Hobbies and Interests Section on a Resume? Well...

This is a fun topic that I talk with candidates about.  At length, even.  As a recruiter, I need to make sure that all of my candidate's resumes are great before submitting them.  So, I go through it with them, as opposed to creating something new or editing without authorization.  Every candidate, for the most part, comes in to meet with me prior to being submitted so that I can judge their interview skills, as well as go over the resume.

Well, the funniest part of this review is the Hobbies and Interests section...which I tell my candidates either to do or not.  Usually I hear "That is unprofessional" or "Really?  Who does that?"  Well, the person who got the job :).

I don't have them all do it, and here are a couple of points why or why-not to put it on there:

Why to put it on there:

IT is where I recruit.  So, think about it, what is a main topic of concern for a candidate apart from skill set?  Culture, usually.  Will this candidate fit in here?  Let me ask this...what stereotypes come up with IT candidates?  Well, let me get the name calling out of the way: Geek, Dweeb, Nerd, Dork...to name a few.  Dungeon Programmers.  Yeah, glasses...WoW...anime...introvert.  Am I on point with what you were thinking?  More than likely...unless you are an IT guy yourself.  You can avoid all of these and change the initial impression you make by adding this section on your resume.  Of course, keep it professional and personable.  Mine says I am a Redskins fan and a Sigma Phi Epsilon member.  Both of those got me my first job out of college.  It even got me my second job 2 years later. Hiring managers typically want people who they can work well with, not people who will just come in and shut up.  Innovation, inspiration, and overall design/project management comes from communication and team work.  That being said, you need to have people who mirror that mind-set.  If you give them that information before they even meet you, you are already ahead of other candidates.

Why NOT to put it on there:

If you are entry-level , low-level, or blue collar...that really is the only thing I can think of.  Usually those roles are more mundane to the management, so they for the most part look for people who can do the job and get out of the way.  Reception, customer service, kitchen staff, CNC Machinists, etc.  Those type of roles are looking for people who can focus on the job, so their resumes need to be focused on the skills they have.

Keep in mind, this is more of a gray-area.  Reason being is that it directly goes against the EEOC, on a macro level.  Well, it is hitting on what people think off of first glance and what comes to mind first.  If they go through a very technical resume, then hit a Hobby section, they see the person as having a life outside of work, a good personal balance, and a good solid ability to tell the difference.

Let me know your thoughts on this...bit of a touchy one when it comes to resume writing.

Views: 24970

Comment by Jennifer Olsen on January 16, 2012 at 5:49pm

This is a touchy subject. I totally agree on the different advice for experienced versus entry level/lower level blue collar jobs. It is definitely better to leave hobbies and interests off if entry level so the employer can concentrate on professional or transferable skills. 

We advise clients not to include a hobbies and interests section on their resumes. I agree this section does give the employer a taste of culture fit, but this can also be gleaned in the interview. Taking hobbies into account as a hiring criteria can bite you eventually when the applicant lists singing in the church choir, doesn’t get the job and alleges it’s because of their religious affiliation.

I tend to advocate experience over anything else at the resume review stage. I offer more tips for resume writing in my recent blog, "Distinguish Yourself - Resume Writing Tips for Job Seekers" (http://springboard.resourcefulhr.com/?p=1819).

Comment by Tiffany Nugent on January 17, 2012 at 8:32am

I generally advise to leave it off of the resume. At my company, Culture Fit is the number 1 reason to hire someone, but I still feel there are other ways to show that than a hobbies section on the resume. I recommend to people they can make a creative cover letter to show that. We've even had people tailor their resumes to our unique job descriptions (I work at Zappos and we have pretty unique job descriptions). I agree with Jennifer that it can open the door for applicants alleging discrimination based off of those things.

Comment by Linda Ferrante LoCicero on January 17, 2012 at 9:37am

I can think of only two instances where I would recommend 'hobbies' on a resume and that is when it the 'hobby' is somewhat related to the position.  Even then, however, I am not sure I would title it 'hobbies'.

The first instance is volunteer work.  I would ALWAYS recommend putting that on the resume!  It shows community involvement, interest in others, social awareness, and many other things.  Always a good thing to have on your resume.

The second instance would be something that is relative.  For example, restoring old cars or rebuilding computers (shows hands on, attention to detail, patience, external interests, financial responsibility).  Both strong points of interest when hiring.  It's important to leave off things that can be viewed as controversial, such as religious or political.  Whether or not it is intended, it can (unknowingly, or unintentionally) lead to bias.

Things like 'loves to cook', 'travels a lot', 'golf', 'spend time with my family' and the like are all irrelevant to the actual position, and to the overall 'culture' of the company.  If the boss loves to cook, for example, and this can be a connecting point, it will come out in natural conversation.  It should be the least of the 'selling points' on someone's resume! 

Comment by Zachary Sines on January 17, 2012 at 9:39am

It is touchy...

The thing about the the "professional" aspect...that is vague for a reason.  You need to keep it focused on the company.  Putting on your resume that you are in the church choir could be viewed as discrimination if you don't get the job.  However, putting that on your resume for an interview in Georgia with a local company...could be a ticket in.

Prime example: I have a client who has basketball tournaments (all of the guys in the office participate, girls don't...not that they are not allowed, they just don't want to play).  The majority of the players are their development staff.  They ONLY HIRE TYPE-A PEOPLE, and they flat out don't hire people who are outside of that image.  Is it wrong?  Yes.  Is it legal?  Yes...actually.  They can claim the people don't fit into their company culture, and they get out no issues.  The only reason I know this is because they told me this.  Some private companies here in the south could care less.  So, I advise my candidate to put on their resumes sports they enjoy playing and other activities they do to stay healthy in a hobbies and interest section, for this client alone.

