Including Volunteer Experience On Your Resume

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With the Holidays upon us, many people are looking for ways to give back in their community. This is one of the great things associated with the Season: people donating their time and money to those less fortunate and in need. Of course, those needs do not end on December 26th. As we mentioned in our December 2015 blog post, Actions To Stay Positive During Your Job Search, there is no greater joy than volunteering and helping someone in need. It will give you a positive sense of contribution.

There is another reason why a candidate looking for a new position should consider volunteering and community service: 82% of hiring managers say they prefer candidates with volunteer experience. What does unpaid work for a nonprofit have to do with finding a new job at a for-profit company? Most job seekers apparently don’t see a connection, but job interviewers do. According to a new Deloitte study of 2,506 U.S. hiring managers, the difference in perception is huge. 82% of interviewers told Deloitte they prefer applicants with volunteer experience, and 92% said volunteer activities build leadership skills. Yet, only one in three (32%) job seekers mention unpaid community-service experience on their resumes.

To optimize the impact of having your community service work included on your resume, you need to differentiate the activities that are directly related to your target employment position from your volunteering experiences that are unrelated. Still, both can be helpful.

Related volunteer work can be combined with related work experience under a category heading such as “Related Experience.” In addition, if your volunteer work demonstrates a critical skill area, then it could be placed within a category with a heading such “Fundraising Experience” or “Event Planning Experience.” If you have been out of work for a while, it will show that you took the initiative to stay active and use, or add to, your skill set.

Some organizations give titles or recognition to their regular volunteers. Find out if there are any formal titles that you can use. List your major accomplishments, what you learned during your involvement, and any relevant skill sets that you used, same as if it were a paid position (though be sure to indicate on your resume that it was not). If you learned, or acquired, hard skills that can boost your application, for example, using accounting software during your time as the treasurer of the organization, or managing multiple vendors for the event you were on the planning committee for, add them under the “Skills” area of your resume.

If the volunteer work is unrelated to your position goal, you can still incorporate it under a separate category such as “Community Service” or “Volunteer Involvement.” Many organizations look favorably upon candidates and staff who contribute in a positive way to the surrounding community. There are public relations benefits for the firm and the opportunity for staff to network with potential new clients for the organization. As a candidate, it is a positive indication of your character, and another way to show the company that you fit in with them and their community outreach.

Please keep in mind that if you’ve volunteered with organizations that would reveal information you wouldn’t want a prospective employer to know, consider leaving them off your resume. It is a personal choice whether or not to include your volunteer or community service work. Your decision may be dependent on what you want to highlight about yourself and the companies to which you are applying.

If you do believe that your community service and volunteering will be a beneficial addition to your resume, and another positive reason as to why you should be hired, add it. Most corporate executives and hiring managers are looking upon it favorably. Congratulations in advance on your new position!


Bunny Robinson

About the Author:

Bunny Robinson is a Principal Consultant of the firm, with 10 years of Employee Communications and Human Resources experience in high tech manufacturing and defense systems industries. She has also worked in the fields of broadcasting, advertising, and market research. Bunny graduated from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and is pursuing a Master’s degree at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN. She enjoys volunteer work and has served as a board member for various community service and arts organizations as well as local government.