Should You Include “Other Interests” On Your Resume?

ResumeAre your other interests interesting? Obviously they are to you, but how will the recipient of your résumé perceive them?

In a recent blog post, Employers Hire Potential Drinking Buddies Ahead Of Top Candidates, the author cites the results of an academic study by Lauren Rivera, an assistant professor at Northwestern University’s  Kellogg School of Management. Rivera found that people hired candidates who they liked and to whom they could relate rather than the most qualified person. Shocking? No. But Rivera’s accompanying anecdotes are very instructive.

She found that résumé reviewers looked at the “Other Interests” section of the résumé and would frequently make interviewing decisions based on the contents. In one instance, rejecting a candidate out of hand because the applicant enjoyed lacrosse, squash and crew and therefore would not fit in with the rough and tumble culture of the law firm to which he was applying.

However, at another company, the resume reviewer played squash and said she loved anyone else who did as well and would therefore be partial to that person.  The author of the article concluded you should include a section for “Other” or “Interests” on your résumé because “Your passion for squash or for running marathons might wind up getting you the job.” Or it might get you eliminated before you even have a chance to interview.

In my experience, the real estate on a résumé is precious and should be filled with your skills, accomplishments and relevant career history. Logistically, there often isn’t room for an “Other” or “Interests” section. But, more importantly, why take the chance of having an interest that will take you out of the running before you even reach the starting line. Save the other interests information for the interview where you can establish a rapport and see how well your pursuits and personal pastimes are playing.

I do have one caveat, if the corporate culture is a significant part of the company’s brand, i.e. The North Face, and your own personal passions and pursuits align with their extreme outdoor activity culture, then by all means add it to your résumé.



A Gift That Keeps On Giving Throughout Your Career

GiftAs you’re madly rushing around this holiday season, remember, this is a good time to take a moment and give a gift to yourself. The gift of introspection and reflection. Things generally tend to slow down as we approach year-end, making it a perfect time to stop and assess where you are in your career and where you want to be.

I’ve had many successful clients who contact me, saying they’ve let their careers drive them and while this has led them on a great course thus far, they now want to look ahead, take control of their careers and choose their own paths.

As you’re thinking through the direction in which you’d like to go, a great thing to think about are your past accomplishments. Looking back at prior achievements will help you in two ways: not only will it assist you in identifying what you’re most passionate about and when you most enjoyed your job, it also highlights your best skills. Having this insight will help you move through the career transition process.

Keeping track of your accomplishments, complete with quantitative figures (i.e. dollar amounts for sales and revenue growth or reduced expenses) will help you better market yourself to future employers. These accomplishments are the stories that you can use on your resume to illustrate your prowess. They are also the anecdotes you’ll tell when you’re interviewing for potential new positions.

Whether you’re thinking about a career change now or in the future, chronicling your success stories is a gift that keeps on giving. It enables you to be prepared at any time to speak about your strengths and highlight your career history. That way you’re ready for that unexpected phone call from a recruiter, the unanticipated downsizing, or the planned and well thought out transition as you take control of your career.



How Important is Having a Degree in a Job Search?

I read a recent blog post that got me thinking about my own clients. In the post, Eight Reasons Startup Incubators are Better than Business School, the author makes some very compelling arguments, including making $100,000 rather than spending $100,000 to acquire the “handy” degree.

I have worked with hundreds, actually close to 1,000, executives over the years. Many of them not only did not have an advanced degree, they didn’t have an undergraduate degree either.  The reason, they were able to jump into a great position, making a significant amount of money and it was an opportunity that was just too enticing to refuse.

Others went the path of joining a startup company and growing with that company. That meant wearing many hats and getting a comprehensive “schooling” it what makes a successful company tick.

These professionals went on to have long careers, full of accomplishments and successes and yet when they hit the job market, even now that they’re executives, they’re often worried about their lack of a degree.

I counsel them that their experiences and knowledge gained in the school of hard knocks, can trump a degree, but that they have to use different techniques in their career transitions to be sure they’re seen by decision makers and not screened out early in the process.

That means not relying on things like job boards and typically requires going around HR. In most cases these two channels (which are often inundated with candidates) are screening people out based on a list of selected criteria with a degree frequently being a part of that list.

I agree that real world experience, including startup incubators, can be better than business school. But a case can also be made for having those “handy” degrees. There’s more than one path to the top and a combination of education, giving you a solid foundation on which to build, and real world experience will also help you reach great heights.