As a recruiter, you see so many CVs you feel like you know exactly what works and what doesn’t, and may even spend some time tweaking candidate CVs to better represent them to the clients whose preferences you know well. Just like the owner of the CV, you are most concerned with making sure the experience that shows that they meet the requirements in the job spec is clear, and that the CV marks them out as well worth interviewing for the job.
It goes without saying that for any roles after entry level, the professional history section of a CV is what is most important. Qualifications, aside from those essential for the job, become less of interest the further along someone is in their career (nobody hiring for a senior position cares about what GCSE results the people you’re sending them got twenty years ago), and then there is that ‘other section’ – personal interests. Now, this may seem like the most trivial thing on the CV, but actually, it is the part most of your candidates are probably selling themselves less well than they could be on.
People Find Listing Three Interests Hard
All CV advice ever tells people to list three interests or hobbies on your CV to tell the reader something about you outside of work. This is something a lot of candidates find difficult, because a lot of people don’t really have anything you might call a hobby, in the fishing or stamp collecting sense – let alone three of them. This tends to lead to them putting ‘stuff everyone does’ down as their interests, like reading, or watching films. When everybody does this, the personal interests section basically becomes worthless, because a potential employer can no more tell if someone who says they like reading, cinema and socialising is going to fit their company culture than if they’d put that they like breathing, sleeping and eating.
Does It Matter?
Of course, if pretty much nobody is any good at this part of their CV, and it’s clearly not as important as the experience sections, does it really matter? Well, it is doubtful that anyone has ever lost an interview opportunity because of a bland personal interests section before, but it can have an impact on how the interview goes. Often this section can give the interviewer something to latch on to to get someone to talk a bit about themselves and reveal some of their personality. It can be helpful to have something on there that you actually love talking about, rather than the generic fall backs.
What Could They Write?
If you discuss this part of the CV with your candidates, they may ask you to suggest how to make themselves sound less plain considering they mainly just do ‘normal stuff’. However normal stuff can become a good talking point for an interviewer if it is more specific. ‘Going to the gym’ doesn’t sound very interesting, but ‘yoga’ or ‘weightlifting’ or ‘long distance running’ sounds like something you could talk about. Do they support a football team? Do they play video games? Are they a huge fan of something? A lot of the most generic sounding things can often be made into more revealing interests just by being more specific, and this can make the interview flow better for both your client, and your candidate.
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