July 3

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Should you include hobbies and interests on a resume?

If you have added hobbies and interests on your resume, here’s a few important reasons why you might want to ditch them now…

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To add or not to add, that is the question. Whether or not to include hobbies and interests on a resume is a weirdly controversial, hotly debated topic.

For some reason, people love to talk about their hobbies and interests on their resumes.

Part of it is an ‘old school resume style’ habit.

The oh yes, I like to “socialize, watch films and spend time with my family” bit goes here type of thing.

Some of it is a ‘new school habit’ though where thought leaders on social media advise people to “be themselves” and add personality to their applications, to stand apart from the mediocrity of the crowd.

So, what is the truth? Should you, or shouldn’t you?

To help you decide, I have broken this post up into these sections:

The traditional answer to whether you should add hobbies and interests to a resume 

This one would be yes, absolutely include them because they form an essential part of your resume.

Think of all those templates you can download for free that have the sections already divided up for you to add in your own information.

It’s the default oh yes, and I like to “socialise, watch films and spend time with my family” bit goes here approach.

The main idea behind including them was to provide a full picture of a job applicant both inside and outside of the workplace, allowing a potential employer to get to know them on a deeper level.

But now recruiters have LinkedIn – and Facebook and Instagram. If they want to know what you get up to in your spare time, they will just check out your social resume to find out more.

Now recruiters have LinkedIn – and Facebook and Instagram. If they want to know what you get up to in your spare time, they will just check out your social resume to find out more.

Just because they used to be a standard section, doesn’t mean they should be now.

Old school advice included using tables, graphs, different fonts in different colours and clip art to make you stand out from the crowd.

Today you would be crazy to do that because most companies use some form of Applicant Tracking System that would have trouble reading such a resume and therefore not be able to add it to an application database. The result? Instant rejection before an actual recruiter even gets to see your resume.

So if you have included your hobbies and interests on your resume simply due to a sense of tradition, I would advise to remove them now.

The click bait answer to whether you should add hobbies and interests on a resume 

Just to clarify, what I am talking about here are ‘thought leaders’ that publish controversial posts and articles telling you to do something wildly different than the norm.

For example, a few weeks ago I read a blog post on LinkedIn encouraging people to adopt a ‘personality first’ style for their whole resume.

They called it a Human Voice resume and hobbies and interests were a key feature.

They urged people not to be boring, show their true personalities and say what they are passionate about.

Now, if you are in the creative industries, or perhaps sales, then maybe, just maybe, these tactics will work.

But still probably not because it is just not professional.

It is a bit like comparing your posts on LinkedIn to Facebook – different place, different style.

Remember that these thought leaders earn their money by floating new wave thinking as a type of click bait.

Different ideas produce more interest.

Boring but real advice is less interesting – but that is what I believe in because you are more likely to secure a job presenting yourself in a professional rather than a weird way.

Boring but real advice is less interesting – but that is what I believe in because you are more likely to secure a job presenting yourself in a professional rather than a weird way.

So, sorry to be a kill joy here, but if you have a read a post similar to the one above and are seriously thinking of highlighting your hobbies and interests on your resume, my advice again is don’t do it.

The recruiter’s answer to whether you should add hobbies and interests to a resume 

I have been recruiting globally for many years now so I have seen my fair share of trends and fads  coming and going but at the end of the day, recruiters want the same thing today as they did 20 years ago – a concise snapshot of your skills and experience so that they can decide whether or not to proceed with your application.

Recruiters just want a concise snapshot of your skills and experience so that they can decide whether or not to proceed with your application.

The one thing that has changed though is the sheer volume of applications due to the rise and dominance of online job boards and agencies.

That’s why, unless explicitly requested otherwise, you should not include hobbies and interests on your resume but instead concentrate on the quality of the rest of your resume content.

In it’s 2018 Eye Tracking Study, Ladders Inc revealed that the typical time recruiters spend scanning a resume is just 7.4 seconds.

As a jobseeker, I appreciate that may be an unpalatable thought but it is, nevertheless, the truth.

This is why you need to choose the right resume format that starts with a strong profile to grab the recruiter’s attention and encourages them to read on to find out more.

Your resume has one job and one job only – to get you an interview.

Your social resume, that is your online profile, will tell them all they need to know about you on a personal level.

So, if you are adding your hobbies and interests to your resume because you think recruiters want to see them, the harsh truth is we don’t.

