Trying too hard to sound interesting by listing unusual hobbies on your CV can backfire, according to new research.
One CV listed racing ferrets as an "other interest"
A survey of 900 CVs by Reed recruitment found "ferret racing", "Samurai sword collecting" or "an interest in guns" among the more wacky hobbies listed.
Giving the right impression in the "other interests" section on a CV can be vital says the agency - and could have a big influence on interviewing decisions.
But while jobseekers can slip-up for showing-off, they can also score badly for writing too little or being too bland.
Citing "drinking" as their sole "other interest" or "socialising and reading" could damage their chances nearly as much.
Candidates are most likely to be excluded from shortlists if they wrote lengthy descriptions, according to nearly one in three recruiters.
Put a balanced mixture of interests
Display them within a few short bullet points
Try and get some voluntary work experience
Other favourable activities include involving organising others, recreational team sports or travelling abroad
Writing too little can also be a problem.
Daniel Ferrandino, director of Reed, said: "Getting your "other interests" section right on your CV can be a minefield. It is worth spending time getting this right.
"Yet trying too hard, by making this section too long or too unusual, can be almost as bad as leaving it blank.
"It is vital you are honest, especially as you might be quizzed about your hobbies at interview. However, you also need to consider the job you are applying for, and highlight activities which demonstrate the employer is looking for."
I am amazed at the results of this survey and certainly cannot agree with its findings. I too enjoy racing ferrets but usually find them too fast for me. However, as a prospective employer I would be a little concerned with someone declaring an interest in guns or swords. However, I am sure that the vast majority of employers do not even read 'interests and activities' sections but look at educational and work experience the candidate can offer.
Fergal Lawlor, Ireland
Whilst interviewing candidates we asked the standard question about giving an example of when they had shown leadership. The best response ever was from a gap year student who said 'I've just spent the last year herding cattle across Australia. They won't follow unless you show some leadership'.
The balance is between choosing something that the interviewer won't approve of, and having something to talk about at the interview.
Harmless icebreakers are the way to go here.
I see the PC brigade is in full cry again , since when has shooting been a wacky hobby , representing your country at an Olympic discipline is wacky is it. along with Javelin throwing and throwing a hammer. This says more about the types who vet CVs than the people that write them
This area can be seen as unimportant but needs to treated with care. If you show you are a keen participant or organiser in sport or charity. it can show you are energetic and a pillar of society. It can also raise alarm bells about your commitment to work, depending on who is reading the CV
I experienced this and was questioned about time available out of hours.
However I answered well and got the job but you need to watch out for it.
I find that part the most difficult to fill in because I don't play sports, rarely travel and don't do team building exercises in my spare time and what makes it difficult is that I am a people person and If I putting socialising on your c.v is bad then people like me are stuck really.
A few years ago I had an applicant for a PhD studentship whose CV listed his rank in the Klingon space navy... He didn't get shortlisted but he did get a laugh
Dr Paul Digard, UK
An ex colleague of mine actually wrote the following in his other interests "In rare moments of solitude I like to spend time with my parents sheep and goat". Somehow he still got the job.
Neil Armitage, UK
I like to collect hovercraft and eels. Sometimes my eels escape.
I don't have a "Hobbies and Interests" section on my CV; since my outside interests have no bearing on whether or not I can do my job.
Quite frankly what relevance has your interests outside work got to do with applying for a job unless they relate to the job. Better not to include them.
Mark Bolam, UK
As a recruiter I read hundreds of CVs a month. My favourite?:
A CV stating "interests: marital arts" .. perhaps he meant martial arts?
After leaving college and going through the 'Milk Round' Selection process, I sent my CV off to a well know pharmaceutical firm. During my the interview, it transpired that my application was not one of the shortlist. However one of the secretaries was reading my CV and was having a giggle when the MD walked by. The secretary showed the MD my CV he too saw some amusement and asked that I be short listed.
One of my previous jobs had been a butchers boy and I had mentioned that I had Basic Butchery Skills after my interests, which had included Rugby.
All I can say is that it got me an interview that I wouldn't have otherwise had!
Ade Morris, Wales
I applied for several jobs after my graduation, and the job I got, was not one involving a complicated application form, interview, etc. I simply phoned the boss, went to visit the offices, and discussed with him and other colleagues about what the job required. Afterwards, I was given the job, not because of anything I do, but because I actively took an interest in the post. Listing hobbies should not be a deciding factor, since that is completely irrelevant to work.
