If the “interests” section of your résumé reads something like this, you’re wasting valuable real estate, say experts.
With recruiters often reading hundreds of résumés a week, it’s true your interests can help you stand out in a group of similarly-credentialed applicants, but only if those interests are exceptional. Run-of-the-mill activities aren’t going to win you a second look.
“What usually stands out is when someone has managed to take their interests to a whole different level,” she says.
But what if your interests are more commonplace? That’s when specificity can make a difference. “Reading” by itself is a snooze. But “reading medical mysteries” is a little quirky and shows some intellectual rigor, says Quentin J. Schultze.
Be careful not to let a quest for quirky cross the line. If the interest suggests “an odd obsession,” Schultze says, you’ve probably gone too far. Case in point: Schultze once interviewed someone whose passion was to persuade American society to eat dog. While certainly memorable, that’s one interest better left off a résumé.
In the age of Facebook and Twitter, it can be tempting to research the hiring manager and only include interests that overlap with theirs. But that could end up looking contrived. Instead, Schultze suggests researching the company. If it puts emphasis on community involvement, for example, include your volunteer work.
If you don’t have any impressive interests, don’t try to pick one up overnight. It makes for an awkward interview when a candidate doesn’t speak passionately about an alleged interest and “makes the hiring manager start to doubt other things,” Johnson says.
But Beth Brown, co-author of a recent edition of the Damn Good Resume Guide, suggests leaving out interests all together. She says that interests are rarely valuable and there’s a risk they may even work against you.
She recalls one client who included “sailing,” assuming it would make him more appealing for the middle-management position he wanted. But he later found out he lost a head-to-head matchup with another applicant because the employer was worried he would want to take long weekends for sailing trips.