Including personal interests on a resume is increasingly popular. Should you do it?
A resume is a summary of your career that informs a future employer of your professional suitability. Personal interests on a resume fall outside that traditional definition, but as employers become more interested in cultural fit, showcasing your personality in a job search is increasingly important.
Including your interests on a resume brings depth to your application, but only if the hobbies are relevant to the role. The best candidates get creative about how they position their hobbies to enhance their career story.
Including a couple of brief one-liners about your interests shows that there is more to you than your work persona. As the work/life boundaries blur, people want to collaborate with interesting colleagues.
Interests on a resume offer the chance to build a rapport with an interviewer. They may also feel comfortable about revealing some insights into their personal life. This is the ideal scenario – you want to work out what makes them tick too.
How to include interests on a resume is not straightforward. We consider:
Should you include interests on your resume?
How do you include interests on a resume?
The most common hobbies and why they are relevant
Are there interests that you should avoid including?
It is a resume decision that is worth some further thought. Including irrelevant or inappropriate interests can harm your application. Let's explore.
Should you include personal interests on your resume?
If you are an early-career professional with minimal work experience, including interests is a great way of outlining your motivations and giving the hiring manager a better idea of who they are employing. Two or three lines of personal interests are expected and will add to the application, but you still need to hint at why they are relevant for the role.
The decision to include interests is less clean-cut for a more senior applicant. Most careers contain skills that can be developed outside of the workplace. If you genuinely have a hobby that contributes to your effectiveness at work, there is no rule that you shouldn't include it.
If you are finding that space is tight on your resume, the interests section is the first that should be cut. Even the section header can take up valuable space. You should always prioritize your work experience if you have more to say. Remember that you will likely get a chance to mention your interests during an interview.
How to include interests on your resume
There are several ground rules around including interests on a resume:
Research the requirements of the role. Before you work out whether you are including relevant interests, make sure that you understand the specifics of the role. Making a link with an interest and an obscure requirement of the job is a great way of showing that you know what you are getting yourself into.
Choose interests that match your workplace skills. Once you have a list of skills that your employer desires, be creative in how you match your hobbies with the role. The hiring manager will be reading a lot of resumes, so don't assume that they will automatically make the connection. Be clear in exactly why you are including your interest.
Where can you include your interests? While you might have space for a separate interests/hobbies section on a two-page resume, there is also the option of slipping an interest into bullet points or paragraphs around your work experience. If it fits with the point that you are making it won't seem out of place.
Include bullets with an intriguing description. Just listing “swimming” or “horticulture” as a personal interest will be ignored. If your interest is relevant to the role, include a brief description that offers more detail to fire the hiring manager's imagination. You don't need to write this in full sentences. Include context and quantify with detail if possible:
Swimming. Won the state u23 200m backstroke title. Trained 100+ juniors at my club.
Be honest. You never know when you might run into an interviewer who knows more about your hobby than you do. Resist the temptation to exaggerate the level of your participation or it might become an embarrassing situation that will torpedo your chances of getting the job. Honesty is the best policy in a job search.
Should you call them hobbies or interests? It is generally best to use the title “interests” if you have a separate section. “Hobbies” has a somewhat amateur connotation and restricts you to activities that you do on a regular basis. Only include interests where you have long-standing and in-depth knowledge.
Now let's get into the detail of which interests may be worth including and why:
In the competitive world of work, there are countless lessons that can be transferred from sporting activities. Whether you are playing in a team or dedicated to individual glory, the drive to win and the experience of losing are two sides of the same coin.
Baseball. Everyone has different roles on any sports team. If one person is not doing their job, then the team is weaker. Collective responsibility at its most basic.
Swimming. Swimming requires hours of dedication and preparation. Any endurance sport offers ample time to think about other aspects of your life.
Skydiving. Extreme sports indicate a risk taker who is not afraid to push their limits. Perfect when you are making it up as you go along in an innovative industry sector.
Yoga. Any interest that involves looking within and clearing your mind of unwanted distractions should be beneficial. Yoga practitioners are often clear-headed decision-makers.
Fitness. The ability to maintain a regular fitness regime should not be underestimated. There are times when you won't want to hit the gym, but you overcome your laziness.
Venturing outdoors into an uncertain world means that you often need to react to whatever nature throws your way. There is a reason why company away days are often held in outdoor activity centers. Outdoor adventures can teach us a multitude of lessons.
Fishing. Patience is a key requirement for many roles. When the long-anticipated opportunity arrives, you need to reel it in confidently. The chance may not come again.
Orienteering. Working out and agreeing on a path forward is a common sticking point in many corporate settings. Orienteering teaches communication skills and teamwork.
Horticulture. Spending countless weeks preparing the ground for a flower that may only bloom for a short time requires attention to detail and visionary planning.
Camping. The ability to put the hustle and bustle of everyday life to one side and lose yourself in the great outdoors is incredibly good for your mental health.
