The Upside Down CV - How Your Interests and Activities Could Land You Your Next Jo

Recently, I attended an LSE public lecture given by George Anders. It coincided with the publication of his book “The Rare Find” – fascinating research about how forward-thinking companies search for new talent.

Google is one of the companies mentioned. Google is one of the companies mentioned in the book. Google started off reading CVs in the traditional way, but after an accidental experiment (full details in this book), they realized they could be missing a lot of great talent by focusing too much on academic accomplishments and credentials. So they began to read CVs from the bottom.

As a CV consultant and trainer for many years, I have always advocated the importance of the activities and interests section of a CV. Sometimes, this was despite contradictory opinions. Google discovered that the person’s last section revealed a lot more about them and their character than their academic achievements. This is great news for those who don’t like school!

Employers in the UK are starting to pay more attention to the interests and activities section. This is especially important in these times of high unemployment. As a job seeker, it is important to ensure that your CV contains the right information. Here are three tips to help you list your interests and activities.

1) Be unique

Think about your interests and choose activities that reflect you best. Be unique when possible. It is great to participate in fun runs to raise money for charity, but it is becoming more prominent on CVs. It is a unique feat to fly halfway around the globe to South America and then to trek for 11 hours in different temperatures and altitudes to climb Machu Piccu for charity. (Read Michelle Pritchard’s story here). This feat is not only impressive, but it also speaks volumes about the candidate’s resilience, determination, and discipline – all characteristics that make a great employee.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that someone else has done it before. However, it does indicate that your interest or activity is unique and less likely to be included on another person’s CV.

2) Be specific

You love to “watch movies and socialize with friends”. You’re not alone! 99% of job-seekers love to watch movies and socialize with friends. Do not waste your time listing activities and interests that aren’t relevant to you. You don’t want to list generic interests such as “reading, watching movies, and going out” – be more specific than that. “I love martial arts films and Channel 5 straight to-TV films starring Jean Claude Van Damme & Steven Seagal” is better than the generic kin, and thus more effective. (Of course, you shouldn’t put this on your resume, but you get my point).

3) Be honest

Although you may be tempted lie or exaggerate what interests you, honesty is always best. It’s not worth claiming that you enjoy playing golf when you live in an urban estate with little green space. Employers should be able to see who you are and not just what you have created in order to get you hired. If you manage to pass the CV stage without lying, any employer with a keen eye will quickly see this during the interview. If not, it will likely be obvious on the job.

Remember that your entire CV must sell you. This includes the activities and interests section. This will allow you to be the “rare find” company that companies are looking for.