As with so many resume issues, there are a number of opinions on whether or not to include hobbies and interests in a technical leadership resume.

Those opinions range from "absolutely not, under no circumstances, never!" to "sure!"

Personally, I take a middle ground. I certainly don't include this information in every project in my technical resume writing service. But there are times when this information can add real, important value, can help to win the interview, and to build an immediate bond in that interview.

When I was recruiting, one thing was very clear. People hire people they like.

If there's a choice between a candidate with a perfect skill match and less than perfect culture match, or a candidate with a less perfect skill match but a personality that immediately connects with the interviewer and other hiring authorities, it's often the better cultural fit who will often get the second and third interviews. And frequently the job offer.

Cultural fit is a broad category, of course - but interests outside the workplace can often support the hiring authority thinking "I'd like to work with this person."

So when to include hobbies and interests, and when to omit?

Here are a few thoughts.

As a general rule, include those that have the potential to really connect with the hiring authority, and that show breadth of personality outside the office.

For example, early in my career I was working with a very highly quantitative professional. But in addition to his obvious mathematical and technical strengths, he was also a former national Martial Arts champion.

I included that for several reasons.

  • First, this displays that there's a person behind the number.
  • Second, the drive, discipline, and competitiveness required to reach my client's level in Martial Arts is rare, and adds value to absolutely any job.
  • And finally? if the resume gets to the desk of someone else who trains in MA, my client is going to go to the top of the pile - because he and the hiring authority have something significant in common.

How do I know that happens? I got a job because I practiced the same style of MA as the gentleman to whom I submitted the resume.

In another instance, I had a Senior Business Technology Executive client who raised Labradors. Did I focus on that? Of course not! I focused on my client's extremely impressive record of success resolving some extremely critical strategic challenges. My client got the interview based on her skills. But she bonded with the hiring authority talking about dogs.

But there are some interests that I always suggest - strongly - that my clients avoid.

That's anything potentially controversial, and can include political, religious, and other affiliations likely to arouse strong feelings in the reader. True, if your resume is read by someone who shares your views, it's a strong positive. But there's no way of planning that - and the potential negatives - can be devastating.