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Monday, 25 July 2011

Are you interesting?!

Your interests and any activities that you took part in at university or college can provide you with great opportunities for demonstrating and illustrating skills that employers want.

Think about using your interests as evidence in two main ways:
1. To get across the kind of person you are (eg active, with diverse interests), on a CV. They might also indicate something of your values (eg if you do voluntary work).
2. To provide evidence for the competency based questions on some application forms and at interviews.
It’s harder than you might think to list of all your interests and hobbies. Start with a list of two or three things you really enjoy, but then you may find it gets more difficult! It is worth persisting to see what your interests tell you about yourself, and what they could tell an employer.

What counts as interests?
Interests and activities can be defined as anything that you have done outside the strict limitations of your course or paid work. Obvious examples include sport, leisure activities, hobbies and socialising. However you can also include voluntary work, care or other work within the family, membership of clubs and societies, including taking responsibility for organisation or committees within such clubs and positions of responsibility on committees at your university or college.

A list of your interests may tell someone else a little bit about you, but it is not until you think further about how and why you do things that you will begin to have some real evidence about yourself. This may help you identify jobs that you would be suited to or that you will enjoy.

Do employers really care?
Employers like to hear about the interests of people that they recruit, provided that the candidate presents the information in a meaningful way. With careful selection, analysis, and communication, interests can be a great resource for matching your past and present experience to skills which are required for a particular job.

Employers do care about your interests, but not for their own sake. They are looking for evidence that you will suit the post they are recruiting for, that you are a well rounded individual who has interests outside your education and studies and that you have acquired practical and transferrable skills from these non academic activities.

Your interests are concrete ways of demonstrating your preferred ways of working and behaving. They reveal your personality, your values, and your behaviour preferences. For example, if you apply for a busy sales job but all your interests are solitary activities, then a recruiter might wonder whether you could negotiate and communicate with others.

You may say that you would love to work in a team; this has far more weight if you can provide evidence. Give an example of your teamwork, even if it doesn't relate to a workplace team, so the employer can feel more confident about your assertion. Employers may sometimes want you to provide evidence of your interests. For example, if you want to be a financial adviser, how do you keep yourself informed?

Take time to improve your CV
It really is worth taking time out to think about your interests, work out which ones could really add value to your CV – and the ones that won’t!
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