Hobbies on the résumé: which ones should I mention – which ones should I leave out?

Viola Hoffmann-Scheurer has read countless résumés in her life. The personnel consultant worked for many years in the personnel department of a French car company and now advises companies and applicants alike. “I’ve already had 160 applications for one position,” she says. There were only a few minutes left to read each résumé.

“As a HR manager, of course, you first check whether your professional experience fits the position.” In the next step, however, the applicant’s personality is also interesting. And that’s where hobbies and interests come into play.

Many applicants wonder whether they should state their hobbies in the tabular résumé. “They are being left out more and more often,” says Hoffmann-Scheurer. “And that’s a shame.” In a representative study by the Ifo Institute from 2018, at least 47 percent of the HR managers surveyed stated that they consider hobbies on the résumé to be important when deciding on a selection.

“Hobbies are particularly useful in the résumé if they promote the qualities required for the position,” says Sven Emmrich, application coach and founder of the career heroes portal. If someone plays a difficult-to-learn musical instrument such as the violin, it conveys a high tolerance for frustration. And those who practice a team sport like football are demonstrating their ability to work in a team.

The Ifo study confirms this: In the case of university graduates, the HR managers questioned even rated team sports as a more relevant criterion for social skills than social commitment. The authors also explain this by the fact that HR professionals may assume that some applicants only get involved socially for strategic reasons – while a sport has often been practiced for years.

In the case of applicants for a training position, social commitment was rated higher in the study. Volunteering in the résumé increased the likelihood of being invited to an interview for an apprenticeship position by the same amount as a whole two grades better school leaving certificate.

Volunteering on your résumé: It goes down well, but so does sport

Social commitment and volunteering are also well received by HR consultant Hoffmann-Scheurer. Competitive sport is an interesting hobby, especially for executives. Those who regularly exert themselves in sport can convey that they are mentally particularly strong and stress-resistant.

In fact, managers are particularly involved in endurance sports such as triathlons. They often train a lot and compete in competitions. But: “It doesn’t have to be every competitive athlete,” says Hoffmann-Scheurer. “There are also managing directors who draw their strength from gardening, for example.”

In fact, she once suggested a candidate who told her particularly convincingly how much she can relax in her garden. “In order to make good decisions at work, it is important to be able to relax well.”

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Studies confirm that hobbies can improve job performance. A survey by the University of San Francisco found that workers who engage in creative recreational activities were up to 30 percent more productive. According to a study by the Techniker Krankenkasse, one’s own hobby is also the most popular method for Germans to reduce stress; 70 percent like to relax.

However, there are also hobbies that shouldn’t be mentioned in your résumé. “You should leave out everything that is somehow socially dubious,” says application coach Emmrich. Hobby hunters, for example, would be less popular with many HR professionals. One should try to empathize with the HR manager, says Emmrich.

“Even if you are very proud of your hobby yourself, you should ask yourself: How could it affect the reader of the résumé?” Political involvement, for example in a party, should be treated with caution: after all, you know the political opinion of the HR does not. Professions in a political environment are an exception here.

Hobbies on the résumé: No more than three activities

Emmrich also advises against naming dangerous sports because they signal a particularly high risk of injury. “You may then have concerns about longer downtimes.”

Applicants are often unsure whether they should state their hobbies even if they are very widespread – i.e. not suitable for standing out from a pile of applications. Application coach Emmrich advises naming them, but making them more concrete: “For example, it makes sense not only to write ‘Travel’ in your résumé, but also precise countries or destinations.”

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Personnel consultant Hoffmann-Scheurer also advocates common hobbies in the résumé. However, she recommends that you do not specify more than three activities in total in order to remain credible. It is crucial to remain authentic.

“If ‘reading’ is mentioned as a hobby in the résumé, then as a HR manager you like to ask which book you liked most recently.” Anyone who then searches for an answer for a long time is implausible.

“Hobbies are also just a good topic in conversation that creates a more relaxed atmosphere,” she says. That is why she herself likes to address hobbies in the interview – sometimes with the first question in the case of very tense candidates.

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This article was first published in May 2019.