Jobseekers know all about the often-contradictory advice that tends to be offered by friends, family members, and even casual acquaintances. It tends to confuse things, and ultimately push people towards choosing the safest (and blandest) route when creating their CVs.
Something that often gets jettisoned is the interests section— the part where you talk about the things that interest you, whether in or out of the workplace. The wisdom of the crowd will have you believe that it’s self-indulgent to mention your interests, and that prospective employers won’t care about anything aside from the essential information.
Well, forget about that. Having a great interests section only adds to a good CV, and is considerably more important than you might think. Let’s see why.
Why interest sections tend to get overlooked
A generic CV will focus squarely on cold hard stats about certifications and performance levels. It isn’t unreasonable. These days, it’s considered generous to spend a few minutes reviewing an application, and many applications don’t even get that far owing to the use of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that use keywords and other factors to automatically discard entries.
The idea is that trimming absolutely everything but the most important ATS-focused parts—cutting your CV down to the bare bones—will give it the best chance of making it through filtering and being read in its entirety. It doesn’t sound all that crazy, does it?
The problem with that approach is that there’s very little benefit in getting your CV read by a thousand prospective employers if not one of them is going to have any interest in it. Even if a more expansive CV only gets read by a hundred, it will at least stand a chance of leaving one of them with interest in getting you in for an interview.
This doesn’t mean that you should create a hundred-page behemoth with your entire life story in it. There’s still a great deal of value in being concise. It’s just a matter of finding the space to include things that will help you stand out from the pack.
How your interests illuminate your character
The interests section, in particular, is something you should put some effort into because it offers something the rest of your CV might not meaningfully provide: insight into your character.
Your opening personal statement will generally be about the nature of the position you’re looking for, and your comments about old positions will concern what exactly you did and why, but your interests section is free-form and thus more telling about your style.
People bond over shared interests all the time, and revealing your interests can be very effective for sparking conversation. Anyone can go to a company-arranged social rafting session, but if you go rafting because you want to, it tells potential employers something about the kind of life you live (adventurous, active, etc.).
Interests can also give some strong indications of how you might fit into a workplace in the long term. If you’re interested in mentoring young people on a consistent basis, for instance, that can reassure companies that you enjoy sharing your expertise and are dedicated to the projects you take on— two traits that are highly valuable.
How to cater your interests section to your desired role
Think about the kind of position you’re ultimately looking for, and the companies that could accommodate it. What cultural aspects do they share? What experiences can you relate to the role you’re seeking? Everyone has a wide range of interests if they dig deep, so pick out the hobbies and passions that will best reflect the image you’re trying to advance.
If you’re going for a sales role, for example, note down anything you do that’s vaguely entrepreneurial. Perhaps you’ve never worked for a retail outlet, but you have created an ecommerce store as a personal project in your spare time— that sort of thing is very relevant and shows that you have the drive to get things done without being pushed.
Or maybe you’re going for a programming position, and you’ve never had a chance to work on AI but you are very interested in it and take free coding classes online. That shows possible employers that you want to expand your skill set and would likely respond very well to further training (since each hire is an investment, they’ll want you to increase in value over time).
Whatever choices you make, though, be sure to sound natural, and don’t stretch the truth. If you fake an interest in something and get caught out, it won’t look good at all. And in the event that you really don’t have any relevant interests to talk about, there are two possible explanations:
- You need to work harder to try new things relevant to the role you want.
- You’re not being honest with yourself about your desired role.
Assuming the former explanation is the correct one, make it a priority to pick up some new relevant interests. You’ll expand your horizons, learn new things, and come out of the experience a more employable candidate.
A CV should be efficient, but it also needs to be punchy or it serves no useful purpose. Flesh out a modest interests section in your CV using an angle aimed squarely at the job you’re trying to get, and you’ll have a much better chance of leaving a strong and positive impression on the reader.
Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for Micro Startups — a site dedicated to supporting startups and small businesses of all shapes and sizes. Visit the blog for the latest entrepreneurial news and side hustle tips. Follow us on Twitter @getmicrostarted.