Interests and Activities in Résumés: Yay or Nay?

Will including your hobbies boost or hurt your chances of a successful job application?
Carmen Teh
Writer, gradsingapore

Is it wise to include your pastimes and interests on your résumé? The simple answer is yes. However, this does not mean you should list your every single hobby. You still need to be mindful and discerning in regards to the message you want to convey through listing your interests.

With an ‘interests and activities’ section, recruiters viewing your résumé will be able to gauge whether or not you would be a good fit for the company culture – and this is something that is difficult to achieve with just an outline of your professional skills and experience.

In other words, including your interests and pastimes adds a hint of your personality to your résumé, and it will make your application unique and eye catching to hiring managers.

What to include

Activities or interests demonstrating your skills and positive attributes that aren’t mentioned elsewhere in your résumé are typically good to mention. These can include your participation in student clubs, voluntary work or school events.

Also, think about the skills and traits that are relevant to the job or industry you are applying for. What you list in this section should align with those.

Here are some examples of activities that can provide evidence of certain personal traits that you may want to highlight:

  • Group-based work can indicate your ability and capacity to work in teams. If you’ve led projects in the past, it is good to mention that too as the experience will show that you have leadership and organisational skills.
  • Involvement in sports- and fitness-related activities will also look good on your résumé as it demonstrates personal drive, energy and commitment.
  • Civic or community engagement, such as volunteering at an animal shelter or organising a charity drive, will appeal to employers that embrace the culture of giving back to society or value social responsibility.

While these examples mostly only showcase personal traits and soft skills, there are also activities and interests that can work to your advantage by demonstrating your technical skills.

For instance, if you are applying for a role in computer programming, mentioning pastimes such as participating in hackathons, learning coding languages or developing a computer game will show that you have a genuine interest in the field of work and that you are proactive in cultivating new skills beyond just learning what was taught in school.

What to avoid

Presenting your résumé to a hiring manager or recruiter is very much like socialising with a stranger. Similar to how you would avoid sensitive topics when meeting somebody for the first time, you should do the same with your résumé.

Avoid mentioning any interests or activities that are political or religious in your résumé. How recruiters interpret applications can be very subjective and you never know – the person viewing your résumé may have strong views on such topics.

Also, it is best to avoid using clichéd information, such as ‘reading’ or ‘traveling’, for this section. It does not showcase any of the applicant’s skills or strengths and it certainly does not make him/her stand out. 

Call it what you want… or should you?  

How you name this section is also something you should consider as part of the overall presentation of your résumé. The word ‘hobbies’ on your application can have a childish connotation – it is hence advisable for you to avoid using it.

You can opt for a more professional approach and label this section ‘activities and interests’, ‘area of interest’ or ‘extracurricular activities and other information’.

Other considerations

  • Length
    You don’t need an extensive list of interests and activities to pique a recruiter’s interest. Listing two to three in bullet points will suffice.
  • Placement
    While it’s great to showcase your personality and additional skills, you shouldn’t place precedence on this section. If your résumé is already over a page long, you could just leave this section out entirely. If you do have space to include it, make sure to place the section at the end of your résumé.
  • Style
    How you write for this section is just as important as what you write. For instance, you enjoy cooking and you don’t have any other pastimes – you can still write about it in an interesting way. You could talk about how you taught yourself new skills, recipes or took the initiative to attend courses. Focus on the specifics and build a narrative with an interesting touch to it.

    Here’s an example of an applicant who combines his passion for fitness and his interest in writing to make his application for a writer’s position stand out: “An owner of a fitness blog and a dedicated gym rat. Aside from using my blog to write and edit articles about all topics related to fitness (such as weight training and healthy eating), I also use it as a platform for like-minded bloggers to contribute their articles and empower readers with the motivation to live healthy.“
  • Authenticity
    If you have nothing relevant to write about for this section, don’t force it! Faking it will not help you in any way. Recruiters always ask questions on the information you put on your résumé during the interview stage and if you are caught exaggerating or lying about anything at all, you may just risk losing the job opportunity entirely.