Why you should seriously avoid hobbies and interests on your resume – most of the time

The main issue with hobbies and interests is the same with adding a photo to your resume.

They will cause a human reaction.

What is weird for one person is normal to another.

What is positive to one person is negative to another.

Hobbies and interests will cause a human reaction. What is weird for one person is normal to another. What is positive to one person is negative to another.

I knew a company director in the UK who rejected all applications that listed golf in their interests because he didn’t like “the type of people that play golf”.

I know another in Australia who will not employ surfers because she feels that they can’t wait to get off work and pull a sick day if the surf is up.

Here is another example of an American recruiter who has a problem with classic car enthusiasts because he is kept awake by a neighbour most nights renovating cars till the early hours.

And what about the Irish HR Consultant that has an almost pathological hatred of mamils (middle aged men in lycra in case you didn’t know) cutting him up on the Dublin city centre roads on his journey to work every morning?

Now, all of these people have 2 things in common.

Firstly, they want and strive to remain professional and not let these things cloud their judgement.

Secondly, because they are all human, they can’t help letting these things cloud their judgement.

The simple truth is that some will be better able to compartmentalise their preferences than others.

The hobbies mentioned above - golf, surfing, car maintenance and cycling – are hardly controversial but still they elicited a strong reaction.

Perhaps your ‘perfectly normal’ out of work activities would do the same. Do you really want to take that risk?

So, my strong advice is to not put hobbies and interests on your resume because you don’t know how people will react.

The exceptions to the no hobbies rule

As you will have realised by now, I am not a great fan of hobbies and interests on resumes but, as the saying goes, there are always exceptions to any rule.

So here are three for you

1 Cultural fit

Sometimes it pays to do things differently.

I always advise jobseekers to research a company before applying so that they can tailor their resume and cover letter to the needs of the position and organisation in question.

A company’s social media pages can give you vital clues regarding how you should apply.

Pay close attention to how it engages with their audience on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Chances are, if it’s a little quirky online, it’ll gravitate to the applicant who is just as quirky.

Many start ups favour a less formal approach but established brands can be just as innovative.

Check this IKEA campaign.

So, if an employer values uniqueness and personality among applicants, then by all means add them.

Just make sure not to go too overboard because they will still need your core information in order to make a decision as to whether you are worth interviewing.

2 Rebranding yourself

If you are a career changer looking to break into a new industry, then this can also be the time to add hobbies and interests.

For example, a coaching client of mine had been an IT sales manager for the last 15 years but her real passion was wine. She desperately wanted to get a break into the industry and wanted to apply for a business development role for a prestigious vineyard.

We remodelled her resume and cover letter to include the many courses and trips she had completed in pursuit of her passion which was enough to secure her an interview and eventually her dream job.

So yes, if your hobbies are genuinely relevant to a role you are applying for, that is another time you can add them to your resume.

3 Filling employment gaps or lack of experience

If you have limited work and educational experience, then this is another reason to fall back on hobbies and interests.

Perhaps this is your first job since leaving school or you are a fresh graduate. Maybe you have an employment gap to fill on your resume due to illness, travel or caring for children.

Whatever the reason, if your hobbies and interests are aligned to the position you are applying for then it can be a good idea to add them to your resume.

Unacceptable hobbies and interests for your resume

Now that I have given you a few reasons where you might add hobbies and interests, I just want to make sure that you never put the following no go activities on your resume.

Under no circumstances include any of these qualities.

  • Involving little to no interactivity
  • Those that could be considered violent or dangerous
  • Antisocial behaviour or activities
  • Humorous pastimes that could be misinterpreted
  • Anything revealing your political or religious affiliations

Key takeaways

In conclusion, my advice is to not put hobbies and interests on your resume as they are not needed, take up valuable space and can provoke an unwanted reaction.

If you are applying to a quirky company, they are expressly requested, they are helpful to a career change, or you need them to back up a lack of skills and experience, then go ahead and use them but always ensure they are relevant and stay away from the no go areas.



Mark Daniel

About the Author

A global resume writer and career coach, Mark is known for his honest, direct, and hard-hitting advice, helping people manage job applications and succeed at interviews. Now based on the Sunshine Coast in Australia, he is the co-founder of Real Life Career Advice and the Hi Vis Hub. A prolific publisher, Mark contributes to several industry magazines and his daily career advice blog to his 45,000 LinkedIn followers.

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