Re: Interviews/Resumes - Outside Interests

Subject: Re: Interviews/Resumes - Outside Interests
From: "Marilyn Baldwin (mlbb -at- capgroup -dot- com)" <Marilyn_Baldwin -at- CAPGROUP -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 15 May 1998 10:58:37 -0700

I agree absolutely with Bob Morrisette's response to Barbara Philbrick.
Outside Interests, Community Involvement, Organizational Memberships,
Hobbies, and Military Experience have NO PLACE on a resume. Every one of
these pieces of extraneous information can be a potential landmine that
triggers conscious or unconscious bias in the person reading your res.
Remember its purpose: it is your primary sales tool and it should describe
the JOB-RELATED skills and experience you can provide to add value to the
company where you are seeking employment. The fact that you volunteer on
the community outreach committee at your church, or coach your kid's Little
League team, or are active in the local Democratic Booster Club may
alienate someone who stumps for the absolute separation of church and
state, bitterly remembers the coach who made their kid a permanent
bench-warmer, or despises Bill Clinton. You never want to give someone a
non-job-related reason to dismiss you from consideration. And before you
think "Well, if that's how narrow-minded they are, maybe I just don't want
to work there" --remember, this may be an HR person having first eyes on
the resume, not the wonderfully simpatico project manager whose team you'd
be joining.

(Another pet peeve: extremely experienced people who begin their resumes
with Education rather than Job Experience. Unless you have just graduated
from college and have little "real world" experience to talk about, or are
seeking employment in academia, or are counting on an "old alumni" network
to work in your favor -- what employers care about is your track record,
your experience. Especially for those who are skills-rich but
academics-poor (e.g., never got that bachelor's degree), you want the
potential employer to be convinced you've got the goods BEFORE they stumble
over the fact that your work life apparently began right after junior

I don't know how it works in other states, but in these lawsuit-happy times
and in California, my experience is that even in interview situations, most
employers (both HR people and staff and line personnel) are very careful to
couching questions that go after anything but job-related information. Of
course, in addition to verbal and written communication skills, product
expertise, kinds of projects you've been involved with, and so on, this
also includes personal characteristics - honesty, ethics,
approchability/friendliness, ability to think on your feet, willingness to
consider alternatives, openness about past failures and successes on the
job, how you learned to get along with a difficult employee, what you hope
to be doing career-wise in five years, etc. I would be very gun-shy about
asking things in an interview like:
- What's the last book you read that impressed you, and why? - What
if the answer is "Mormons: Dedicated Christians or Dangerous Cult? You
Decide" ?
- What do you like to do in your free time? - How exactly do you
follow up if they say "I march for gay rights/go shooting in the
desert/work as a volunteer at an abortion clinic" without getting into
areas that make HR get downright twitchy?

After you open up Pandora's boxes like these, if you decide that this
person really isn't the best candidate for the job, are you sure you can
PROVE that you didn't discriminate against them because of their answers to
questions like these? The truth is, it is none of your business what books
people read or what causes they support in their private, off-the-job
lives. You are hiring them for their skills, their experience, the sense
you have that they would "fit" in your organization. My advice would be to
develop some other antenna for sensing the subjective stuff - don't try to
get to it via questions that shuffle over into gray areas.

This probably sounds paranoid to those of you who work in small-size
companies, or routinely chat casually about what local church someone
attends, or who they favored in the last election. In a place as
culturally/ethnically/religiously/politically diverse as California, and in
large companies with diverse workforces, we need to be far more sensitive
to these sorts of issues. This isn't being PC - it's just being realistic.

- Marilyn Baldwin (mlbb -at- capgroup -dot- com)

From: Barb Philbrick <caslonsvcs -at- IBM -dot- NET> AT Internet_Gateway on 05/14/98
08:40 PM

To: TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU AT Internet_Gateway -at- ccmail
cc: (bcc: Marilyn Baldwin/CDS/CG/CAPITAL)
Subject: Re: Interview Questions (deliberately veering from techie vs

>Personally, I have trouble with questions like what's your favorite
>novel/music/movie/pastime/etc. I was one of those people who couldn't
>decide on a major because everything (except economics) was so darned
If I was doing the interviewing, I'd be happy to know the interviewee
couldn't settle on a favorite. I'm the same way, so I would feel that "How
the heck could I pick a favorite" is a good answer.

The favorite and hobbies questions do have a purpose. When I was teaching,
I taught students how to write resumes, and one of the discussions was
"what do you put in the Outside Interest section?" Supposedly, interviewers
like to hear that you like team sports (football, baseball, soccer) over
individual sports (running, jogging). If you like team sports, you're more
likely to be a "team
player" and take direction well. Some others:
* You like chess =3D ability to think through problems.
* Rock band =3D out late at gigs

I don't necessarily subscribe to this, though I can see where the
information could be useful as part of the overall interview process.


Barbara Philbrick, Caslon Services Inc.
Technical Writing. caslonsvcs -at- ibm -dot- net
Cleveland, OH

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