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What’s important on a resumé?

Jobseekers think volunteer experience makes them more attractive — do hiring managers agree?

By Todd Humber

As a teenager, I was awarded the Queen’s Venturer Award — the highest award in scouting.

When Lincoln Alexander, Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor, presented the award to me, he also gave me a bit of advice — something I heard from numerous people at the time — and that was to make sure to put it on my resumé.

I’m paraphrasing, but essentially he said: “You never know who’s going to be doing the hiring. If they’re involved in scouting, it will put you over the top because they know how much hard work and dedication it takes to achieve this award.”

I’m proud of the award and the work I did to get it. And yet it always felt awkward to put on a resumé, something I did for the first few years of my career.

The question of what’s important on a resumé popped up again earlier this month when Canadian HR Reporter posted a story on its home page about volunteer experience.

A study found nine out of 10 people thought volunteer experience makes a post-secondary grad more attractive to employers. This was based on a poll of 500 people in Calgary, and not a study of hiring managers.

Ask a hiring manager if they agree and, publicly, they will undoubtedly tow that line enthusiastically. Who, after all, could possibly be against volunteering?

But if one were to discreetly poll hiring managers and employers, would the result be different?  Do employers truly care about extracurricular activities on a resumé when hiring?

Hiring is a difficult, time-consuming process. Postings go up and resumés come flooding in. Hiring managers and HR professionals then have to separate the wheat from the chaff. (Which raises another question: Why do so many people apply for jobs they have absolutely zero qualifications for? But that’s a topic for another day…)

Flooded with so many resumés, it’s all an organization can do to whittle down the pile using filters like education, credentials and work experience. Volunteer experience? It’s certainly low on the list, at least at first blush.

And maybe that’s the entire point. It’s questionable whether volunteer work helps a candidate make the short list. But when it comes down to candidate A versus candidate B, it could certainly be a deciding factor on who gets the offer letter.

What do you think? Do you give weight to extracurricular activities, such as volunteering, when hiring? Enter a comment in the box at the bottom of this page.

Todd Humber is the managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. He can be reached at todd.humber@thomsonreuters.com

Todd Humber

Todd Humber is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. Follow him on Twitter @ToddHumber
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