Its probably best to write a "non-threatening" CV as regards Interests and put down family things or things associated with the family such as family holidays, PTA interests, gardening etc. Keep it benign such as not to put off a prospective interviewer and I guarantee you an Interview providing you have also the right technical qualifications for the job!
R steward, GB
I have to sort through personal statements for admissions interviews at a UK University. I certainly read the 'other interest' section of the forms mainly as a point to open conversation at the beginning of interview. The short listing decision is made entirely on the basis of other criteria. I believe this is the only correct and legal way to hire anyone in the UK as personal statements are not the business of the employer.
Todd, UK (USA ex pat.)
I have a section on my CV showing some unusual interests. Each is followed by a short and to the point description of how these activities demonstrate particular skills, and how these skills are relevant to the job for which I am applying. This may be the element lacking from some of the CVs that were surveyed.
James Mackay, UK
I am originally from the UK and found the difference between CVs in the UK and resumes in Canada quite surprising. In the long run though, I find resumes and the legislation here in Canada about what can and cannot be included more logically than in the UK: Other Interests is not likely to be found on resumes and really has nothing to do with the job you are applying for. A resume or CV should only contain information directly pertinent to the job, otherwise it is none of the prospective employer's business.
Michael MacGregor, Canada
My hobby of "Antique Samurai Sword Collecting" was actually used on my CV (probably submitted via Reed Financial). It is a true hobby of mine which I believe helped me get my job, since my boss is actually interested in antiques. He was more interested in my hobby than my past experience and I was offered the job 2 hours after leaving the interview. If you lie about your hobby, the interviewer will find out!!!
Brian Sandiford, United Kingdom
My "other interests" include bull fighting and space travel, do you think I may be hindering my chances a little ?
The last interview I had I was asked
"Where do you see yourself in 5 years time". My answer was "sitting behind your desk doing your job after you get a promotion because of the productivity of your department after taking me on"
I got the job
P.S. I also listed "Armchair sports"
I once mentioned in my CV that I was training to be a private pilot - I actually had a few lessons however when being questioned on it during the interview I was so nervous I couldn't even remember the airport that I used.
The problem was that I was not aware that the interviewer was a qualified instructor.
Needless to say it blew my credibility and I lost the job.
When I was at school a careers advice person came and gave us a lecture on CV presentation. He seemed particularly impressed by one person who had sent in a 'CV' in a box with a covering letter which said simply 'You should hire me because I've got these'. Upon opening the box 2 ping pong balls fell out. This kind of thing happened in the '80s.
R Gould, UK
As someone who has worked as a professional recruiter for a number of years, I disagree with this survey. It is a typical "agency survey" produced for marketing purposes. Most employers look at the skills and experience, not the hobbies. Any employer who decides to concentrate on hobbies probably isn't worth working for.
Neil Small, Scotland
My husband and my self breed and show tropical fish, my previous employer wanted to know how you show the tropical fish. They had been waiting to ask me all during the interview and as soon as the interview had finished I had to go into great detail about how you show tropical fish. You'd be surprised how many people do this hobby.
Pat Wilkins, England
I was interviewing one guy - who had also turned up over 2 hours late - and I asked him what he considered his greatest achievement. His response was 'Not ending up in jail'. He didn't get the job and this guy had a science based PhD! Another one listed his interests as 'I attend church regally [sic] and ... going out to restraints[sic]'. Another sent in his 'Resume of CV'.
(I still have the CV's for those two)
Another sent me a letter detailing what he had done but never actually asked for a job.
Two years ago, following graduation from University and after I had finished writing a novel I was shortlisted for interview at a London research company. In the final interview, my CV was thrown dismissively to the desk and I was told "Okay then, tell me about your book, because it's the only reason you're here." A week later I was offered the position. It's especially important for graduates with limited work experience to highlight something unique, but not crazy, in their CV's.
Danny Langley, Manchester, UK
Having been a recruiter for a number of years, there are many CV stories, some good, some bad and some bizarre. The one CV out of the 1000's I have read definitely has to be a guy you had a list of technical skills (IT professional), and in the middle of these had the 'ability to leap tall building in a single bound' listed. To me this should a good sense of humour, whilst making his CV noticeable above all the others. To this day its the most memorable, and I believe we placed him very quickly!
Stephen Hillis, Northern Ireland
To judge the potential worth of an employee on the basis of their hobby or outside work activities suggests that some HR departments lack the skills to select suitable candidates on the basis of their ability to do the job required!
