Dusting off your CV? Give your ‘Personal Interests’ purpose

Posted in Blog on 7 Jan 2019

January is a trigger point for change. People head to the gym. They give-up alcohol. They try new hobbies. They revisit life goals and, for many, they dust-off their CVs.

Recent research shows as many as one in four people are looking for a new job in the new year. This will see professionals spending hours perfecting CVs. They’ll focus on carefully crafting personal statements, while meticulously fine-tuning their career experience.

This often means people overlook the ‘Personal Interests’ part of their CV. It becomes a dumping ground for throw-away statements such as ‘I like to read’, ‘go to the theatre’ and ‘travel the world’. This is a CV faux pas and a missed opportunity for candidates.

A point of difference

It’s a given CVs will be first shortlisted based on a candidate’s career experience. Yet, when there’s an abundance of candidates searching for jobs at the same time, ‘Personal Interests’ prove a real point of difference.

When reviewing this section, employers tell us hobbies and interests provide an insight into what motivates an individual and their sense of purpose beyond their career. They’ll consider this as they whittle down the shortlist for interview stage.

Candidates should elaborate on what they do outside of work and most importantly, why. This doesn’t need to go into reams detail but needs to be more than throw-away statements. For example, rather than simply stating ‘I like to read’, expand on this to explain what types of books you like to read and why you go for this particular genre.

This explanation of purpose, as well as the type of hobby, provides many positive indications about a candidate’s character. It means that for employers, the ‘Personal Interests’ section ends-up proving more of a genuine read than the sales pitch made in a CV’s opening personal statement.

For example, an interest in books may suggest a strong attention to detail, the ability to clearly articulate matters and construct a narrative. These are all useful traits for legal professionals. Beyond reading, an interest in extreme sports can be associated with someone comfortable dealing with risk, while an appreciation of the arts can suggest a creative thinker.

Good to include good causes

Aside from general hobbies, we’re seeing employers valuing candidates who help others in their spare time.

Law firms are keen to better support and give-back to the communities in which they operate. Although many practices will run their own programmes to help good causes, they appreciate employees who share their sense of social purpose.

Candidates actively supporting charities and good causes shouldn’t be afraid to reference these in their ‘Personal Interests’. Previously, legal professionals have sometimes shied away from this due to modesty. Employers are genuinely interested in this and candidates shouldn’t worry about sharing such information. The most effective way to include it is to keep it factual and explain the motivations for supporting the chosen good causes.

Parenting is a ‘Personal Interest’

In some instances, busy professionals may not have the time to help good causes or fully pursue hobbies. This can be especially true for parents and can make it seemingly difficult to fill-out ‘Personal Interests’.

It’s all too easy for parents to forget they have a huge sense of purpose; raising a family, with it seeming bizarre to include this in ‘Personal Interests’. It shouldn’t. 

Top employers appreciate the value and importance of raising a family. They know it requires a multitude of skills to organise getting children to weekend sports, cooking to feed a family and helping with the school homework. This all requires time management, prioritisation, calmness under pressure and teamwork.
Professionals should reference the new hobbies and interests they’ve acquired since becoming a parent – Saturday morning swimming with the kids or finding 101 ways to encourage children to eat veg – as well as the hobbies they’ve put on the backburner while they prioritise family time. This gives the CV personality.

Many of the employers we work with view ‘Personal Interests’ as the first chance to ‘meet’ candidates. Yes, this is all on paper, but it’s a genuine opportunity for professionals to let their personality and character shine through by showing their sense of purpose beyond their careers.

For more top CV and interview tips, visit our Advice Centre or contact our team.

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