‘Never, ever include hobbies and interests in your résumé’ — that has been the golden rule for CV or résumé writing for decades now. But it’s a very narrow-minded rule. It doesn’t take into account the many situations when mentioning your hobbies and interests can actually add value to your application.
Of course, we’re not talking about things like long walks on the beach — your résumé is not a dating profile, after all. We’re talking about pastimes, activities and general interests that help you create a more rounded presentation of your skills and strengths and demonstrate your fit to the position you’re applying for.
So, how do you write about hobbies and interests on your CV/résumé?
From when to include this section in your résumé to how to mention your hobbies and interests, this guide has you covered.
Mentioning hobbies and interests on your résumé isn’t always appropriate or necessary. If you’re applying for a C-suite role, for example, mentioning your interest in fashion would only hamper your application. Likewise, ‘if you’re trying to save space, drop these off your [résumé]’ says Matthew Warzel, CPRW, a certified résumé writing expert and the president of MJW Careers.
That said, there are several situations where listing hobbies and interests can add value to your CV/résumé, including when:
- You have limited work experience
- You have little educational experience
- You’re switching careers or are new to the industry
- They show your fitness with the company culture
- They align with the job’s duties and responsibilities
- You have extra room on your résumé
- The employer specifically asks you to include your hobbies and interests
- The company is looking for candidates with unique traits and personalities
Warzel sums it up by saying: ‘The only instance I find them to be useful is if they either relate to the targeted role or are so unique [that they stop] readers in their tracks.’
Once you’ve decided to include hobbies and interests in your résumé, it’s important that you choose the right ones — particularly those that reflect positively on you, showcase the skills and qualities that employers look for, and help you demonstrate your overall fitness for the job.
Modupe Sarumi, a career transition coach and the founder of Learnable by Dr Mo, advises to always leverage hobbies and interests to your advantage: ‘Avoid listing hobbies that portray you more as a liability and focus on [the] ones [that] present you as an asset’.
Here are some good examples of hobbies and interests for your résumé:
- Team sports like bowling or football
- Solo sports like cycling or swimming
- Artistic activities like drawing or photography
- Arts and crafts like DIY or sewing
- Knowledge-based activities like pub quizzes
- Creative activities like blogging or painting
- Outdoor activities like gardening or hiking
- Cultural interests like literature or cinema
- Academic interests like psychology or sociology
- Community activities like volunteering for a local charity
- Musical activities like singing in a choir or playing an instrument
And here are some bad examples to avoid:
- Activities that make you sound antisocial, like stamp collecting
- Activities that are violent, dangerous or, worse, illegal, like launching rockets into their air or hacking
- Activities that reveal political allegiances or ideals
- Activities that reveal religious affiliations or beliefs
- Activities that make you sound lazy, like watching TV
- Activities that may be controversial or polarising, like pole dancing or hunting
- Hobbies or interests intended as a joke that can be misinterpreted, like ‘Scheming for world domination’
- Hobbies or interests that go against the core values of the company you’re applying to
Your work history, education and achievements should be the focal point of your résumé. This means that if you choose to include hobbies and interests, they should always be placed at the very end of the document — no matter your level of experience or which résumé format you’re using.
You’ll need to separate these from everything else on your résumé and create a designated section for them. Make sure to give the section an appropriate name, like ‘Hobbies and Interests’, as you would with your résumé’s other sections.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when putting your hobbies and interests section together:
1. Don’t add more than five
You want to keep this section as short as possible. It should only help the overall message you’re conveying to the employer: that you’re a good fit for the job and company.
A general rule of thumb is to list between two and five activities here — not every single hobby you ever picked up. Adding more than five hobbies and interests risks taking the focus away from what’s really important: your experience, results and achievements.
Likewise, if you’re just going to list a single hobby, you’ll end up wasting valuable real estate on your résumé, so you might as well leave out this section altogether.
2. Use bullet points
Recruiters are pushed for time, so they will usually only spend a few seconds skimming your résumé to determine whether it’s worth a more thorough review. And the more user-friendly your CV/résumé is, the better are the chances of this happening.
Your hobbies and interests (and everything else on your résumé, for that matter), should be skimmable, and this can be achieved by listing them as individual bullet points. (Round bullets are the standard, but square bullets or even hyphens are fine, too. Whichever style you choose, though, make sure it’s consistent.)
3. Be specific
Rather than simply adding a list of hobbies at the end of your CV/résumé, provide a brief description for each one, explaining how it applies to the role.
For example, instead of simply listing travel among your hobbies and interests, say something like: ‘International travel to 25 countries to experience and learn about new cultures and traditions’. This can help you set yourself apart from the competition, particularly if the job you’re applying for involves working with a diverse mix of people.
Always keep descriptions short, typically no longer than one line. ‘It doesn’t need to [be] a detailed biography,’ says Nikki Thomas, founder of Winning in Work.
4. Emphasise your transferable skills
Make sure that the hobbies and interests that you list on your CV/résumé somehow relate to the job you’re applying for.
‘I […] recommend reviewing the job description and identifying the skills relevant [to] the day-to-day tasks,’ says Tracy Cote, the Chief People Officer at Zenefits.
This, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean they need to be directly related to the position, but they should at the very least be transferable and add value to your application. For example, playing chess might not seem very relevant to a job in accounting, but it does demonstrate your analytical thinking skills, which are relevant.
‘The most important thing to keep in mind when listing hobbies on [your résumé],’ says Cote, ‘is to show recruiters and hiring managers that you are a multifaceted person with external interests and multiple skillsets.’
5. Be honest
You might be tempted to add hobbies that you’re not actually invested in because you feel they will enhance your chances of getting an interview. But you should never embellish or downright lie about anything on your résumé — including something as seemingly trivial as your pastimes — because you will get caught.
The hiring manager will likely ask you about the hobbies you’ve listed, and you’ll be automatically disqualified from the pool of candidates when it becomes evident that you lied on your résumé. Dishonesty, after all, is not a quality that employers look for in employees.
So, what would a typical résumé with a dedicated hobbies and interests section look like?
Here’s an example we put together, using one of our professionally designed and ATS-friendly résumé templates, to give you an idea:
Want to try a different look? Stand out from the crowd with our 7-in-1 CV template bundle, plus get a free job application checklist! Get the bundle
While many experts argue against adding your hobbies and interests on your CV/résumé, it is one of the most overlooked and underutilised résumé sections.
With some careful thought and planning, mentioning what you do in your downtime can help you stand out from the crowd and is, as Thomas notes, ‘a chance to [provide] a human element to your CV’.
Some key things to remember:
- Make sure it makes sense to mention your hobbies and interests
- Be strategic with the ones you choose to include
- Put them in a dedicated section at the end of your résumé
- Use bullet points and brief descriptions
- Emphasise your transferable skills
Got a question? Whether you’re sceptical about listing a specific hobby or wondering if you should even include a hobbies section in your CV/résumé, we’re here to help — just drop us a comment below!
This article is an update of an earlier version published on 18 October 2017.