What extracurricular activities should I put on my resume?

January 2, 2020

Extracurricular activities on your resume can set you apart as a candidate, especially when you don’t have work experience. By leveraging your extracurricular activities – and not just adding a long list of everything you’ve ever participated in – you’ll show that you’re a well-rounded candidate.

Put activities you were actually active in

When you’re adding activities, make sure you only put the ones you actually contributed to. Joining a bunch of clubs (but not participating in them) so you can pad your resume will actually hurt you.

During the interview, the interviewer is likely to ask, “So, tell me about your experience in the Marketing Club.” If you have nothing to say, you’ll come off as someone who’s all flash but no substance.

Below are some examples of the types of activities you can include on your resume.

  • Student council: Involvement in student government develops important skills like leadership, communication, and people management.
  • Clubs: A club that relates to your field of study demonstrates your interest and expertise in the industry. It can be valuable to include unrelated clubs if they show how you developed skills that are transferable.
  • Athletic teams and music ensembles: Sports teams, band, choir, drama, or other ensembles shows your dedication, creativity, and ability to work on a team.
  • Volunteer work: Volunteer activities like mentoring, fundraising, and participating in your church, shows that you’ve served and improved your community. Volunteer work can also develop leadership, management, and communication skills.
  • Professional societies and programs: Joining a professional society or taking online courses shows your commitment to the industry and initiative to grow.
  • Relevant or noteworthy hobbies: Your resume can refer to things you do in your spare time like hobbies or interests. This can help show some of your personality.

Activities to NOT include:

The following items won’t add anything to your resume could even harm your chances of being hired.

  • Casual hobbies: Don’t include generic or irrelevant hobbies and interests. For example, putting “travelling” won’t start any conversations. But saying you’ve travelled to 20 countries will. Putting casual hobbies makes it seem like you’re are padding your resume.
  • Anything controversial: Membership in a potentially controversial group, like a political group, could distract the interviewer from you as a candidate. The interview is a time to discuss your qualifications, not your political beliefs. There is one exception. If you’re part of a religious group or are active in, for example, an LGBT group, you can include these activities. If a manager or company is hostile towards a religion or minority group, it’s best you know about that before you’re hired.

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Analyze before you include

Before you add any extracurricular activity, analyze how it improved your employability. The following are just a few examples of skills and attributes that can be demonstrated from extracurricular activities.

  • Leadership and entrepreneurship: Employers like to see a candidate’s willingness to take on extra responsibilities and lead. Activities that you organized, led, or founded are more impressive than ones where you simply “showed up.”
  • Project management and organization: Being actively involved in extracurricular activities while doing well in your academic studies requires serious organization. These activities will also further develop your organization skills as you manage events, people, and information.
  • Communication and collaboration: Working on team, creating content, or running for office can improve skills which are essential to almost any job.
  • Dedication and work ethic: Putting in significant, consistent work into an activity shows the dedication and focus that you can bring to a job.
  • Initiative: Improving your community during your free time instead of watching TV reflects well on you as a person.
  • Technical and industry-specific expertise: Extracurricular activities can help you learn the skills required by jobs in your field.

Add only the extracurriculars that have best developed these skills and are most relevant to the position. Focus on quality over quantity. An employer will be more impressed by significant contributions to one targeted activity than passive involvement in many.

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Amount of space dedicated to activities

How much space you devote to extracurricular activities depends on your other experiences. If you’re a senior with several internships, focus on those while including your most notable activities. If you don’t have any work experience, you will have to show how your extracurricular activities have equipped you for the position. In this case, treat your activities like you would work experiences by including bullets that highlight your accomplishments and the skills you developed.

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