Re: Hobbies on resumes

Subject: Re: Hobbies on resumes
From: Robert Plamondon <robert -at- PLAMONDON -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 29 Dec 1995 09:12:14 PST

For starters, a resume is a marketing document, aimed at landing work
for you. It in no way should reveal your secret thoughts! A resume
shows your public face -- those things about you that anyone can learn
without making you feel compromised.

Nor is resume supposed to be "balanced" in the sense that a diary
or a biography should be. The resume lists only the things that
would make people want to hire you (plus perhaps some not-good things
whose omission would glare more ominously than the facts themselves).
That's how the game is played -- managers who receive resumes that
contain embarrassing confessions don't hire the authors, just as
people who hear a fishmonger shouting "Stinking fish!" at the top
of his lungs don't buy any fish. Naked honesty is a sure way to
cause people to rush for the exits.

Thus, any list of hobbies on the resume should contain only carefully
selected hobbies -- those that will increase your chances of getting
hired. Only more-or-less relevant, universally acceptable, non-
threatening hobbies should be listed. My list of considerations:

* As always in polite company, discussions of religion and politics
should be scrupulously avoided (except among people you know,
and then only if they're willing). Never indicate anything with
religious or political overtones in a resume. Use a very broad
definition of religion and politics when applying this rule. People
are touchy.

* Hobbies that will reinforce bad stereotypes should not be
mentioned. Hobbies that negate them SHOULD be mentioned. In
particular, women shouldn't mention hobbies that are associated
with being a housewife, but (in the high-tech industry, anyway)
probably should go ahead and mention any macho hobbies. My
wife would probably benefit from putting "motorcycle collecting"
(NOT "riding," "mechanic-ing," or "club membership," though) on
her resume. I would probably omit it from my resume.

* All appearance of fanaticism should be avoided. Employers worry
that employees will vanish or stop working because their hobby
attracts all their time. I've seen workers who suffer greatly
from this on a semi-permanent basis, so it can be a valid concern.
Hobbies should be presented as an interesting diversion, not the
great passion of one's life.

* Put in "rounder-outer" hobbies, which for engineers tend to be
things like metal-working, model-building, some forms of racing,
and other things that involve technically involved skills and
hands-on experience.

* Think long and hard about complementary hobbies. Many managers are
both narrow and shallow, and can be made uneasy by applicants who
break the stereotypes too strongly. Engineers who do public speaking,
for instance. Mentioning fiction-writing or (gasp!) poetry in a
resume is the kiss of death when dealing with one of these
cognitively impaired managers. While you might not want to work
for such a person anyway, often the nix is put on an application by
someone other than the manager, so be careful out there.

* Prizes and awards count. The more ignorant the reader is of the hobby,
the more they count. This is why advertising agencies spend so much
time creating tiny phantom organizations whose sole purpose is to hand
out awards to their sponsors. It costs nothing, it makes the clients
feel good, it bloats your resume, and you get a free lunch when you meet
to decide whose turn it is to win.

-- Robert

Robert Plamondon * President/Managing Editor, High-Tech Technical Writing, Inc
36475 Norton Creek Road * Blodgett * Oregon * 97326
robert -at- plamondon -dot- com * (541) 453-5841 * Fax: (541) 453-4139

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