every day and will spend 10 seconds looking at yours.

    I doubt 10 seconds are enough for someone to read all the way down to the last item and wait to ponder what it means that you like this and that and infer a trend that reveals a personality flaw – unless you mention your proud adherence to the KKK or something equally moronic. Is this really that much of a factor?

    • Thanks Jose – possibly the personal interests may not be read in an initial viewing. Professional skills carry highest weighting. Further on in the process they could well be. It’s not a question of demonstrating a “personality flaw” but personal preferences in the way spare time is spent which can add to an individuals story.

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