I’m often asked whether it’s worth including hobbies and interests on a CV. You’ll find articles and blogs, as well as recruiters and recruitment consultants advising against this. I sit very much on the side of the fence that thinks it’s actually a great idea, as long as you approach it in the right way.
So, if you're wondering whether your pursuit of ping pong or your accomplishments in amateur dramatics are worth shouting about, read on for my thoughts on this slightly divisive topic.
If thought through strategically, adding your interests can help to boost your skills to further meet the requirements of the role. For instance, if leadership experience is a requirement of the role and you captain the village netball team in your spare time, then it’s worth including. Likewise, if teamwork is a required skill and you’re a member of the university debate team, pop it on there. Winning awards or competitions can also add impact. Ensure the hobbies are relevant to the role you’re applying for and recent (ideally current). If they don’t add value to your CV, don’t include them.
They show you’re a well-rounded and interesting person. Well, that’s the idea anyway! Not only do you have the skills they’re asking for, but your pursuits suggest you like to keep busy, and they also provide your colleagues with something to chat to you about over lunch or when you’re waiting for the client to make an appearance for that crucial pitch meeting. You still need to ensure they’re relevant and recent, so do your research first.
Picture this. A weary recruiter is scrolling through a database of applicants to shortlist for a bookkeeping role within their finance team. The candidates look kinda similar in terms of their work experience and the required qualifications, so the recruiter is looking for something to help them to narrow down their choices, something that stands out. Then they spot an applicant who has added a few bullet points in a section called ‘Additional skills and interests’. They’ve been volunteering for a local charity on the fundraising committee helping to collate and log their donations, as well as writing a blog to provide teenagers with advice on setting up bank accounts and managing their pocket money. Wow, this candidate not only has the right qualifications but is also entrepreneurial, hard-working and has a genuine interest in financial management. This is the kind of person they want on their team!
There are a few situations where I wouldn’t recommend putting your hobbies/interests on your CV, or advise being extra careful about what to include and how to present them.
If you’re very senior - it’s not really necessary as your work experience is going to far outweigh what you get up to in your spare time (assuming you have any) and the recruiter is going to be very focused on your work achievements.
If including your hobbies is the only reason your CV is drifting onto a second or third page - if you’ve done everything you can to streamline the content and formatting, but the interests section is stubbornly refusing to squeeze onto the bottom of the page without compromising your margins, then leave it off. It’s more important to stick to relevant work experience and education. However, the flipside of this is if you haven’t got much work experience, as you can use this section to highlight relevant skills and achievements you’ve obtained outside of work.
If you’re really struggling to represent them to align with the job description, or they’re in conflict with the values of the company you’re applying to (politically, culturally etc), it might be best to avoid the strain of thinking!
I’d definitely recommend giving it some thought before you dismiss the idea of including your interests. Use the job description to identify the skills required and think about how they align with the skills you’ve used or gained within your pursuits. Stick to just two or three relevant and recent interests, don’t just write a long list, and it's helpful to include a little detail for context. Here’s a few examples:
Captain of local netball team (2018-present) - under my leadership, club membership has increased by 30% and the team has won two out of three regional competitions.
Member of local running club (2019-present)- we participate in charity runs and I also help to organise our social events, which include a monthly quiz and annual Christmas dinner
Weekend volunteer at local heritage property (2020-present) - I welcome visitors, present the historical details and stories about the property, and process donations from the tours
If this all feels like too much effort to think about, I can help - take a look at my services to see how.