Getting serious about hobbies


Love the weekend? Fantasise about spending 48 hours doing absolutely nothing? I’ve got bad news for you: if you want to compete in today’s cut-throat job market you’d better do something productive with that precious time. Not for enjoyment — just so that you can put it on your CV (resume).

Take public sector worker David Shroll. A keen scuba diver and athlete, he reckons that listing his passions is a key part of selling himself. “I think hobbies and interests are a relevant part of the application,” he says. “With scuba diving, I’m an instructor, which shows that I’ve got leadership skills, and with athletics they can see a dedication and commitment.”

Shroll is not alone. Caulette Campbell, a payroll coordinator, lists modelling, collecting vintage clothes and playing saxophone on her CV. “I think it shows that you have other interests and that you know how to balance your life and work,” she says. “I put down collecting vintage clothes because it shows I’m not a one-dimensional finance person, and the modelling has definitely brought opportunities — I’m the face of payroll for 2007.”

For many people, ditching the hobbies section of a CV happens around graduation — once you have something as concrete as a degree to record, you don’t need to resort to listing your amateur theatrical appearances. But according to recruitment firm Morgan McKinley, we shouldn’t be so hasty to delete our interests.

Operational managing director Andy Evans reckons that the hobbies and interests section on CVs is making a bit of a comeback. “There has been an increase at the junior end of the market,” he says, “and when you are choosing 10 graduates out of 50, you may well use hobbies as a way of differentiating (between them).”

And Jeff Wellstead, a director of human resources, agrees. “I’d say there has been a resurgence of interest around hobbies,” he says. “People want you to see them as people, rather than work drones.”

In fact, when you consider that, according to research conducted by, 59 per cent of employers think hobbies are an important part of a CV, it’s no wonder that smart candidates are out there climbing mountains, running marathons and generally extending their go-getting attitude into their holidays.

So why does the idea of telling my employer what I get up to in my spare time feel like such an imposition? Setting aside the fact that I already give most of my waking hours to them, maybe it’s because baring my inner passions might not be the best idea.

“I have lots of hobbies but I don’t put them all down,” Shroll explains. “For example I enjoy surfing the internet, but with all the stories about staff abusing web privileges, it’s not something you’d highlight.”

Some interests (for example, rugby or soccer) certainly appear to be more acceptable than others (contemporary dance, poetry). “Not all hobbies are equal,” says Andy Evans. “In the financial sector, we don’t want to see quirky — we’re looking for team sports that demonstrate leadership and commitment or voluntary work where you are doing something good in your community. Something that shows you are using your weekends efficiently and to broaden your horizons.”

“For a sales job I would expect to see things like triathlon, running or cycling, and for a marketing job I’d be looking for team sports, dragon boat racing, coaching — that kind of thing,” says Jeff Wellstead. “Someone put down their ‘three beautiful daughters’ and that was really cute, but someone else put down bull-fighting, extreme parachuting and motocross, and I thought that’s really not cool — it’s just trying to get noticed.”

Even if you could apply a rationale to Wellstead’s lists of likes and dislikes, recruiter Evans explains how subjective judging hobbies can be. “Saying that you like spending time with your family is a bit vague — it could mean anything,” he says.

“But saying you captain your local football team says a lot about you — that you like a challenge, that you can manage 11 chaps, that you have commitment.”