Studies have shown that nearly half of all companies considered volunteer work as much as paid work when evaluating candidates. The same studies have shown that more than 50% of all job candidates with volunteer experience left it off their resume. Volunteering is good for the soul, but how exactly can you use it to enhance your resume? These four tips will help guide you:
With Every Job Opportunity, Consider Context
Before you add volunteer work to your resume or cover letter, consider what you want it to say about your ability to thrive in the job you are applying to. How do the skills you gained during the time at the charity relate to the skills they are looking for? Can your experience help show leadership skills or a connection to the company culture? Conversely, could including a specific experience hurt your chances of getting a job? If an organization is controversial in any way, or hints at specific beliefs or political affiliations, it may negatively affect your chances.
There are Skill, and Employment, Gaps You Can Fill
Companies are looking for specific skills from a candidate. If you can show that you are a match via your experience, they won’t mind if you gained your skills via your 9-5 or your charity work. In addition, charity work is an accepted way to fill employment gaps. Hiring managers want to see that you continued to grow as a professional, and if you can show that you did so by working with a charity during a job search, it will reflect well on you.
If volunteer work is going to help you get your next job you want to treat it like any other type of experience you are putting on your resume. List your experience alongside your paid positions, complete with job title, duties, and skills. Like any other job, make your experience seem actionable, giving tangible numbers regarding funding you helped the charity gain or money you helped the charity save, or services and resources you helped provide. When it comes time for the interview, be ready to talk about your time at the charity as you would any other job.
Don’t Forget the References
Managers, co-workers, and even Executive Directors of charities make great references. You want to be ready with six references for your interview, and if you feel like you’ve made a connection during your time volunteering, ask them if you can list them as a reference. A reference that can back up your hard work, positive personality, and leadership skills is a good thing, no matter where it comes from.