There are sections of your resume that are obviously necessary: your technical skills, the jobs you’ve held, your education section, etc. But there are some parts that aren’t so clear. Do you include an objective? Should you include jobs unrelated to your current field? What about volunteering and community service?
The good news is, adding volunteering to your resume could actually add a lot to your candidacy — but it has to be done correctly. Here are some tips for deciding what volunteer experience you should keep — and cut — from your resume.
What to Keep
If you’re applying to a job with a nonprofit or a company that really values community service and volunteering, then keep it all. (You can ask your technical recruiters about a company's interest in community service if it's not obvious.) Show off any relevant experience on your resume so that you can portray yourself as the kind of candidate who would fit well into their culture of giving back to the community.
If you’re not applying to a non-profit or company like this, you may still want to keep some of your volunteering experience. IT staffing firms sometimes come across candidates who’ve donated their technical expertise to the community or local organizations by creating websites, blogs or other technical projects for free. This is very relevant to your candidacy. Include it on your resume, especially if the project you worked on could be similar to the work you’d be doing in your target jobs.
What to Cut
As mentioned above, when you’re applying to companies that aren’t as concerned with volunteer or community service, then you may want to consider cutting that section if the experience doesn't directly leverage your technical skills. Instead, use the space on your resume to bolster your candidacy. Talk about your technical skills and experience. You only get to submit one resume to hiring managers and IT staffing companies. Make sure every single letter, punctuation mark and space on that resume builds your candidacy. If talking about your volunteering and community service interests is really important to you, you may find time to discuss it in job interviews — if it’s relevant to the discussion, of course!
How to Add It
Create one brief, separate section at the very bottom of your resume. Put it below your education (which will often be the last section). Format your volunteering stints as jobs. If you have information about technical experience, list it in bullets like you would under a job. Keep the language unemotional here, as you would on any other part of your resume. While you might feel passionate about your volunteer activities, keep subjective phrasing out of this section. Simply state your contributions to the organization and highlight how it might strengthen your candidacy. Here’s an example:
Local Youth Organization, Your City, State May 2015 – July 2017
Volunteer Web Developer
- Volunteered to maintain website using WordPress.
- Added news updates, and generally maintained site
- Used Adobe Photo shop to edit photos for use on website
If the work is especially relevant to any particular roles, you should take advantage of that. As you tailor your resume to the role (ideally candidates tailor their resume to each role they apply to), make sure your description of this volunteer experience explicitly highlights the similarities between that and the projected work for the role. Don’t be afraid to really spell it out for hiring managers. They’re skimming many, many resumes. Make yours stand out!
Samantha Keefe is an Interactive Marketing Manager at AVID Technical Resources. AVID Technical Resources is a leading information technology recruiting company with offices around the country.