Almost all jobseekers plan to cover their work history and education on their resumes, but what about volunteer experience? Although only 32% of candidates report listing unpaid roles, a majority of recruiters prefers to see volunteer work on a resume. In fact, according to a LinkedIn survey, 20% of hiring managers have made a job offer based on someone’s charitable involvement.
According to a LinkedIn survey, 20% of hiring managers have made a job offer based on someone’s charitable involvement.
From cultivating skills to giving recruiters an idea of the kind of work ethic you have, volunteer experience provides insight to your character. With very few exceptions, it is a good idea to include work you did for free. Use our tips from six recruiters to learn when to share it and when to leave it out.
When To Include Volunteer Work in Your Resume
1. When It Is Highly Relevant to the Job
Whether you are a marketing specialist who created a successful campaign for a charity or a business dynamo who led a free after-school sales course, pertinent volunteer work on a resume makes you a powerful candidate.
“If it’s a relevant experience, you should definitely include it,” says hiring manager Jessica Thatcher. “I frequently found out about relevant experience in an interview that wasn’t listed on a resume, and candidates said it was because they didn’t think it was important enough to include. If it can help sell you for the role, include it!”
Catherine Bogle, who serves on search committees for a university, agrees. “If someone volunteers with refugees and the job is for an international student specialist, this experience is relevant and affects our decision.”
2. When You Want To Showcase Your Character and Work Ethic
In today’s working world, your professional identity is no longer based only on what you get paid to do. Employers want to know what you care about and what motivates you outside of office hours.
Employers want to know what you care about and what motivates you outside of office hours.
According to hiring manager Matt Albers, volunteer work on a resume is important for this reason. “It proves the candidate cares about his or her development beyond 40 hours per week. Whether it’s charitable experience, community involvement, or a small business on the side, it shows that person has determination and passion. I’ve found my best people always keep busy with these types of activities.”
3. When Filling an Employment Gap
Did you put your spare time to use while you were between jobs? Volunteer work on a resume is a smart way to bridge the gap between previous positions. This signals to employers that you know how to take the initiative and are not someone who sits around when you have free time. It also lets them know you continued to develop skills and grow professionally even if you weren’t getting paid for your responsibilities.
4. When You Just Finished School
When you are fresh out of school, hiring managers understand that you have limited professional experience. Bridget Thorstenson, a recruiter for an international education company, says that in this case, “Volunteer work is a great way for recent grads to beef up their resumes and showcase their personalities.”
“Volunteer work is a great way for recent grads to beef up their resumes and showcase their personalities.”
Kelly Burt, a recruiter for global social enterprise programs, agrees. “Many of the candidates I interviewed were still in college or had recently graduated. I gave heavy consideration to those who listed charitable experience, particularly those who had donated their time to disadvantaged communities or volunteered in the areas of public health and international field work.”
When To Omit Volunteer Work From Your Resume
1. When It Has Nothing to Do With the Job
You may have loved your summer volunteering at the zoo and feeding animals; however, unless you are applying at that zoo or another veterinary organization, you should leave space on your resume for more relevant experience. A hiring manager for a sales role will learn little about what you have to offer the company from your time spent feeding elephants and cleaning exhibits, no matter how fun it was for you.
There are exceptions to this rule, depending on the skills you gained from your experience. If you led informational sessions or boosted membership rates while you volunteered at the zoo, a recruiter would be able to glean leadership and sales-conversion skills from your resume.
2. When You Worked for a Controversial Organization
Although hiring managers generally keep their personal beliefs out of the decision to onboard a candidate, this isn’t always the case. According to Thorstenson, “I would be cautious of including volunteer work that is for a controversial organization or cause, as not all hiring managers will look beyond it.”
Use discretion when listing volunteer work on a resume that could be controversial.
Use discretion when listing volunteer work on a resume that could be controversial. If you still gained valuable skills from volunteering for a political or religious cause, keep the attention on your relevant strengths.
3. When the Volunteer Organization Directly Opposes the Hiring Company
A volunteer organization doesn’t always have to be political or religious to put you in opposition with a hiring company. Always do your research on the company to ensure you aren’t ruffling any feathers with your experience. “There are some organizations that fundamentally work against the needs of my field,” says Hannah Truskoski, Director of Operations for a fertility institute. “If someone participated with those, it could be a deal breaker.”
4. When You Have Substantial or Lengthy Work History
Volunteer work on a resume may raise questions for recruiters when you have been in the workforce for a long time or have substantial professional experience. “If an older candidate wanted to utilize his or her volunteer work as justification for increased status in a new job,” says Truskoski, “I would want to know why the jobseeker wasn’t able to carry that leadership growth into their previous work.” Unless you are filling a gap on your resume, leave it out.
Now that you know what recruiters are looking for and when to include volunteer work on a resume, it’s time to create the professional portfolio that gets you the interview. Learn how to write a cover letter and rely on MyPerfectResume’s easy-to-use resume builder to design a document that captures the attention of hiring managers.