How to Include Volunteer Work in Your Résumé (with Examples)

Done right, it makes you more employable.

Reviewed by Electra Michaelidou

How to Include Volunteer Work in Your Résumé

Volunteering, as we all know, is a noble act. By dedicating your time and effort to a cause you care about, you’re essentially making a difference in people’s (or animals’) lives — and making the world a better place while you’re at it. It can also help you become a more well-rounded and happier person.

But the benefits of volunteering don’t end there. In fact, completing volunteer work can do wonders for your career: it enhances your résumé and, as a result, your employability.

So, how do you include volunteer work in your résumé? Why should you? And where should it go?

We’ll answer those questions — and many more — in this article.

What is considered volunteer work?

Volunteer work is any activity where you offer your time and skills to help others or contribute to a cause without expecting financial compensation in return. It can come in many different shapes and forms — like helping out at your local soup kitchen on weekends, offering your legal expertise through pro bono cases, or even taking part in online volunteering.

Why include volunteer work in your résumé

Although not strictly necessary, featuring unpaid community-service experience in your résumé can significantly boost your chances of landing an interview. In fact, in a Deloitte survey, 82% of hiring managers said they were more likely to hire candidates with volunteer experience — and 85% would even overlook résumé pitfalls when candidates highlighted such experience.

And here’s why:

1. It demonstrates your transferable skills

Volunteer work often involves tasks and responsibilities that are transferable to the workplace, such as leadership, teamwork, communication, problem solving and time management. Including volunteer experiences on your résumé allows you to showcase these skills to potential employers.

2. It shows initiative and commitment

Volunteering demonstrates your commitment to making a positive impact in your community or in causes that you care about. It also showcases your initiative and willingness to contribute outside of paid employment, which can be attractive qualities to employers.

3. It highlights your values and interests

Volunteering often reflects your personal values, passions and interests. Including volunteer work in your résumé allows you to share these aspects of yourself with potential employers, helping to create a connection and alignment with organizational values and cultural fitness.

When to include volunteer experience

You should always aim to include volunteer experience in your résumé — especially if:

  • It’s directly relevant to the job you’re applying for, and it would help you further showcase your job-specific skills and expertise
  • It helps you bridge any gaps in your employment history, all the while signaling you’re a proactive person and that you spent your time wisely between jobs
  • It demonstrates your transferable skills, particularly when you have insufficient work experience or when you’re changing careers

That said, there are some particular situations where you might want to reconsider listing your volunteer work altogether, including:

  • You have limited space on your résumé and need to prioritize other experiences or qualifications that are more directly relevant to the job you’re targeting
  • You would end up diluting the overall impact of your résumé by overemphasizing unrelated activities that don’t contribute significantly to your qualifications
  • Your volunteer work involves political, religious, or otherwise sensitive or controversial issues that could alienate or perhaps even offend hiring managers

How to include volunteer work in your résumé

When you add volunteer work to your résumé, you should use the same format as the entries in your work experience section.

Essentially, this means including the following information:

  • The position you held
  • The organization you volunteered for
  • The organization’s location
  • Start and end dates (use “Present” as the end date if the experience is ongoing)
  • Bullet points or a short sentence describing your experience

Where to list volunteer work on your résumé

There are two main places to include volunteer work in your résumé:

  • In the work experience section
  • In a separate section dedicated to your volunteer experience

We’ll explore both options below, including when and how to use each one.

Option 1: Work experience section

If you have volunteer experience that’s directly relevant to the job you’re applying for, and to your field more generally, you should add it to your work experience section alongside any previous and current positions.

For example, if you volunteered your web design skills to create a website for your local cat shelter, you should feature this experience among your “real” jobs, and use 3–6 bullet points to showcase key achievements and responsibilities.

Here’s what featuring volunteer work in the work experience section looks like:


Senior Web Designer
Company ABC — Boston, MA | Sep 2019–Present

  • Spearheading UX/UI design for a diverse range of websites, resulting in a 40% increase in user engagement.
  • Leading a team of 8 in designing intuitive, engaging website interfaces using HTML, CSS and JavaScript.
  • Developed 100+ responsive web designs, ensuring optimal user experience across various devices and browsers.

Web Designer (Volunteer)
Purrfect Cat Shelter — Boston, MA | Jun 2019–Oct 2019

  • Redesigned the shelter’s existing website, which decreased bounce rate by 30% and increased user engagement by 55%.
  • Optimized website graphics and implemented performance enhancements, which improved overall website speed.
  • Implemented a new SEO strategy, which increased organic search traffic by 45% and keyword rankings by 19%.

Option 2: Volunteer experience section

If you have unrelated volunteer experiences, on the other hand, you should set up a designated volunteer experience section for them.

Going back to the web designer example, say you volunteered at your local cat shelter again, but this time in a more hands-on role where you fed the resident cats, administered medications and cleaned their enclosures. As this isn’t relevant to your web design expertise, knowledge and skills, it’s best featured separately from your work experience.

In this case, you’ll put it at the end of your résumé, accompanied by a label like “Volunteer Experience”, “Volunteer Work” or “Community Involvement”, along with a short sentence briefly describing your experience — like so:


Purrfect Cat Shelter — Boston, MA | Oct 2023–Present

Caring for 200+ cats awaiting adoption and performing routine shelter maintenance.

