Extracurriculars – Résumé Do or Don’t?

Glee club, sports, debate team– when you were applying to college, these activities could make or break getting you into the school of your choice. But when it comes to job applications do your extracurricular activities hold any merit with employers?

The answer is…it depends. Not all employers are going to be impressed with your ability to juggle or moonwalk wearing a badger costume. But presented in the right context, your activities can showcase your hidden marketable skills or, at the very least, give you something more interesting than the weather to talk about during the interview process. So here are a few tips to use as your litmus test before adding that kickball tournament to your résumé.

Does the activity demonstrate a transferable skill?

As a college student, you may not have a great deal of work experience to showcase to employers. But don’t let this deter you from hitting send on that application. Employers are aware of this and will look for other experiences you’ve had that bring something to the table. Experiences like leadership, team work and time management.

Enter: The Extracurricular Parachute. If you were team captain, a committee lead, organizer, treasurer, or founder of an organization, this illustrates to employers you have skills to make things happen, can work effectively, lead a team, and get tasks done on a timeline and within budget all on your own time. So don’t be afraid to add experiences like this to your brag sheet. Again, when put in a professional context, it can speak volumes to your abilities and help flex your leadership potential muscles.

Do your activities shine a spotlight on your time management prowess?

Having a killer GPA is a great attribute, but hiring managers also want to see candidates who have a life outside the classroom. The way employers see it, they’d rather have someone with an average GPA who can handle a full course load, get to intramural practice, volunteer in the community, and attend weekly student government meetings than someone who sits stationary in the library letting the world pass them by.

You see, Mr. Average GPA is well-rounded, flexible, social, disciplined and can easily adapt to change. This is the type of juggling act you want to display to potential employers.

Know the difference between quirky and irrelevant.

Make sure the extracurricular activities you list on your résumé are professionally relevant and something the employer will find interesting. It’s okay to put a quirky activity like teaching ukulele lessons (yes, I’ve seen this one) on your résumé. It’s not in your best interest to add being a national hot wing eating champion to your CV.

Keep in mind quirky can pique interest in knowing more about you; irrelevant or inappropriate can send your interest in a position straight to the recycle bin. If you’re unsure what category the activity falls under, ask an expert, or simply leave it off the résumé.

Remember these tips are subjective and may not be every hiring manager’s cup of tea. But know that there can be strength in inexperience if you have relevant activities to back you up.


Yolanda M. Owens is the award-winning author of “How to Score a Date with Your Potential Employer” and CEO of Straight No Chaser, LLC, which offers college speaking services and career coaching for students and recent grads entering the workforce. Yolanda has been a College Recruiting Specialist for over 15 years managing internship and entry-level talent recruiting programs at Fortune 500 companies such as Bausch & Lomb, Ernst & Young, The Washington Post, Freddie Mac and AOL. As a speaker and career coach, she uses her candid sense of humor and unconventional style to bring young professionals a fresh, relatable view into the corporate world by paralleling job seeking to the dating process. Yolanda also uses her recruiting knowledge to give GenY an insider’s look at what companies seek in young, potential candidates. Yolanda has been quoted as a top recruiting expert and contributing writer for various publications including USA Today, The Huffington Post, AOL Jobs, The Ladders and CBS News. Yolanda is originally from western New York where she attended St. Bonaventure University. Yolanda welcomes connections on Twitter, through her website or on her Facebook Fanpage.

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