We get asked this question a lot at Revision Resume. And, the answer is not a simple yes or no, but instead depends on both your personal circumstances, as well as the circumstances of your volunteer experience.
Let's examine a few specific examples to help illustrate when it is helpful to include volunteer experience on a resume, and when it is not helpful.
Volunteer Experience Relating Directly to the Job Opening
If you have volunteer experience that relates directly to the job you are applying for, you should include it on your resume. For example, if you are applying for a role as a treasurer and have been volunteering as a treasurer for your school district PTA, you can include the volunteer role, along with a few bullet points that provide details and descriptions showing how your volunteer role relates to the position you are seeking. This can help you stand out compared to other job seekers that don't have the same relevant experience.
Unrelated Volunteer Experience
We often see resumes in which job seekers list all of their volunteer roles and/or hobbies to try to present themselves as well-rounded individuals. Although this can seem like a good idea, we recommend against it if you are listing things that don't relate to the job opening. For instance, if you are a computer programmer that loves skiing, leave the skiing off the resume and just use the valuable resume "real estate" to instead include as many details and keywords as possible relating to your computer programming knowledge, skills and experience.
Feel free to bring up your hobbies and volunteer experiences at the interview. This is the appropriate time to show you are a well-rounded individual...and you may find common interests with the interviewer as well.
Recent Grad with Limited Work Experience
A recent graduate may not have much to include on a resume. If their previous employment has been limited, it may be difficult to demonstrate they have the skills required to obtain the position. Therefore, we do recommend including volunteer experience on this type of resume, especially if you can use that experience to demonstrate some of the required soft skills, such as time management, customer service, leadership and organization.
For example, if you were captain of your sports team, you can include that on your resume as a valuable role demonstrating you are a leader. Or, if you oversaw a charity event, you can demonstrate your organizational and time management skills by including it on your resume. Take the time to think through how your volunteer experience demonstrates you have a valuable skill and then be sure to express it clearly within the bullets of your resume.
Job Posting Requirements Can be Addressed
Ask yourself, does your volunteer experience demonstrate a job posting requirement that you can't demonstrate any other way, such as with your paid work experience? If so, then it may be worthwhile to include the volunteer role on the resume. Maybe you use a certain software program in your volunteer role that is listed as a required proficiency on the job posting. In that case, it makes sense to include the volunteer role so you can specifically list your proficiency with the software program. This will assist the hiring manager in realizing that you have the qualifications they are seeking.
How to Include Volunteer Experience on Your Resume?
Another question we are often is asked is, "Where does the volunteer experience fit on your resume?" Generally, we suggest you do not include it within the regular "Work History" section, because that section implies paid employment. Instead, considering adding a section after your "Work History" that is titled "Additional Relevant Experience," and include your volunteer roles there.
Need assistance determining what to include in your resume? Revision Resume is here to help! Offering resume creation and resume critique services, we would be happy to assist you in your job search. Learn more here.