But what about your volunteer experience? Will hiring managers even care about the time you spent building homes in Central America or organizing that charity walk?
I’ll make this one easy for you: yes!
You should absolutely include volunteer experience on your resume. It’ll help you stand out, make you seem like a real-life, three-dimensional person, and give the hiring manager a better idea of what makes you tick. Plus, as more and more companies begin to embrace social responsibility, job seekers with demonstrated interest and experience in community involvement are even more valuable.
Here’s the right way to add volunteer experience on your resume, in three easy steps.
1. Choose the Right Format
You’ll usually want to feature your most relevant professional experience at the top of your resume, which means your volunteer experience should go toward the bottom (after your professional experience, but before your education and skills section). Don’t worry too much about your volunteer work getting missed—most recruiters scan resumes, looking at section headers, job titles, employers, and tenure first, so they’ll likely notice a clearly-labeled volunteer experience section.
If it’s directly relevant to the job you’re applying for or you have limited professional experience, you can include your volunteer work with your paid positions. Just be sure that you’re labeling it clearly by including “volunteer” in the job title (for example, “Volunteer Social Media Manager”) or in the job description (for example, “Managed social media for an emerging nonprofit as an experienced volunteer”).
2. Keep it Concise (But Make it Count!)
Space will likely be limited in this section of your resume, so be selective with your content. Think about what’ll be the most impactful and relevant to the role or company you’re targeting. If you don’t have a lot of room to spare, you can summarize your work for each organization you’ve volunteered for in a single sentence:
Fundraising Volunteer | Non-Profit Organization | San Francisco, CA | March 2017
Sourced $2K in donations in a single month through a cold calling, door knocking, and email campaign.
Volunteer Pet Pal | Animal Shelter | New York, NY | November 2016-July 2017
Cared for 100+ shelter animals awaiting adoption, including dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, and a lizard.
If you have a little more room to work with, you can break your experience down into two to three bullet points, similar to the way you’d highlight a paid position.
3. Note the Exceptions
One minor, but important caveat: Volunteering for certain organizations may give away more personal information than you’re ready to share with a prospective employer.
For example, if you’re the vice president of the PTA, a recruiter will likely assume that you have children, while volunteering for a religious or political organization may reveal your spiritual or partisan beliefs. This could make you more vulnerable to unfair bias.
I know, it totally sucks. But, it is a reality (albeit a largely illegal one). So, you may want to consider leaving potentially revealing volunteer work out.
Most recruiters only spend a few seconds scanning a resume before deciding whether to read on in more detail. Including an impactful volunteer experience section will help you to grab (and hold) a prospective employer’s attention.
Plus, chances are you really care about the organizations you’ve given your time to. So why not give them a little love?