When Your Personal Interests Can Make Your Resume

I’ve always been amused by the “objective statements”.  Does anyone really talk like that, and if they do, would anyone really want to hire them?  While an objective statement can be a great way for people transitioning from career to career, I have a hard time believing that it is instrumental in the success of college graduates and their first entry-level job.  If you are a college graduate and you LOVE your objective statement, by all means stick with it, but today I want to give a bit of insight into the far less common “Personal Interests” section.

As a college graduate, your objective is to find a job.  You don’t have enough work experience to really show true efficiency, management skills and/or other topics often discussed in these statements.  What you do have are “interests.”   The idea behind providing your potential employer with a one line section discussing your interests is that it becomes two things:

1.  A talking point.

2.  Something that humanizes the resume.

If your special interests indicates your interest in Asian cultures or Political history, there’s a great chance that you may strike a chord with one of your interviewers.  From my own personal experience, I can say that on several occasions, my interest section has become the foundation for a wonderful interview.  

Now, while they are important, don’t provide your interviewer with a biography.  Pick a few topics, activities, hobbies and hope for the best.  A strong “personal interests” section would look something like this:

Strong interest in Mandarin, fly fishing, political theory and baseball.  

While it may seem all over the place, imagine the conversation you’ll have if your employer has spent time in China or is an avid angler.  The idea is that you’ve humanized yourself and the resume is no longer just a piece of paper.  Take the time to put together a “personal interests” section and let it be the last thing your potential employer reads, which means PUT IT AT THE BOTTOM.  We wish you the best of luck and Beyond Graduation is still available for free resume reviews for the Class of 2009.  E-mail your resumes to info@beyond-graduation.com.   Good Luck!

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3 Comments on “When Your Personal Interests Can Make Your Resume”

  1. April 27, 2009 at 12:32 pm #

    While you are spot-on about objective statements being a complete waste of space on an entry-level resume (or any resume, for that matter!), I have to respectfully disagree with you about a personal interests section. Unless fly fishing or baseball actually has to do with the position, it adds nothing to your resume–just like an objective statement.

    I recommend instead having a “summary” section at the top. Don’t rehash the points you’re about to make below. Instead, draw a quick picture for the hiring manager about your background. Louise Fletcher writes a pretty good blog post about this here: http://blueskyresumes.com/blog/resume-value-propositions/. I also plan to write my own soon over at http://www.examiner.com/x-828-Entry-Level-Careers-Examiner.

    Sorry to disagree–and I’m glad it’s worked out well for you in the past–but I think, overall, this strategy is not a wise one to use.

    • April 29, 2009 at 11:55 am #

      Sorry that it took me so long to respond, but I definitely respect and understand your opinion. My belief comes from personal experience and the results that I’ve seen with our clients. While I understand that your love for “cheeseburgers” may not be appropriate for your resume, I do believe that offering two or three specific interests can make a difference in the interview. When I was in college, my interests included political affairs and Mandarin. While most of the jobs I was applying for did not require the use of Mandarin, it was a great way to show international experience when I was asked to discuss my experiences in Beijing. I agree with you, not every interest is appropriate; however, as an entry-level job applicant, providing more depth can be a great way to differentiate yourself.

  2. Ben Leis
    May 4, 2009 at 8:32 pm #

    I have as one my personal interests: “World Traveling (Most recently Brasil)”

    I talked about brasil and other places I had visited for a good ten minutes with my last interviewer.

    If nothing else it reminds an interviewer who you are when they review resumes after the interviews are over.

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