The Upside Down CV – How your interests and activities could land you your next job

I recently attended an LSE public lecture by George Anders which coincided with the launch of his new book ‘The Rare Find‘ – a fascinating research on the way forward-thinking companies hunt for new talent.

One of the companies mentioned in the book is Google. Google first started out reading CVs the traditional way but after an inadvertent experiment (full details in the book), they realised they were potentially missing lots of great talent by focusing all their attention on the usual suspects of academic achievements and credentials, so they started reading CVs from the bottom up.

The Upside Down CVNow for many years as a CV consultant and trainer, I have been advocating the importance of the interests and activities section of a CV, sometimes in the face of contradictory opinion. What Google found by looking “upside down” was that the last section of a person’s CV revealed much more about their character and the attributes they’ll bring to a role beyond their academic prowess – great news if school wasn’t your favourite subject!

Employers in the UK are beginning to catch on too with more and more paying closer attention to the interest and activities section as a way of whittling down what can often be a very long list of applications, particularly in this current climate of high unemployment. So clearly, as a jobseeker, you want to make sure that this section of your CV is up to scratch so here are three things to consider when listing your interests and activities:

1) Be unique

When it comes to considering the types of interests and activities to put down, always think about what it says about you and where possible, be unique. For example, taking part in a fun run to raise money for charity is fantastic but it is making more and more of an appearance on CVs. However, flying halfway across the world to South America, waking up at 4am and trekking for up to 11 hours in varying temperatures and altitudes to climb mount Machu Piccu for charity is unique (read Michelle Pritchard’s story here). Not only that, this one feat speaks volumes about a candidate’s level of resilience, discipline and determination – all attributes of a great employee.

Unique doesn’t necessarily have to mean that no one else has done it before (after all “there is nothing new under the sun”), but what it does mean is that the interest or activity you list is a little bit above the ordinary and therefore far less likely to appear on anyone else’s CV in the same pool.

2) Be specific

So you love “watching movies and socialising with friends”? Excellent Jean Claude Van Damme– so does 99% of the job-seeking population so nothing new there! Don’t waste time listing generic interests and activities that say or add nothing to you as a person. If you are going to list vague interests like “reading, watching movies and going out”, at least be specific with it: “I love watching martial arts films and Channel 5 straight-to-TV films starring Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal” is more specific than its generic kin and therefore more effective (of course don’t go writing this on your CV, but you get the point).

 3) Be honest

As much as you might be tempted to lie about or exaggerate your interests, honesty is always the best policy. There’s no point saying you love playing golf in your spare time when you live in an inner city estate with no green patch in sight! You want the employer to employ you based on information on who you really are, not a false persona you’ve created to get your foot in the door. If you do somehow manage to get past the CV stage with lies, any discerning employer will be able to quickly spot this at the interview and if not, certainly on the job, so you would have wasted their time, and more importantly, your own; it’s not worth the hassle.

The key thing to remember is that your whole CV has to sell you, including the interests and activities section. Get this right and you too can be that “rare find” companies are hunting for.

 

7 Keys to a Winning CV: How to create a CV that gets results is available from Amazon and all good bookshops

 


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2 Comments

  1. Vanessa King (@ladytoastmaster) /

    Very true, Mildred. I believe my interests and hobbies differentiate me more than my education and it’s so important to have them included in your CV. I’ve not yet been brave enough to put them at the top though!

    • Hi Vanessa, interests and activities certainly do differentiate you from “the pack” and more and more employers are now recognising this.

      Progress is slow however – we’re not yet at the stage where you can put this section at the top of your CV so you’re fine to leave it where it is at the bottom and let the employers read your CV upside down instead :-)

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