A Complete Guide to Hobbies in Your Resume: 8 Principles & 11 Mistakes

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Vladimir Popovic
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Vladimir Popovic

The man behind Epic CV. Digital Branch Manager at the top international bank. Can't live without coffee.

Hi, guys. I'm here to deliver you some great content on making your resume. If you've got any comments or questions, feel free to contact me at vladimir.popovic@epiccv.com.

Vladimir Popovic
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Intro

“I was on that ship when I was 15, so I’ll put that in a resume. I bet they’re going to ask me about sailing on an interview. Touché! A point for me already. What else, let me see… Ah, yes, I went up that hill once. Mountain climbing it is. In the end, I’m going to write about these travels and reading things. Everybody loves that. There you go! A perfect resume!”

Did your chain of thought ever go down that alley or somewhere similar? Come on, admit it. Yup, I can see that smile at the end of your lips. Ok, don’t be ashamed, the Hobbies and Interests section is by far the most controversial and most polarized topic in the world of resume writing.

One group of authors claim that you should include hobbies, the other one is strictly against it.

So, what are you going to do? How to know who’s right? Are your years of playing chess or thousands of collected stamps all in vain when it comes to your resume? Let’s find out.

So, Should You Include Hobbies or Not?

It depends on who you ask.

Talking with recruiters of all kinds I found out that they rarely care about your favorite pastime and interests. Their job is to find a candidate that will know how to do the job for the employer. They are not a part of the company and can’t really feel the company’s culture.

Resume Hobbies
This is how some recruiters look at your Hobbies section.

So, regarding that, recruiters can’t know if you will fit in or not within corporate culture of a given employer no matter how much personality messages you convey to them. That’s why they usually don’t care for your hobbies.

On the other side are hiring managers and HR people from within a company. They are insiders and, besides your technical skills, they want to know who you are and will you be a valuable part of their internal community.

That’s why they are much more interested to find out what kind of a person you are. For example, if your skills check all required boxes but you’re shortlisted with another candidate who is more or less similarly qualified, the fact that you’re a squash addict may be crucial if a hiring manager also plays squash.

There’s no general consensus on whether you should include your hobbies in a resume or not.

However, it’s important to notice that no recruiter or hiring manager will see that part of your resume as something negative. In the worst case scenario they will not care and skip it altogether. In the best case, they’ll be thrilled with your interests and it’ll come up in the interview and give you a chance to impress the interviewer a little bit more.

Besides, hobbies in a resume could produce a couple of benefits for you:

  1. It’s a chance for your resume to stand out, if you execute Hobbies section properly.
    resume stand out
    You have to stand out. Just make sure it’s in a proper way.
  2. It can further illustrate your skills.
  3. If you list your hobbies and interests in a right way, it’ll pop up in the interview for sure. Besides the fact that it’s a conversation starter and ice breaker, it gives you a further chance to connect to an interviewer and leave a lasting positive impression.
  4. If somebody’s going to spend 40 hours with you per week, they will for sure look for candidates that have a life besides a job. It’s just common sense. Nobody can socialize with a robot.

So, if you’ve got nothing to lose and have room for that section in your resume, I don’t see why you shouldn’t include it.

Principles of Including Hobbies into Your Resume

If you decided to give your resume a human touch and try to express your personality through Hobbies section, there are some rules you must obey in order to convey the right message.

As with everything resume related, it’s all in details. Let’s see the main principles of including hobbies into your resume:

