Published: Apr 26, 2019
Hi—my name is Kaitlin. I live in New York, I went to college in an Illinois town you’ve never heard of, and I’ve interned at a small literary magazine and a small book publisher.
I’m also a judge for a nationwide contest for young writers, I host a cross-country book club focused on WoC authors, and I will absolutely wreck you on pub quiz night.
Don’t you feel like you know me a little better after that second sentence? Don’t get me wrong, the first sentence has some very important information—and I probably could’ve stood to elaborate at least a bit on it. But isn’t the second one inherently more interesting? It sparks questions—like who’s trusting me to judge this contest and why, or what’s my best trivia category? These are the items that I have on my resume under “Interests,” a much-contended section to include at all. To the Interests Naysayers, I respectfully disagree. And here’s why.
Your Interests Are What Make You Human.
Applying for a job can be a relatively impersonal process. Chances are that you won’t meet your hiring manager in person until quite some ways into the application process, which means that, until then, it’s hard for them to see you as more than your resume. Including your interests on your resume clue whoever’s reading it into the fact that, yes, you are indeed a person rather than just a work history on a piece of paper—which means they might be more likely to want to speak to you.
It’s All About Likability.
Your work history and education are what qualify you for a position—but if the most qualified person always got the job, we would be living in a much different world. People hire candidates that they like, and oftentimes “liking” someone for a job has more to do with the candidate’s personality than their qualifications. We all want to work with people that we get along with, that’s not exactly an earth-shattering revelation. Telling people what you like to do in your spare time will give them an idea about if you’re someone they’d like to be around 40 hours a week.
Ice Breakers Are Important.
An ideal interview is a conversation, not an interrogation. The interests section on a resume provides your interviewer with conversation points, and that gives you the opportunity to potentially bond with them. Which is why any interest you list on your resume should actually be an interest you have—how embarrassing would it be to list “opera buff” because you think it will make you sound smart, only to find out that your hiring manager is a regular at the Met? So do be honest about what you list, as with all aspects of your resume.
They Demonstrate Your Passions.
I like books. You probably guessed that from the interests I listed at the start of this article. But doesn’t everyone list “reading” as a hobby? Exactly. I chose to list my book club and the writing contests because they’re a lot more interesting than just saying “reading” and because they show that I enjoy things besides books, like commitments to diverse opinions, engagement with my community, and the development of young writers. That says a lot more about me in a hiring capacity than simply “reading.”
This is why it’s so much more valuable if you select interests relevant to the position you’re applying for. Mine are generally media-themed because I was applying to editorial positions—being well-read is a relevant, desirable trait. For other positions, it might not be as applicable. But, say you’re applying to be a programmer and one of your interests is developing video games—list it. Or perhaps you’re looking for a job in marketing—your resume might do well to include any volunteer fundraising you do. Chances are really good that there’s some overlap between the job you’re looking for and the things you like to do in your spare time. So, if you’ve got a little extra room on your resume, take the leap and tell your hiring managers a little about why, even when you’re off the clock, you’d be a great fit for the position.
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The subject of the podcast is Benjamin Dreyer, the copy chief of book publishing giant Random House.
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