Job Search Strategies – interests information on your resume

Aurora Donnelly is a solo practitioner always looking forward to the next exciting transition.

This past week I was involved in a lengthy discussion about a resume item. A colleague asked me to look at his resume to see if I could improve on a paragraph about his language abilities and experience. But the discussion that evolved was regarding a paragraph about his interests that he had included at the bottom of the resume.

He had written a two-line paragraph about what he likes to do in his spare time. When I looked at the resume my eyes landed on that list immediately and I drew back. I found the list questionable, not because it consisted of anything exotic or inappropriate, but because it is a rare sight on resumes today.

I recall that we used to include a section about our personal interests in our resumes years ago. We put a lot of thought and effort into listing the sports we played, the hobbies we enjoyed and the special talents we possessed. There was lots of discussion and hand wringing about what to mention in these interests lists – for example, whether to mention memberships in associations, or political volunteer work or religious activities. The fear, of course, being that the reader might not like our choices and our chances of getting the job might be jeopardized.

I don’t remember when we stopped putting all that on resumes, but at some point it came to be seen as gauche. Why would an interviewer care whether we liked to read, or whether we played travel hockey? Why risk annoying a prospective employer with some activity they found objectionable just because we thought it added personality to our resume?

Well, according to my young friend with the interests listing on his resume, that part of the resume is the ice breaker in his interviews and he feels that it is a valuable part of his curriculum vitae. He says it opens the way to discussing things he enjoys and is good at and thus puts him in a good light right away. He did not agree that the paragraph should go, it is staying, no matter what the rest of us said. So be it.

Even though resumes have become very structured and formulaic, this young man felt this anomaly in his was a valuable part of the resume and he is keeping it in. Which led me to thinking about how resumes vary in different cultures.

For example, when I was a management consultant, one of my assignments was helping 30 or 40 professional employees prepare for their job search after being downsized from a multi-national company’s operations in Mexico. Their resumes were very different from ours, with photographs and healthy, long paragraphs about, you know where I am going with this … their interests. Since this is a normal way to present a resume in South America, which is where most of these people were applying, we kept much of that in.

Which brings me to another point. If you are applying for jobs in a foreign country, be sure you do research on what the expectations are for each country regarding job search etiquette, including what should be included in your cv, as they generally call resumes. The Western or American way may not necessarily be your best bet in some places.


One response to “Job Search Strategies – interests information on your resume

  1. Great column!

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