Long ago it was common to include a “personal interest” section on a resume. In recent years the prevailing advice is that the resume is not the place to detail personal interests, affiliations, sports, and causes. A resume should feature experience, skills, and knowledge that support a candidate’s goal. There are exceptions to every rule. In some cases, aspects of a candidate’s personal experience effectively demonstrate a candidate’s qualifications for a goal.
Interests & Activities
Interests that don’t relate to your career goal don’t have a place on your resume. Any information that does not support your goal is a distraction. Some exceptions to this rule might be the case of an avid cyclist who is applying for a sales position with a bike manufacturer. In such a case the interest relates to the job target and might add value to the employer. Another exception might be an extraordinary accomplishment, such as a three-time finisher of the Boston Marathon. Although running may not relate to the candidate’s career, the accomplishment reinforces qualities that most employers would find impressive.
Some causes are polarizing. Omit volunteering roles with controversial groups. Non-controversial volunteer efforts, such as include organizations focused on health, poverty eradication, youth services, or education, may be appropriate. However, even non-controversial causes may not belong on a resume if they do not relate to your goal or if space is not available. In other words, when choosing between relevant accomplishments and volunteer work, reduce or omit the volunteer to work to make room for relevant professional accomplishments. The good news is that LinkedIn provides ample space for volunteer highlights.
I differentiate supporting causes from volunteering. The only time to mention a cause on a resume would be if you are seeking a job with an organization related to that cause. For example, you might mention your “passion for the performing arts” in your resume profile when applying to a theatrical group. LinkedIn provides a place to list a broader view your causes. Only mention non-controversial causes.
Most of us have active affiliations outside of our professional career. We may belong to a political organization, a house of worship, or social groups. The general rule is to exclude affiliations that are political, faith-based, or controversial. The exception would be a case in which you are applying for a position that relates to that affiliation. For example, including your political party affiliation when applying to work for a candidate in that party. On the other hand, there are many affiliations that can be helpful. Those would include civic, educational, and charity organizations, particularly those in which you held a leadership role. If there is space and you held a leadership role, you may list these on your resume. Otherwise, you can include your membership in civic, educational, and charity organizations on your LinkedIn profile in the “organizations” section.
In a Nutshell
Your resume should be a fine-tuned document that features your accomplishments, credentials, education, and knowledge that support your career goal. Personal interests, memberships, volunteer work, and non-professional accomplishments should be carefully scrutinized and only included on your resume if they support your career goal.