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Trumpet Outside Interests, or Not?

imageAs with so many questions about resumes and interviews… there are many conflicting opinions regarding what is appropriate and effective, or not.

One question that arises on occasion is whether 'extra-curricular' activities should be displayed on a resume or proactively discussed in an interview.

The definitive answer to that question, as with many others is… It depends!

The answer can vary depending on many variables in your experience, your success, and what those outside activities are.

Here are some questions to ask, observations, and guidelines that may help you decide…

Are your outside interests relevant to your work? (professional associations, trade groups, user groups)
The more your 'extra curricular' activities are related to the positions you are pursuing, the greater value they have when presenting yourself to employers. Particularly if you have any formal responsibilities in those organizations, it can be seen as an asset. If, however, your outside activities are unrelated to your career (e.g. basic membership in a local Hot Rod association) it can be viewed as more of a distraction rather than a benefit. Less clear cases are when you may have a leadership role in non-professional activities. Club President, for example, of the local Hot Rod Association can exhibit leadership traits. However, it can also be interpreted as a substantial time commitment that can be a distraction from your job. It's never possible to fully determine someone's subjective view, so use judgment whether it may be worthwhile to cite the involvement, or not.

How well does your past professional performance support you?
When your academic performance in school (if you are an entry-level candidate), or your previous job experience is strong, then additional outside activities can be viewed as a positive indicator of a well rounded individual. If, however, your academic or professional performance is average at best, then the additional activities are more likely to be viewed as a distraction and as having a higher priority to you than your career.

Do your outside interests generally trigger a bias? (political activism, religious affiliation, sexual orientation)
Like it or not, there are things that many people react to strongly. Politics and religion in particular often draw distinct opinions one way or the other from many people. Regardless whether the hiring manager or recruiter view your activity positively or not, they may have concerns about disruptions on a team brought on by someone that felt strongly enough about their affiliation to list it on a resume or proactively bring it up in an interview. If you are intentionally seeking a work environment that agrees with your perspective, it may be a worthwhile topic. Otherwise, it will likely exclude you from consideration in many organizations. Make your choices carefully.

Do your outside interests cut into your availability?
While most employers certainly don't expect a 24/7 time commitment from employees, many are concerned about outside interests that significantly intrude on required work time.

I helped place someone into a new job years ago who was a professional bass fisherman in addition to an Information Technology (IT) Director. He was top ranked nationally and he wasn't interested in giving up his substantial winnings each year, not to mention the free boats and equipment from corporate sponsors. His commitment to fishing required 13 weeks per year away from his IT job. It was something he decided not to put on his resume, or mention until a company was interested in making an offer. It was a bombshell to the company in the 11th hour of the hiring process. However, they did decide to hire him anyway, and give him the 13 weeks off each year. Had he brought it up in his first interview, however, it's not likely that the process would have gone further. Those types of commitments are risky to avoid mentioning, and risky to mention as well. Each situation is different, and wisdom is required.

Deciding what to include on your resume, or mention in an interview can be difficult. It's always subject to the personal opinion of the reader or interviewer, and their personal perspectives or biases are usually virtually impossible to know. Think carefully about the possible perceptions and ramifications of each item and select the ones you include carefully!


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