Retirement Home — Boston, MA | Aug 2022–Jan 2023

Organized monthly recreational activities and trivia nights for 75+ residents.

Tips for writing about your volunteer work

When writing your résumé, and about your volunteer work specifically, keep these pointers in mind:

1. Choose the right experiences

When adding volunteer work to your résumé, it’s important to choose the right experiences — in other words: the most impactful and relevant ones.

Start by drafting a list of all your non-profit experiences. It doesn’t matter (at this stage, at least) what they involved, how long they lasted or even how long ago they were.

Then, go through them all one by one, and think about what makes them worthy of a spot on your résumé and why hiring managers would even care — this will help you narrow your list down.

When choosing volunteer experiences, ask yourself:

  • What skills, knowledge and insights did I gain from this experience, and how can they be transferred across to the role I’m applying for?
  • How reputable is the organization I volunteered with? Would it add credibility to my résumé?
  • What was the duration of this experience? Would it present me as a dedicated and committed person, or as someone who is unengaged or perhaps even disloyal?
  • What impact did I make in this experience? What results and outcomes did I achieve? Did I make a meaningful difference?

2. Tailor experiences to job descriptions

Every part of your résumé needs to be tailored to the job you’re applying for, and your volunteer work is no exception. In fact, the more tailored your résumé is and the more aligned your experiences are to the job requirements, the better are your chances of getting shortlisted for the position.

Start by reading the job description, making note of important keywords and phrases, and then naturally incorporate these into your volunteer experiences (and throughout your résumé).

For example, if knowledge of InDesign is required for the position, you could allude to your practical application of the software when you designed that website for that cat shelter we talked about earlier — like so: “Designed website, logo and brochures for local cat shelter using Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign”.

On that note, when writing about your volunteer work, always make it a point to focus on the skills and knowledge you developed — especially when your experiences aren’t relevant to your target job. After all, hiring managers want to know that you didn’t complete volunteer work just to fill up your résumé but rather that you came away with something, something that will be of value to your potential employer.

3. Be honest

It can be tempting to embellish or even make up volunteer experience for your résumé, either to fill up the pages or in a bid to make yourself a more attractive candidate. But you will (if not immediately, eventually) get caught out.

Remember: all it takes hiring managers is a quick phone call to verify the details of your résumé. And even the smallest of white lies can ruin your chances of landing the job. After all, an employer might think, if this candidate is comfortable lying about their volunteer work (or anything else, for that matter), how can I put my trust in them if I were to hire them?

Even if your volunteer experience is feeling light or isn’t particularly impressive, it’s always best to be honest and stick to the facts — at least for the sake of your professional reputation.

You can, however, still make your volunteer experience sound more impactful (without resorting to fabricating information or otherwise lying on your résumé). Choosing the right action verbs (“supported” instead of “helped”, for example), as well as quantifying your achievements with numbers and statistics, are both excellent ways to achieve this.

Volunteer work on résumé examples

Need some inspiration? The following two examples will help you visualize how to feature volunteer work on your résumé:

Career break résumé example

If you’re returning to the workforce after a career break, it’s best to address it on your résumé and to explain what you did during that time, including any volunteering. The following example illustrates volunteer experience that’s directly relevant to the jobseeker’s industry:

Career Break Resume Example Volunteer Work

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Graduate résumé example

As a recent graduate, you likely won’t have much — or any — formal work experience to highlight on your résumé. In this case, focusing your résumé around the volunteer work you completed (along with your education) will help you compensate for that lack of experience — like so:

Graduate Resume Example Volunteer Work

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FAQs about résumé volunteer work

Still got questions about including volunteer experience in your résumé? We’ve got answers!

Q: How many volunteer work entries should I list?

There’s no hard rule for the number of volunteer experiences you showcase in your résumé, but you should be cautious of potential overcrowding. Typically, 2–4 experiences are enough to provide a well-rounded picture of your community involvement and skills.

It’s also important to consider their relevance to your target job and how much space you have available.

Q: I only volunteered for a few hours. Should I still include that experience?

If the volunteer work you did was a one-off event or not substantial enough to showcase meaningful skills or experiences, you might want to consider leaving it off your résumé, especially if you have more relevant experiences to highlight.

Q: What do I do if I volunteered at the same organization in two different capacities?

The best thing to do in this case is to combine the two experiences into one, especially if your résumé is already lengthy.

Say you’re an accountant, and you volunteered at your local soup kitchen to maintain the organization’s accounting systems. If you also occasionally served food to the homeless, you could simply mention this at the end of your bulleted list (while focusing the other bullet points around job functions related to your industry expertise).

Key takeaways

Highlighting volunteer work on your résumé is quite a straightforward process, but you still need to be strategic about it.

To sum up what we covered:

  • Volunteer work is unpaid work that you do from the good of your heart, and it’s a great way to make yourself more attractive to hiring managers.
  • You should always aim to add volunteer work to your résumé, unless you don’t have space for it or it would dilute your résumé’s impact.
  • Experiences that are directly relevant to your target job should be featured in the work experience section, while unrelated experiences should be listed separately.
  • Carefully choose 2–4 experiences that best align with the job requirements, showcase your skills and knowledge, and demonstrate your achievements.

Got a question or want to share your own tips? Drop us a comment below!

This article is a complete update of an earlier version originally published on August 16, 2016.