Thursday, October 23, 2008

Why your interests interest me

Recently we’ve been interviewing for a junior position in our office (don’t send me any more resumes please as we’ve just filled it) and many of the candidates were really solid. But something I found a bit odd when reviewing the resumes was the lack of personal interest information. That section in a resume called “Interests” is really of interest to me.

I’m not sure when teachers told students not to add anything personal to a resume. When did resume writing become so stiff, bland and boring? Kinda of like our Canadian elections, but I digress...

At the account coordinator level, I’m not expecting a vast portfolio of work and press clippings to impress me. You and your personality need to impress me. I don’t care to pour over your school project portfolio. It’s meaningless. But what I do care about is your summer job flipping burgers and the fact that you like hot yoga or traveling through Eastern Europe with a backpack.

Don’t skip the interest section. Tell me something about yourself so that we can find some common ground or a point of discussion. That’s called building rapport and it’s essential to winning new clients and getting your foot in the door. In fact, make that section stand out. Instead of saying you like reading, cooking and fitness, reword it and say you love spy novels, Nigella Lawson cooking, and extreme kick-boxing. Be creative and stand out.

I once wrote in my resume that I would one day like to write a book. It was more of an aspirational interest but that little point landed me a part-time job working for one of my professors. He was so impressed by that. Note: I never did actually get around to writing that book.

So my tip for job seekers is this: spice up your resume, be creative, and show me who you really are. Add a little personality to an otherwise dreary two-page CV.

It might be the only section I actually will read.


Martin Buckland said...

You are an exception to the general audience if you wish to see interests in a resume. This section was eliminated from a traditional resume in 1998.

However, a resume is a seductive and competitive document, not too many people know how to sell themselves!

Erick Bauer said...

This is a paradox that frustrates many communications students. As Martin’s comment suggests, “You are an exception to the general audience if you wish to see personal interests in a resume.”

We, as students, yearn to be judged on the merit of our achievements; both personal and professional. However, as newbie’s to the field, we may not have the experience necessary to “beef up” a resume or CV. This is where conflict arises. Do we dare take a chance and show potential employers who we really are? Or, do we “tweak and twist” our inadequate experience in an attempt to impress? The way I see it there are two options here: 1) honesty; or 2) fluff.

If I were an employer, I know which resume I would prefer to have on my desk.

Julie Rusciolelli said...

I would go with honesty and some colour commentary about yourself on your CV about your interests. Blogs, Myspace,FaceBook all have personal elements attached to them .. so why should a CV be any different? I am sick and tired of bland, boring resumes .. I'm asleep by the end of the two pages .. they all look and sound the same. In this tight economic outlook, you need to stand out and be different to get noticed.

Anonymous said...

This is refreshing to hear! I recently attended a career seminar and we were told to leave out the interest section of our resumes since nobody reads or cares about them.

At the same time I can see how boring it must be reading generic templated resumes.

I am currently looking for employment and recently did an extreme makeover (resume edition). I took out my interest section but now I'm realizing that I should put it back. Your post just reinforced my decision.

So now my culinary skills and wine appreciation is officially back on my CV.


neen said...

That's a really interesting point! I was actually told once to remove any personal interest (for example, I had photography listed with a link to my personal website), because it was not relevant.

I personally thought I was making myself stand out. It's hard when employers are reading hundreds of resumes a day. Especially because I am just starting out, all I really have is my education and a few volunteer experiences.

It's nice to know, that as an employer, you encourage the Interests section!

Bill Smith said...


Thank you for saying this, I like to believe when selecting someone for position, that you have a candidate that has a well rounded life.

I think it's a big mistake to take personal interests off a resume and I have resisted everytime someone advised me to remove it from mine.