  1. List down only relevant hobbies – When crafting your resume, you always have to think how any detail that you add provides additional value to the message you’re trying to convey. It’s completely the same with hobbies. If you want to add a Hobbies section, be sure that you’re going to list only hobbies that can illustrate a skill or an attribute required in the job advertisement. For example, collecting coins means little for a job of a truck driver. On the other side, collector’s mindset can be easily utilized and connected for the job in a comic shop. Remember, you need to translate your hobbies into skills. Otherwise, the value of this section of a resume will drop significantly and it can be utilized only as a conversation starter.
  2. Customize – As with any part of a resume, Hobbies need customization for every separate job application. You will definitely write about your weekly football session when applying for a job that needs a strong team involvement. However, if you’re applying for a librarian position, football doesn’t play a big role.
  3. Be specific – If you list music as one of your occupations outside a job, you’ll fall into just 97% of other candidates. Everybody listens to music. From prehistoric tribal trance magic rituals till now. Got it? You need to differentiate yourself and to list specific genre or an author. Just then it puts some light to your personality.
  4. Be unique – The purpose of the whole resume is to explain to a recruiter or a hiring manager why to call you and not someone else for an interview. If your resume is the same as hundreds of others, there’s simply no reason to end up in the “call for an interview” pile. This applies to hobbies also. Try to present your leisure occupation as something unique and interesting. It will serve the purpose of making yourself memorable.
  5. Be relatable – Humans are social beings. They like to socialize and to exchange experiences with each other. In order to achieve this level of connection with a recruiter, your hobbies need to be something that he or she can find themselves in. For example, if you do a little research on your recruiter and find out that he’s avid fan of fishing, it won’t do harm to your application if you mention that you like weekend sessions of fishing with your friends. Of course, don’t even think of making thins up. Above all, stay honest. Just align your hobbies a little.
  6. Quantify achievements in hobbies – This is absolutely the same advice as you’ll get for your work experience. In order to illustrate how your interests support work related skills, list some of the achievements you accomplished in your hobbies. Also, express them in numbers (percentages, amounts of money etc). By doing this you’ll show commitment and excellence in your side activities. Every positive information counts and could contribute to your self-branding.
    quantify achievements resume
    Quantify your achievements in hobbies as you would in professional experience section.
  7. Align with company’s values – Do your homework properly. Find out what are the basic values the company you’re applying to is built on and align your hobbies to that. It’s always useful for a hiring manager to know that future employer is already in the same line with the company.
  8. Include hobbies that represent variety of characteristics – While overdoing this can be counterproductive, always have in mind that this section of your resume is there to show the employer that you’re a well rounded person who has life outside of work. If you talk only about basketball, for example, in this part, you’ll present yourself as a one-dimensional character.

Common Mistakes in Listing Hobbies in a Resume

If you decide to put hobbies in your resume, you need to do it properly. By my free judgment, 60-90% of resumes fail to comply with this.

That’s good news for you. If you read and apply what you read here, your resume will automatically be in a top tier.

So, without further delay, let’s see what you shouldn’t do with hobbies section in your resume:

  1. Do not call that section Hobbies, Interests, Leisure or something like that – Sounds a little bit contradictory but always have in mind that your resume is, after all, a marketing brochure about your professional skills and capabilities. Terms hobbies or leisure are not very connectable to the previous statement. So, name that section of your resume Additional Activities and you’ll be on a safe side.
    Resting resume.
    Work? Oh, yes, I like to work too.
  2. Don’t lie – Have you ever thought that listing underwater photography or something like that would be an immediate ice breaker in an interview? Or you saw that your friend has running in his interest section? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could write the same? Why wouldn’t you, how could the interviewer know? DON’T DO THAT. Imagine your interviewer is a passionate lover of underwater photography and sends a couple of technical questions about it your way. How embarrassing would that be? Not to mention that you would never get a job.
  3. Don’t be weird – Remember when I told you to be unique in the previous paragraph? Be careful with that. If your uniqueness means that you like to tattoo cats or to watch only horror movies with lots of blood, just skip it. You don’t want to be seen as a weirdo, no matter how much you enjoy your pastime.
  4. Don’t be generic – On the other side, if you write that you enjoy traveling, music and reading, guess what? It’s better to leave it out of your resume. It’s directly opposite to the principle of being specific in your hobbies section.
  5. Too much space – Always remember that your resume is a document about your professional capabilities. Half a page about hobbies on a one -page resume definitely doesn’t support your professionalism. Be sure to stay concise, as you should be in the whole resume, by the way.
  6. Just listed without explanation – On the other side of the previous mistake is just listing your hobbies and end there. By doing this, you’re losing an opportunity to show why your hobbies are important for this job and you’re neglecting the whole purpose of the section.
  7. Politics and religion – These are really delicate and sensitive topics and it’s better to stay away from them. Unless you’re applying for a position in a political or religious institution, mentioning these in a resume is subject to possible discrimination law issues. Some recruiters and hiring managers tend to neglect these resumes completely, just to stay on a safe side.
  8. Polarizing topics – Topics as hunting, LGBT activism, weapons etc. are polarizing in general. You just don’t want to risk finding out that the reviewer of your resume doesn’t share your opinion on the subject. Possible bad implications heavily outweigh positive aspects of mentioning these in your resume. Just leave this out.
  9. Jargon – Depending on your hobby, there’s possibility that the community around that activity uses a specific jargon. Since recruiters and hiring managers don’t have to know what it means, write in plain language without jargon. It’s always better to explain something in person then to be misunderstood and never have the chance to land an interview.
  10. Too many hobbies listed – In the end, one of the most common mistakes. Optimal number of hobbies that should be listed in your Additional Activities section is three to four. Everything over that gives a bigger emphasis on the section than it should. Remember, a resume is a professional document, after all.
  11. Listing risky activities – As much mountain climbing or sky- diving might look as an interesting hobby, try to leave that and other similar activities out of your resume. Your employer needs a healthy and fit employee, not someone who can be injured half the time. You just don’t need to risk that kind of opinion on you.
    risky resume
    I do this only in the morning. In the afternoon I wrestle with tigers.

