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Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Hobbies and Interests on a Resume

by Kazim Ladimeji,

There has always been some uncertainty for employers about the value of the hobbies and interests section of a resume. Does it have a lot or very little to say about the suitability of a candidate to a particular position? Does it really add anything to the skills and experience section of the resume?

However, as the emphasis in hiring has shifted from being purely dependent on skills/experience, for assessing candidate ability, to one focused on a candidate’s personality and culture fit, it seems that the hobbies and interest section is in fashion and is taking on greater significance in the candidate assessment process. Consider the findings of a two-year longitudinal study of 120 hiring managers conducted by North Western University’s Kellogg School of Management Studies, which showed that candidates were being selected for personality/culture fit and this was largely based on the hobbies and interest section of their resume. Yes, it seems like synergistic hobbies and interests that were in step with the business were actually shown to be more important than qualifications and experience in the candidate assessment process. Now, this study was confined to the professional services sector but I still feel it is a pretty fair indicator of modern assessment practices.

But, is this nothing more than just superstition and can using hobbies and interest as indicators of a candidate’s cultural and personal fit to a position be rationally justified?

Yes, it seems there is some scientific justification behind using hobbies as an indicator of temperament. For example, a new Ernst & Young study has shown that women with sports in their background – competing at university and/or during their adult career – had progressed to higher managerial roles than those without. So arguably, doing competitive sports is a strong indicator of a candidate being a high potential for progression within the business.

Another report in Fortune has shown a link between endurance sports and corporate success. Yes, they found that the average household income of marathon runners was $130,000 and the average household income of triathletes is $125,000, which is above the national averages. It seems that these endurance athletes tend to come from an upper-income demographic. So, this suggests that having endurance running as a hobby may be an indicator of high-potential status.

Also a University of Bristol study showed that people who exercise before work are basically more productive and so candidates who attend the gym before work or at lunch are likely to be maximizing their potential throughout the working week.

While sports and exercise are good indicators of high-potential status, there are other factors to consider. Certain hobbies may be indicative of particular personality characteristics, which may make them more or less suitable for the job. Yet, there has to be a question about the reliability of this kind of personality profiling; so, perhaps this should be a secondary or even tertiary factor to confirm other observations. It is unlikely to be more reliable than a personality test.

An absence of any hobbies and interests can also be a concern. Hobbies and interests (both sports and non-sports) are a pressure release, stress reliever and recharging tool that means that people who have a well-balanced set of hobbies should be more resilient and better at dealing with the stress and strains of working life. If the job or business is high pressure you’d ideally want to see that a candidate has built hobbies into their life so they can switch off, unplug, wind down, recharge and be more effective.

There has to be a word of caution about relying too heavily on cultural fit indicators as it could promote mono cultures and discourage diversity of thinking, which could be to the detriment of an organization despite the team harmony that it may bring about.