The dedication and creativity that comes with learning a musical instrument or training a singing voice can be put to good use in any workplace. The journey is similar when it comes to mastering a new skill at work. Practice makes perfect.
Songwriting. Even writing an email requires filling a blank space with something meaningful. Songwriters understand how to make other people feel a certain way.
Singing / gigging. Standing in front of a crowd and performing is a skill that will come in useful at work. You will communicate confidently in any meeting or presentation.
Playing an instrument. The process of mastering an instrument never ends. Perfection has no limits. There is always a more difficult piece to play that you can't quite nail.
Every hiring manager wants to hire a selfless employee who will muck in and help others, even when it isn't specified in their job description. Someone with an interest in volunteering will be naturally inclined to make a difference to those around them.
Charity work. The charity that you choose to support will offer an insight into your character. It may also provide a chance to bond with a hiring manager. You never know.
Environmental activism. This is bordering on a controversial topic for some people, so include details about your environmental activities with care. If it is a passion, include it.
Being a mentor. Mentoring outside the workplace is a fantastic source of positive energy. It will teach a multitude of influencing and people management skills.
Community work. Selflessly helping others is a trait of a valuable team player – so long as you know your limits. Sometimes you need to be selfish and focus on your tasks.
Many creative dilemmas are solved outside of the workplace environment. Do you have the ability to think through a problem laterally when you are taking a shower or during your commute? Creative interests help the right side of your brain to see things differently.
Painting/drawing. While painting is a leisurely pursuit that has little to do with many careers, are we discounting the observational skills of the perceptive artist?
Photography. An appreciation for how visuals can convey a message to make the required impact is central to marketing and sales-related roles. A picture is worth a thousand words.
Graphic design. As business moves increasingly online (and eventually into the Metaverse) graphic design skills come in handy in many careers.
Blogging. Sharing your thoughts in a blog not only benefits your writing skills. As companies increasingly rely on employee advocacy, you can become a champion for their cause.
Poetry. Brevity lies at the heart of every successful team. Say what you want to say. Make sure that everyone gets it. Move on. Most workplaces could do with more succinct poets.
No one wants to hire a technophobe who is constantly asking colleagues for advice about how to use the basic functions of Excel. Sharing an interest in technology means that you may be the go-to person to ask when such questions crop up.
Programming. An appreciation of coding and programming languages will soon be required in many non-technical industries. The future is digital. Are you ready?
Trading. Dabbling in stocks or crypto requires a level of risk tolerance that is rarely tested in a career. When you are investing your own money, you will develop critical thinking skills.
Artificial intelligence. If you are this interested in the future of our work, it is likely that you will have countless other fresh perspectives to bring to the workplace.
While not every industry is dependent on an online presence, there are many functions where online activity is central to success. Sales, marketing, PR, human resources, and recruiting all require employees with solid social media credentials.
Social media. As social media evolves into a second life for so many of us, people who have developed an online audience can bring countless transferrable skills to an employer.
E-sports. Split-second decisions in a virtual environment (alongside a team) mirror many jobs. Your job might not be a game, but your brain won't know any different
Vlogging. Building an audience on YouTube or another similar platform requires creativity to work out what to say and the courage to put it out into the world.
Captivating a crowd has been a prized skill for millennia and it is highly prized in the modern workplace. The ability to keep a screen of Zoom listeners engaged on an hourly basis is a skill that should not be underestimated. Entertaining a crowd is a superpower.
Acting. While we might try to be true to our authentic selves at work, there are occasions where acting skills are required. The ability to play a part is important to maintain unity.
Comedy. If you have the God-given talent to make someone laugh, making friends and influencing others will come that little bit easier. Humor also has a place in an interview.
Dance. Concentration and physical preparation are required to master a dance routine. Sometimes you only get one chance to make an impression. Dancers perform under pressure.
While many home hobbies might seem boring and mundane, they may still offer fascinating insights into your personality. For example, you never know if an employer may be considering an international move and needs someone with the right language skills.
Language learning. Choosing to learn a foreign language as a hobby is no small undertaking. You need a stellar memory and an organized mind. Piece together the puzzle of language.
Home improvement. Project management is ubiquitous in the workplace. Ensuring that a home improvement project runs smoothly demands many of the same project skills.
Mindfulness. Slowing down and immersing yourself in mindfulness allows the tumult of worldly thoughts to fall into place. Prepare for success from a mindset of calm emptiness.
Which interests should you avoid?
An employer might question your judgment if you tell them about your late-night parkour running across the city – avoid anything even remotely illegal.
Also, ideally, avoid anything to do with religion or politics. As mentioned earlier, even environmental activities can be polarizing. Avoid anything with the potential to cause an argument.
Omit any obscure activities that require a detailed explanation. Keep it simple and make sure that the employer will understand the workplace impact of the hobby.
You probably have plenty of relevant interests that may be worth mentioning on your resume. Be selective in your choices and creative in how you present them.
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