Types of Hobbies to Include and What They Show

Ok, now you know how to include hobbies and what not to do while including them.

It’s very important to align the message you’re trying to convey with the job requirements you’re applying for. Let’s see which hobbies send which kind of message to a prospective employer.

  1. Sports – In general, sports are treated very positively by employers. There are two main groups of sports that you need to emphasize:
    a) Team sports – This is a very valuable hobby to list since it shows that you can function as a part of a team. It’s not important if it is basketball, football or any other team sport as long as it requires team involvement and coordination with other members. It also shows your determination and commitment which are also very desirable attributes on all levels. Be sure to mention any achievements you accomplished in team sports.
    b) Endurance sports – If you like to run, cycle, swim etc. don’t miss the opportunity to show that to your future employer. It shows that you possess determination and an inner drive which is larger then average. Very important for different kind of jobs.

    sports resume
    Sports? Damn it, I’m a pro!
  2. Strategy games – Games like chess, go, backgammon etc. show your strategic way of thinking and your ability to see a larger picture. This is crucial for some positions placed higher in a hierarchical structure. Besides, hours of uninterrupted thinking about your next move show a high level of concentration which can be very important for some other roles.
  3. Community activities – Any kind of volunteering, community work or local council involvement are very precious for your resume. These kinds of activities show a wide palette of skills including (but not limiting to) great communication abilities, excellent organizational skills and high level of compassion. These are all very welcomed abilities in every organization in almost every imaginable role.
  4. Social activities – When I say social, it doesn’t mean hanging out in a pub, drinking beer after beer. Ok, I mean that too, but you don’t want to emphasize that in your resume. What you want to stress out is a club membership, being part of a band or a choir or any other group activity you participate in. That’s very important in illustration of your interpersonal, people skills. It shows that you function well in a group, which is a must for majority of jobs.
  5. Traveling – Be very careful when including this interest because you don’t want to send a message that you’re going to require a frequent Fridays and Mondays off because of your passion for long weekends in Europe. You need to explain how all of your travels gave you appreciation for other cultures and broaden your horizons. This works very well in multicultural organizations.
  6. Reading – Reading is important, everybody knows that. That’s why everybody includes it into hobbies resume section. If you want to stand out from the crowd, mention favorite genre, author etc. that you like to read. Remember, if something is generic, you need to be specific and to go into details to differ from the rest of candidates.
    reading time resume
    Reading time.
  7. Creative activities – Activities like blogging, coding, painting, acting, photographing are a great showcase of your creativity. Listing one of these in your Additional interest section tells much more about your creativity than just simply writing “creative” somewhere in a resume. By the way, creativity is not desirable only for creative professions. It’s a crucial attribute for employees in general. It can help in solving day to day problems in an out-of-the-box way.
  8. Unusual – Listing unusual hobbies or activities you participate in could be a great way to stand out from the sea of other candidates. Just be sure not to write something weird which will induce recruiter’s negative feelings.

