It can be difficult to escape an employer's unconscious bias if you state 'lobbying for free coffee from the taxpayer' as your main diversion.
Including personal interests on a CV – particularly a graduate CV – is a great way to show employers your additional capabilities and skills. This is especially the case if your pastimes and extracurricular activities demonstrate skills and attributes that aren’t shown elsewhere on your CV or if the coronavirus has limited your ability to gain work experience. Your hobbies can also give employers a sense of your personality and what you would be like as a colleague.
‘One of the things that made me stand out was including an eye-catching hobby on my CV,’ James Edmunds, a product manager at L’Oréal, told TARGETjobs’ sister publication the UK 300. ‘At school I competed in pole vault at a national level and I think this helped make me a memorable candidate.’
What are good examples of personal interests for a CV?
Put simply: any hobbies and interests that are true are good to include. Don’t be tempted to make something up in order to make yourself sound more interesting. You are likely to be asked about your hobbies at interview (often as small talk to put you at ease) and you may come unstuck if you have implied involvement in an activity that you are not really committed to. There is a story among law trainees – probably apocryphal and now nearing the status of urban legend – about how one candidate put their interest in fencing on their CV only to be quizzed on the use of the foil, epee and sabre by their interviewer, who happened to be a keen fencer.
It is essential to include those interests that provide evidence of your skills.
- Group-based activities are always impressive because they show teamworking ability and, potentially, leadership and organisation (even if conducted over Zoom).
- Involvement in sports also looks good because it demonstrates energy and commitment, among other skills.
- Anything that emphasises your personal contribution and actions should also be written about: whether that is raising money for charity or training for a marathon.
- If your hobbies and interests are relevant to the job – for example, if you are interested in technology jobs and have taken part in hackathons or have learned a coding language in your spare time – they should be included.
And what shouldn’t you include? It's best to avoid reverting to bland, clichéd information such as ‘reading’, or ‘socialising with friends’, which could be true of almost anybody and doesn't convey your skills, willingness to take responsibility and personal development.
You might also want to think carefully how you write about anything that could be controversial – that is, something that recruiters might have strong views about. How recruiters interpret applications can be very subjective and, although equal rights are applied to all graduate recruitment processes, it can be difficult to escape an employer’s unconscious bias if you state ‘lobbying for free coffee from the taxpayer’ as your main diversion. If and when writing about anything potentially controversial, concentrate on how your involvement has helped you to develop your skills: for example, lobbying for free coffee could have increased your persuasive communication skills, your creative thinking and your initiative!
How do you write up your personal interests on a CV in the best way?
A word of warning: NEVER use the word ‘hobbies’ on your application, even if the employer does. It has childish connotations so a more professional approach would be to use words such as ‘activities’ or ‘interests’.
You should never just list your interests on your CV, eg ‘theatre and book groups’, either. Instead, provide brief, selective details to justify your inclusion of a particular activity.
- For example, if you’re into performing arts you can write about how your involvement with am dram demonstrates responsibility to the rest of the cast, commitment to rehearsals, team interaction and possibly production assistance.
- Similarly, if you're a member of a reading group you could provide details about your contribution to organising meetings and supporting group discussions and decisions.
Emphasise any skills that would be useful on the job and any tangible results that you achieved.
Even if your interests might seem a bit everyday or commonplace, you can still write them up in an interesting way – often by focusing on specifics. For example, instead of ‘cooking’, you could write about the cuisines you are interested in and how you have taught yourself new skills, recipes or attended courses (if true). You could indeed even write that you have perfected the art of making lasagne on a student budget (again, if true).
Do you have to include a personal interests section on your CV?
Although we have called this article ‘what to put in the further interests section of a graduate CV’, you don’t have to separate out your hobbies and interests into their own section. They may best sit elsewhere. For example, if you are interested in a media career, you might want to put any writing you have done for a student newspaper into a ‘Media work experience’ section – or your interests may best fit into a ‘Voluntary work’ section or a ‘Key achievements’ section. It will depend on the rest of your CV content: see our big guide to writing a CV, with an added template.
Whatever you do, don’t hide what you have achieved via your hobbies. Aim to show recruiters that you’re a better fit for the job and the culture of the organisation than the other candidates with similar work experience and academic grades to you.