Cue the song that never ends for this post: There are a few debates about resumes that never end. The one I'll focus on today:

Do outside interests matter?


Call me evasive, but my answer generally comes with a bit of a shrug, "it depends."Trapeze_catch


In some fields, interests matter quite a lot to employers, and they actively seek to know them. Recruiters filling positions in corporate finance and investment banking often place a high value on sports--they often look for accomplished athletes who've demonstrated discipline, the ability to compete, and the ability to work with a team. Employers in high tech and engineering often look for musical talent and an interest in sound engineering: Did you know that there's a high correlation between musical ability and quantitative ability?

But what if your hobbies have nothing to do with the skills you use at work. Do they still matter?

I recently asked this question on LinkedIn, and sparked a heated debate. Here are highlights from some of the answers I received:


My philosophy is that if outside interests further the client's goals then I include it. If it/they do not, then no. With a 2-page resume now the "new norm" even for senior executives, every word becomes even more critical.  

Executive Coach

Generally, I believe they detract. In my experience, the "interests" section has a reputation among recruiters and hiring managers as being too "fluffy" or a space filler. In short, they are a turn-off. The exception, of course, would be if the interests truly add significant, easily identifiable value in matching the resume to the job description. However, even in that case, I would would suggest building it into another section of the resume.

Marketing Manager


Personal interests show that you are well-rounded and are great conversation boosters. It's another way to connect with your interviewer.

Technology Director


Interests are no longer represented on the resume. During the interview the candidate can direct conversation to their highlight interests.

  Professional Development Consultant

I received over 20 responses to this question, with similar sentiments expressed throughout. My take-away? It's up to the you--as a job seeker to decide how and when to incorporate interests in your resume. There's no right way or wrong way; incorporating interests is a matter of personal preference. As you conduct your job search, seek out opinions from others who can help you. After all your resume isn't merely a summary of your past experience; a great resume also showcases your fit and expertise for the role you've got your sights on next.

And with that, I'm giving the last word to a senior career consultant from Denver, who answered my question with another question:

Rather than debating the merits of including...outside interests on a resume, it seems to me that [job seekers] ought to be using networks associated with those interests to facilitate connections with the organizations that [they] want to work for. That might be the best use of those ancillary interests.


I'd love to hear your take on this. Have your interests ever helped or hurt you in the job search? Share your thoughts, and let me know if you have any other questions "up for debate."