Does Volunteer Work Factor into Hiring Decisions?

I started volunteering when I was 13 years old. I volunteered for Habitat for Humanity and the American Cancer Society Relay for Life.

I finished high school, went to college, got a real job and continued to volunteer. I listed the experience on my resume. It was neatly packed under the title, Community Service, complete with volunteer titles and bullet pointed duty descriptions.

When I began searching for my next real job, I enhanced my Community Service section. I thought it would matter to employers to show that I’m involved in my community and that I can manage simultaneous roles in my private and professional life. I even listed the duties I was responsible for at the local humane society. After all, I had three years of experience cleaning cat and dog cages, socializing the animals and cleaning messy kittens! I didn’t volunteer to get gold stars on my resume, but I did think that having these items listed would help me to stand out from other candidates.

I nixed the volunteer experience in one application because I wanted to focus on adding other job skills. During an interview, I ended up talking about my humane society volunteering and the recruiter immediately lit up. She owned two cats that were from the same humane society! We talked cats for the next five minutes. I rocked that interview and we clicked on a personal level because of the volunteer experience. She asked me why it wasn’t on my resume so I added it all back on.

Fast forward to today. I’m on the other side of the interview table. I’m a recruiter. I review countless resumes each week. Because I volunteered, I look at the sections titled community involvement, volunteer positions, community work, etc. I love seeing people who have strong careers and make time to give back. I admit I’m a big fan of seeing Eagle Scout, Blood Donor, Rotary Club President and Jaycees Member. These candidates stand out. I spoke with a senior level manager this week who runs three separate local facilities and has over 50 employees reporting to him and yet still makes time to manage a youth baseball team, work for his local church and be the President of his Rotary club. That is an impressive set of qualifications.

Should community service be a considering factor in every position or just ones that would require community involvement? Should volunteering factor into interviewing and hiring decisions?

I would love to know what you think.

Photo credit: iStock Photo

About the Author

Emily White

Emily White blogs about HR and on her personal blog at HR Wildwood and is the promotions manager at Just B Yoga . Emily loves talking to people and spends her free time at local events, yoga, visiting friends and family and experimenting in the kitchen. You can follow Emily on Twitter as @emilywhiteMI.

9 Comments

Emily

I think that there are other small opportunities to volunteer that may not require huge time commitments. Take a look at http://www.volunteermatch.org for a position that might meet your scheduling needs! Something as small as managing Habitat Lansing’s Twitter account (5 minutes 3 times a week) definitely makes an impact.

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TNS Employee Insights

While I feel volunteering is an important feature for a job candidate, I also believe there are circumstances that do not allow for people to volunteer. Personally, I am a full-time graduate student and have two jobs. School and work preoccupy all my time. At this point in my life, I do not time to volunteer. I wish I had the time and eventually will volunteer again, but for now I can’t.

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Emily

Lisa – I really like that concept. It is important for all workers to do and believe in something outside of themselves! Truly sad about the lady and the blowing garbage. Ugh.

Tiffany – thanks for the well thought out response! Volunteering is an important part of participating in your community. It is wonderful that you are getting your kids involved!

Laura – wonderful point on the company supporting volunteer efforts! I have seen companies that go to great lengths to support their workers in their volunteering…but I have also seen companies that could care less and almost actively work against their employees. Is there a way to tell how a company supports the community/volunteering? Love to know what you think.

Joanna – thank you! Great point about problem solvers.

Pam – I think a lot of employees that manage their job, their home and their children do have a lack of time for volunteering. Personal circumstances definitely should be taken into consideration. However, there are definitely small volunteering gigs or smaller time commitments that are possible. Volunteer Match has a great website that lets you do a search for volunteer opportunities.

Lois – I love that word – multi-dimensional! I agree with you, it does make creative thinkers.

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Lois Melbourne

I like to see people that are multi-dimensional and that can be inspired by more than just their work. It gives them different skills and thinking abilities. It makes them more interesting, which is often a facets of many creative positions as well. And when I say creative, I am not talking about artistic 🙂 I need thinkers.

It is easier to motivate someone that has proven they can be motivated or stirred by something beyond their job.

