August 11, 2008

The debate over additional information on your resume

Interests. Activities. Clubs. Special interest courses. Awards.

Surprised to know that these are headings for additional information on your resume?

Well, don't be. Additional information is something that can really make your resume stand out - both in a good way and in a bad way.

In fact, students would often ask me, “What additional information should I have on my resume?” Often, this question was followed with the student saying they heard from family members or friends that additional information on a resume is problematic.

This is both true and false.

But before we get into a discussion on the merits of additional information, let’s first define what “additional information” on a resume actually is.

As most employment counsellors, including myself would say, additional information are sections such as Interests, Awards, and Activities that appear near the end of your resume.

So, should you use additional information?

On one hand, additional information does a number of good things on your resume. For starters, it takes up space – instantly, unattractive “white space” is eliminated. And “white space” can be the death of any resume, regardless of how experienced the candidate is.

At the same time, this information lets prospective employers get a better understanding of who you are. This can really work well, especially since hiring managers might think more positively of you should you have won a prestigious award or if both of you have similar interests.

On the flipside, additional information can also pose a problem on your resume.

This information becomes a problem when applicants include too much or the wrong type of information. As I’ve always said, putting down that you enjoy weekend parties looks bad in the eyes of any employer.

Add to this the issue of discrimination. Sometimes, applicants include information that could lead to intended or unintended discrimination.

In the end, putting additional information on your resume is a personal decision – usually, I include at least one category of additional information provided that it relates to the position.

So if you do decide to put down information here are some things to keep in mind

1) Look at your resume to see if you even have enough space.

Depending on how much experience you have or how diverse your skill set is, you might not have enough room. Just as too much “white space” is a resume killer, so is information overload.

If you don’t have enough space, that’s okay. You can always put the classic “References available upon request” as a way of letting the hiring manager know that this is the end of your resume.

2) Decide that type of information to include.

There are a number of categories that you can include in your resume. Some of them include:

- Activities

- Awards
- Clubs
- Interests
- Non-academic Accreditation
- Volunteer Experience

The great thing is that additional information can encompass a number of different headings, each designed to give potential employers a better understanding of who you are.

3) Ensure information is job-specific.

This is very simple – any information that you include should be somewhat relevant to the position you are applying for.

For example, if you applied for a job as a sales associate in a clothing store, do not list your favourite bands under your interests. Instead, make sure your interests are presented in a way that compliments the job you are applying for.

4) Don’t include “negative” information.

This is closely related to the previous tip. While additional information gives employers a better understanding of you, be careful that the information you include won’t cause employers to look at you in a negative light.

This could include interests to clubs that employers don’t want to know about. For example, don’t list that one of your interests is partying, or that you belong to the Beer Bong & Binge club on Facebook.

And while this seems like a no-brainer, you’d be surprised at how immature and problematic some of the information is that I've seen clients include in their resumes.

5) Avoid additional information that mentions anything to do with potentially discriminatory things (e.g. religion, sexual orientation, marital status, etc.).

While anything put on your resume should avoid any references to things that could be the grounds for discrimination, usually, under additional information headings is where this becomes a major problem.

I always maintain that students should keep any information secular – unless you attended a religion-affiliated school. But, be careful about putting information on that could be used as a grounds for discrimination.

And keep in mind that discrimination can be both explicit and implicit. Some hiring managers might have biases that make them inclined to either accept or reject your application.

And trust me, this happens quite often!

At the end of the day, it’s a personal decision whether you put additional information on your resume.

It can be an asset, as it does give a potential employer a better idea of who you are.

At the same time, any information should be relevant, positive, and removed from any reference to a potentially discriminatory personality trait.

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