Discussing Hobbies in Resumes, Interviews, and More

Working on a resume, in an interview, filling out an online form, working with anew client, we too often get that dreaded points where we have to describe our hobbies.

You probably know what I'm talking about.  You wonder if (or how) you'll explain your fanfic, or your costly, or your website dedicated to rock operas, or pretty much anything else that's part of your interests.  It's hard to communicate, hard to explain simply – and you may simply be self-conscious about it.

So in short, how do you put your fannishness, your geek, on the table in the job search?

First, you need to stand back and ask just why do people want to know about your hobbies?  It's not necessarily relevant to the work you do, correct?

I'd say it's not.  Hobbies show . . .

  1. That you have a life outside of work (which, believe it or not, is seen as an advantage).
  2. How you relate to people and what people you relate to.
  3. Other skills and abilities you may have – hobbies often show potentials.
  4. Any potentially negative interests (let's be honest, if you go on month-long hikes for vacation, you might not be material for on-call tech support).

So when looking to communicate your hobbies professionally, I'd look at:

  1. Find ways to communicate how your hobbies show you have a life.  Yes, you may be on the internet a lot – but when you run social groups and websites it shows you do indeed have a life (just one online).
  2. When you discuss/list your hobbies, make sure that you show what people you relate to and work with – and how it may relate to your job.  I myself found my unrepentant geek background helped in IT since it pretty much guaranteed I'd have a lot in my hobbies to help me relate to people.
  3. Find ways to show how your hobbies indicate your potential.  We put a lot into our hobbies, we learn, we grow, we study, we practice.  Look at what they say about you – and make sure that's something obvious on the job.
  4. Are there any actual negative impacts?  You might not be right for the job or the client.  If you are right you'll want to be prepared for negative comments, or find ways to head them off in the first place. ("I like to go on long wilderness trips – when I'm able to arrange the free time").

Don't go worrying about communicating your hobbies or not, except perhaps in extreme cases  Instead find ways to communicate them to interviewers, HR, clients, etc. by keeping the above four categories in mind.

– Steven Savage