When a Résumé Should Take Risks

There is nothing wrong with an applicant disclosing personal interests, so long as they aren't distasteful.

Michael Wade

There has long been a debate among human resources professionals over whether a job applicant is wise to include a section pertaining to personal interests on a résumé.

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The traditional—and probably majority—viewpoint is that this is not a good move. Everything on the résumé should be strictly job related. Letting an employer know that you run marathons or are an avid golfer can only hurt you, traditionalists will snort.

The non-traditional camp, of which I am a proud member, dissents in part. Our view is that there is nothing wrong with an applicant disclosing some personal interests, so long as those inclusions are not bizarre or distasteful. I’ve heard employers say they are tired of seeing cookie-cutter candidates. They are pleased when an applicant comes along who appears to be human.

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The rub, however, is in determining just what constitutes a safe disclosure. Are you a hunter, a ballroom dancer, or an avid environmentalist? It doesn’t take much work to imagine a hostile screener for each of those interests, depending upon the industry and the geography. This is a shame, but for all of the talk about diversity in the workplace, there are subtle prejudices that can knock an applicant out of the running just as easily as the illegal ones. Skeptical? Try wearing a bow tie to an interview.

So, let us grant that there is some risk in listing personal interests. There can also be some advantage if your résumé stands out in a sea of gray, not because it is printed on orange paper, but because it appears to come from a real, live person. Playing it safe can be risky.

Michael Wade writes Execupundit.com, an eclectic combination of management advice, observations, and links. A partner with the Phoenix firm of Sanders Wade Rodarte Consulting Inc., he has advised private and public-sector organizations for more than 30 years.


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