Keep your interests outside of work relevant on your CV…..

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David is not sure whether it’s worth mentioning interests outside work when applying for a job.

‘I’ve been told my hobbies sound boring,’ he says, ‘and I should either leave them out or say something that will capture the interviewer’s attention.’

In the middle of the Olympics, it’s worth thinking about whether you should mention sport, hobbies and other interests on a CV – and what you should say about them at interview. Too many CVs offer the bland combination of ‘reading, travel, eating out’.

Who doesn’t enjoy these things? Beware of saying anything that suggests you are an average candidate with low-impact interests hardly worth a line of print.

So why mention non-work activity at all? Recruiters often talk of wanting to see ‘fully rounded’ candidates who can show they are motivated by things outside work.

These interests can also provide evidence of transferable skills – fundraising shows the ability to handle negotiations and any kind of leadership, even if it’s in a walking group or sports team, demonstrates the ability to manage people.

Excellence in sport will often attract an interviewer’s attention, particularly this summer. But talk about anything where you demonstrate enthusiastic participation.

This is easy where you’ve led or coached a sports team but even with more solitary activities you can talk about organising events, tracking down rare items or interesting people and doing something well.

Too many people mention interests that are no longer valid, or activities they have little enthusiasm for. If you’ve put down reading, what will you say if you’re asked about the best book you’ve read this year? If you’ve mentioned theatre, can you talk about something you’ve seen recently?

Be careful not to list things you did a long time ago – it can imply that your best achievements are in the past.

Whatever interests you list in your CV, apply three filters.

Firstly, are the activities relevant to the job? If the link is obvious, mention it in a covering letter. If this evidence brings out skills such as your ability as an organiser, consider bringing that on to page one of your CV rather than tucking it at the back.

Secondly, list things that an employer wants to see. Mention activities that involve participation and people. If the job requires great communication skills, show where you have used them in and outside of work.

Thirdly, can you talk about what you have done with real enthusiasm? Interviewers listen to the energy of what you say as much as the content.

Showing you are motivated demonstrates how you will hit the ground running. And remember not to pack out the ‘interests’ section of your CV with so many obsessions that you look as if you don’t have room for work in your life.

John Lees’ latest book is Job Inteviews: Top Answers To Tough Questions. See @johnlees careers for details of workshops and free resources

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