Fraser Bateman, United Kingdom
Seems to me that eliminating a candidate from the running for a job is discrimination if it is based solely on whether the employer deems the candidates hobbies too weird, too boring, too few or too many.
I'd listed a sport as one of my hobbies - which it truly is! - but at the time of my interview (with a large City firm)I was recovering from an injury and had become quite podgy. From the tone of their questioning, they obviously thought I was making things up re: the physical activity! I didn't get the job.
Do people really still have time for hobbies after they have finished working, cooking, looking after their family, home & garden. Visiting relatives, the supermarket, exercising and sleeping?!
I find that interviewers don't even read the employment section of my CV but they still invite me to interview. God knows what would happen if they read my other interests section.
Stephen, Hong Kong
Spare a thought for employers in all this. When I worked in New York for a large bank we had to interview 30-40 MBA graduates in one day. Their cvs were identical: not only did they all have the same grades, but every one had done some charity work, been involved in a "serious" society and been on a sports team. It was so dull! Something a bit different can really make you stand out in a crowd like that.
When interviewing I rarely read the interests section, I'm interested in their qualifications and how they come over face to face. Their interests normally have little effect on how well they perform their job. If we were to take interests into account then a working parent (who normally has little spare time) could be discriminated against when compared with a single person.
I had to read some CVs recently, one of which listed the applicants interests as including 'folk music'. I decided to reject this, as the team he would have been joining had all been out recently to a Motorhead concert.
As someone who has conducted hundreds of interviews over the past 20 years, I'm suprised at the number of people (both interviewers and interviewees) who say that interests aren't, or shouldn't be relevant. When one has spent two or three days interviewing recent graduates, all of whom have an upper second in an arts discipline, it is the candidates who have a wide range of interests, or one unusual interest, who stand out. Personally speaking, I would be wary of employing anyone who didn't put any outside interests on his or her CV. While qualifications and experience are important, it is often those little extras that help land the job.
If weird hobbies turn off recruiters then I can confirm that daft questions on application forms and from interviewers most certainly turn off prospective employees. I can speak from experience on this as my hobby used to be astrology and this really freaked out the interviewer if, indeed, I actually got as far as an interview. I think they thought I was a witch. Good job I didn't put 'pagan' down for what religion I followed otherwise they probably would have thought I danced naked round maypoles!
V. M. Wright,
I was hiring for a marketing agency and opened a letter which had mirrored foil on the inside, under this it said "I'd like you to take some time to reflect upon my CV". Very clever!
TDC, London, UK
Your examples are not too bad. I once interviewed an IT contractor who listed 'The life and films of Clint Eastwood' as a major hobby.
While interviewing a young lady for an administrative post at a symphony orchestra I asked if she had an interest in classical music. "Oh yes," she replied. "I love all the classical composers. Especially da Vinci."
USA (ex UK)
After leaving college I sent my CV to a prospective employer, listing 'Classic Cars' as an interest.
At the interview the content of the CV was covered in a matter of minutes until arriving at the interest section that was queried in detail.
A job was offered and accepted. Only when I began work did I discover that the interviewer was the owner of a Buggati and several classic motorcycles and the computer centre seem to be staffed by classic car owners and motorcyclists!
It seems rather sad that someone's ability to get a job should be affected by an H.R. drone's reaction to his CV (rather than the judgement of person he'll be working for) In fact, it's rather sad that we have such an institution as 'Human Resources'.
Imagine a David Brent-type character interviewing you. Just about anything you put down apart from golf, fishing, kite-flying or tending a wormery will sound "weird". Unfortunately, there's an awful lot of David Brents out there.
Weird hobbies? Come on, why are you guys so grey and boring?! So you are telling me that the grey man always gets the job?
Jenny Taylor, US
Judging by the negative reaction at work every year when I say I'm off to Glastonbury, best to be bland and grey in CV's.
The last time I revised my (US style) resume with the help of a professional outplacement firm, none of the examples I saw even had a section for interests or hobbies. I would certainly never waste space on my resume with information like that. Is it just me, or does it seem ridiculous and totally irrelevant to even include such items on a professional resume? I agree with a previous poster from Canada, that it has little to do with somebody's qualifications for a job. Is it really a necessary item in the UK?
Sue B, US
For years I listed my (genuine) hobbies of Parachuting, Bungee Jumping, and Motorsports on my CV. It was only after I was advised that I nearly missed out on my dream job because the interviewer though "I would kill myself on company time" that I decided to remove my interests from my CV.
Mike, Ireland (UK Expat)