Great post.

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Pam

I totally agree.. especially when someone is out of work that it is positive to see how they have utilized their time. My only concern is that sometimes a lack of volunteering may not accurately reflect the candidates desire.. for instance personal circumstances may take over – looking after a sick relative, or a single parent plus working full time may mean people have to put some other stuff on the back burner.

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Joanna

Great article! I believe that when a candidate has volunteer work it show that they know how to develop solutions to problems. Companies hire in today’s market to solve problems! It is also normally stemmed from doing something someone really likes doing, that they would want to do as a career. Using a job proposal is a great way to show how what you learned during your volunteer work can be applied to what you are capable of for a potential employer. It is hard to show the value of volunteer work on a resume, because what you said, most people don’t look at it or include it, but is extremely effective with a job proposal. See how: http://www.1-page.com

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Laura Schroeder

I love it that you look for people who stand out by being active in their community. However, I would also turn the question around and ask whether the company supports and encourages community involvement.

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Tiffany Swartz

I definitely think that volunteer experience should count on resumes. There are such a variety of skills one can learn from partaking within their community and I think that their commitment and level of loyalty shines through. It takes a dedicated individual to find the time to give up part of their weekends, lunch hours and/or free time, especially when there is not a monetary award attached.

Volunteering can be a great way to not only give back to the community, but to also learn more about a chosen field. For example, high school students that are torn between the nursing field and becoming a veterinarian could explore each of the fields in depth. The student could volunteer at their local humane society for one summer and then volunteer for their local hospital the next. Each time, the student is exposed to what the field is “really like” and also gives them a chance to connect to professionals within each field to gain a true perspective of what their future job duties would entail.

Volunteer experience can also be used for job seekers to keep their skills sharp. Often times the unemployed professionals are getting bad press when statistics are shown that the longer one is unemployed, the less useful they are. One way to battle that stigma is for these professionals to find ways of using their skill sets within a non-profit agency. This gives them an opportunity to keep their skills sharp, have something to focus on aside from becoming obsessive in their job search, expand their professional network and prove how useful they are to prospective employers.

Volunteering is also expected of college students via internships and academic service learning projects. While the majority of traditional college students are able to find these volunteer opportunities and take advantage of them, some of the non-traditional students find it a bit challenging to juggle career, family, college and volunteering. As a non-traditional student, I’ve found it challenging, but am finding ways to partake within my community. In fact, I am learning that even though I have a family, there are many opportunities for us to spend time together to give back. My twelve year old and seven year old were super excited to take part within the Pass It Forward party at Reno’s East on Sunday. Both of them went through their old toys and donated a huge tote and four boxes to the Haven House.

What’s really cool about this is that both of them are learning that they can help others, even if it’s starting a friendly conversation, sticking up for those being bullied or holding a door for a stranger entering a building. Each of them grabbed the Pass It Forward (ePIFanyNOW.org) cards and are hoping to pass them on to others. Both of them accompanied me to the stage to share our story, my seven year old overtook the microphone and had people cracking up as he made the statement, “well, we cleaned out our toys and we had a lot, because… you know, my mom’s rich.” Public speaking skills are definitely being cultivated within him 😉

All in all, I definitely think that volunteering is beneficial for everyone and will assist employers to find the ideal candidates for their vacancies.

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Lisa Wiley Parker - Recruiter Uncensored

For me, I always lean towards candidates who demonstrate they care about something beyond themselves. The me-me trend is annoying and it plays itself out in so many ways. Serving your community builds strong habits of recognizing what needs to be done around you and finding a way to pull things off, sometimes with limited resources. What business can’t use that? I watched a girl walking down the sidewalk the other day as I drove in my car. She was talking on the phone as she approached a large section of newspaper blowing around on the ground. She saw it. I know she saw it because she stepped around it. Never bothered to stop and pick it up with a trash can not but a few feet from her. This is the kind of thing that drives employers crazy. They don’t want employees that encounter problems they are fully capable of fixing who dodge them because either the problem didn’t fully register or they didn’t care to deal with it. That girl was very much in her me-me zone.

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