Volunteerism: A Resume Differentiator

Q.  I think volunteering is very important and can tell a lot about a person.  I have found in the many interviews I have gone on, that the interviewers often overlook this part.  They usually focus on relevant job experience, and overlook anything on my resume that is past that.  Is there a way I can make my volunteer work stand out either on a resume or simply in an interview without having it seem forced?  -SZ 

A.  I agree with you that volunteerism is very important and shouldn’t be overlooked by interviewers.  However, I’ve often received resumes where volunteer experiences are buried as an afterthought at the end of the page.  An increasing number of resumes are now giving the same weight to PR-related volunteer activities as they do to internships.  This is acceptable as long as the nonprofit experience is legit, not simply a passing involvement in a one-time event. 

Since you normally know who you’ll be meeting in interviews, you might want to check Google and LinkedIn bios of those individuals to determine if they are involved in volunteer activities.  Interviewers will be impressed with your research and interest in something that is likely personally important to them.  You might ask how they became involved, and that results in a brief discussion where you can mention your volunteer commitment.  

As this blog has frequently recommended, volunteer activities will enhance your resume.  Brandi Boatner wrote a guest post two years ago that strongly recommended that students take full advantage of volunteer opportunities as a way to gain experience and build their resumes.  Good luck with your search, and thanks for making time to give back to others through your volunteer efforts.  Not only will it make for a resume differentiator, it’s the right thing to do.

2 thoughts on “Volunteerism: A Resume Differentiator

  1. This is one area that I emphasize time and again, especially to young professionals/recent grads. Not only is your volunteerism contributing to a greater good in your community or elsewhere, but you also are gaining valuable experience (note: try to get involved on a committee where you can further develop or use your own skills as a communicator).

  2. I teach classes as an Adjunct Instructor at Emerson College (Boston) and Bentley University (Waltham, MA). As part of the classes, students develop PR/marcom plans and materials for nonprofits.

    At the end of the semester, the nonprofit come away with valuable resources it couldn’t otherwise afford, while the students have a tangible portfolio of work to add to their resume.

    This “volunteerism” gives them a nice leg up on the competition that has “only” done the same internships as everybody else.

    If having at least two internships is a prerequisite for an entry-level job, the added volunteer experience can be positioned as a competitive differentiator.

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