You need to do your research on the companies you are submitting yourself to, or else it may blow up in your face.  Also, and this may be because I trust people do the right thing more so than not, if your company is not going to hire someone because they sing in the church choir...you have more issues than an EEOC complaint.

This is more about what actually happens rather than a PC response.  Keep that in mind.  Again, touchy subject.

Comment by Zachary Sines on January 17, 2012 at 10:00am

Linda,

Good points.  It does have to be realtive.  However, relavance can be interpreted differently based on what people think should be and are relavant.  It is hard to tell someone not to put that they sing in the church choir, more so when it is a huge part of someone's life.  Like you said, it has to relate, and that does not for the role...unless you are interviewing for the opera or something.

However, putting that I am a Redskins fan did this for me:  I interviewed with a Cowboy's fan.  It started a conversation right off the bat with someone who was one hell of a hard person to read.  It was the first thing on his mind when I walked in.  He must have seen it, start laughing, and then said I will get this kid!  Turned out to be one of the best interviews I have been on, got the job, and was there a long time.

Relavance is key, but sometimes it can benefit to think outside the box.  I may have gotten lucky, but I can tell you I wouldn't have gotten the job without it.

Comment by Naomi Bynoth on January 17, 2012 at 10:16am

I think it also depends on what someone's interests are. For example I have seen many CV's that say going out with friends, playing xbox etc. It doesn't give the impression of a good all rounder. If someone, for example, is a runner that takes part in 10k's, marathons etc then that is a real postive to put on a CV - healthy, active etc. Some people have no real hobbies, if that's the case, don't fake it. Ialways advise that if you have real hobbies, put them on, they're a real talking point at interview and if someone doesn't want to see you because you sing in a church choir, well would you want to work for them anyway.

Comment by Elise Reynolds on January 17, 2012 at 10:16am

I think the article has a point that it give the manager a window into the candidate.  If you want an polished IT consultant then knowing they are part of a fraternity or some very social hobby is a good thing. 

One thing I have experienced as a turn off is when someone puts on their resume that they are a member of MENSA.  When people see MENSA on a resume they think arrogant jerk, so what if he is smart. I think being part of MENSA is fine and obviously having a high IQ is terrific but you should be careful about advertising it.  This is true of many of the high tech companies I have enjoyed as clients over the years. 

Positive hobbies or personal accomplishments are Marathon runner, or even belonging to a club team sport like softball.  Around here being on a rodeo committee is great because that means social contacts.  Junior League is often a good thing. 

Obviously if you have a company where part of the company culture fancies itself to be sort of rebelious or counter-culture then Junior League or a fraternal organization is probably considered too establishment oriented. 

Often listing a hobby can be an ice breaker or a way to connect with the interviewer.  "You like to scuba dive?  Me too, I just got back from Belize". 

In short, I think the hobbies section deserves some attention and can be a plus on a resume or it can be a negative.

What I would like to delve into a bit more is the church aspect.  So often people are very involved with their religious community.  Personally, I think that is a great thing!  However I do wonder if that is not another point of prejudice against them.  A lot of people out there are turned off by church, especially if it is an evangelical church (shout out to all my Baptist relatives).  One thing a resume should never include is something that is a point of prejudice.  But I hate to say to a candidate, that important part of yourself is something you should not mention because people might not like you for it. 

Comment by Eric R. Derby on January 17, 2012 at 10:21am

I generally recommend for people to put a hobbies/interests section on their resume.  As stated above many times candidates need to avoid subjects that could be controversial.

This section can show additional traits that might not be apparent from the rest of the resume.  In my case, part of why I got my first recruiting job was that I had (have) an interests section on my own resume.  The interviewer thought that I was too quiet, until he saw on the bottom of my resume that I had listed 'mobile DJ'.  That caused him to think some more, and three weeks later I was working there.  (And I am still doing it after 15 years...)

So what are the real reasons people are hired?

1) Technical (hard skills) competence

2) Soft skills comptence

3) Ability to build rapport with the intervewers

4) Culture fit (which might really be a subset of #3 above...)

From this list 3 of these 4 are subjective!  My point here is that an interests/hobbies section on the resume can potentially enhance any of the items above.  As long as a candidate is careful with what gets put on the resume, this section can help greatly.

Comment by Darryl Dioso on January 17, 2012 at 10:46am

Redskins? You run the risk of a Cowboys hiring manager burning your CV before you had a chance.

I don't mind Interests if well written and relevant e.g. One candidate knew that our client was a big scuba diver so she put it on her CV and was an ice-breaker for their interview. 

Comment by James F. Jeter on January 17, 2012 at 11:00am

After 20 years in the recuiting field, I really couldn't care less about their ineterests and hobbies outside work. Space on a resume is priceless, so use it wisely. That is kind of like writting "References available upon request", I always want to say, "Really, you would do that for me"? Yes, I know you will provide references if I request it, why take up a valuable line to tell me that?

Darryl is correct. Hiring Managers are not as well versed on the legalities of posting req.'s and things NOT to say about an applicant, even in jest. I had a HM that didn't want to hire a person for a Business Mgt. position because he had been on the practice squad of the New Orleans Saints and the HM hates the Saints. He was actually stupid enough to tell me that!

If it doesn't pertain directly to the position being applied for, leave all the junk off the resume as I don't have time to read it when I have 75 more resume to read today.  

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