Formatting

After you decided to include hobbies into your resume and which ones you are going to include, it’s time to deal with formatting of this part of your resume.

Remember, all is in details. That’s why you should be careful with listing your hobbies.

Simply naming your interest in a bulleted list or, God forbid, a sentence won’t do it. Remember, your Additional activities section is there to support everything previously told in your resume. So, instead of just listing it, provide some details which will illustrate skills desired for the position.

For example, blogging is fine but you should expand on that and write something like “successfully blogging for 3 years with a special emphasis on social media promotion of my blog which resulted in xxx newsletter subscribers, yyy Facebook likes and zzz Twitter followers”.

As in work experience section, everything is in achievements and documented success of your activities.

Who needs it, who doesn’t

We mentioned before that the final decision whether you should include hobbies into your resume or not is on you, after reading all data presented here.

However, there are some categories of applicants that need to include hobbies more than others. On the other side, there are candidates whose hobbies absolutely don’t have a place in their resumes. Let’s see both categories.

Who needs it:

  1. Graduates and undergraduates – When you’ve got no real work experience, every bit of information could be critical for your application. In that light, listing hobbies in your resume could be make it or break it for that internship or a job. Be sure to follow aforementioned rules.
  2. Applicants for a job directly related to their hobbies – For example, if you blog frequently about current events in politics and you’re applying for a role of a journalist in a daily newspaper, this hobby could be even more important than your work experience.
  3. Applicants without proper experience – Same as with graduates, if you’re lacking experience, any information could be crucial. That includes hobbies as well.

Who doesn’t need it:

  1. Very experienced applicants – If you’ve got enormous experience related to the job you applied for, listing hobbies may seem unprofessional in a highly professional resume.
  2. Executives and other high management roles – If you’re applying for such an important function, leave hobbies out. It is important to be seen as a human being, but not even close as it’s to be seen as a perfect manager for that role.
    hobby resume
    Hobby? I don’t need a hobby.
  3. Applicants who’s resumes are too long – If your resume is longer than two pages (there are exceptions, read about them in this comprehensive article on resume length), you definitely need to trim it down. Hobbies are the least important part of a resume, so guess who’s leaving the party?
  4. Applicants without hobbies – Don’t lie. I repeat, don’t lie. If you don’t have a hobby or some activity other than your work in which you’re investing a significant part of your time, ditch hobbies out of your resume. Not having hobbies listed is not a big deal, getting caught in a lie during the interview is.

Outro

Now you’ve got all the relevant information on including hobbies into your resume.

Always have in mind that you most probably won’t land an interview based on hobbies alone, but don’t neglect them if you’ve got relevant info to share with recruiters. It won’t do you any harm, that’s for sure.

However, it’s always better to “prove” that you’re a team player by listing regular weekend football match with your friends then to simply write “team player” in your skills or some other section.

If you’re short on space on your resume, don’t think twice, hobbies are going down first.

Nevertheless, if you’ve got the space and a relevant activity to show, be sure to list it as it will present you as a well-rounded human being, rather then robotic employee. That’s something of value.

Give me your thoughts on hobbies in a resume. What are your experiences? Do you list them in your resume? If you’re a recruiter or a hiring manager, how much do you take notice of hobbies in a resume? Comments section is right below.

Good luck with your job search!


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Featured photo by theaucitron/Flickr

Gargoyle photo by Julian Fong/Flickr

Stand Out photo by Philippe Put/Flickr

Numbers photo by Laineys Repertoire/Flickr

Lake photo by Douglas Scortegagna/Flickr

Balancing photo by Paxson Woelber/Flickr

Sports photo by Miguel Discart/Flickr

Reading time photo by Georgie Pauwels/Flickr

White collar photo by collareduk/Flickr

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