As an IT manager, I’ve looked at a lot of resumes. Some have impressed me, some have bored me, and some have made me laugh. But all good resumes have one thing in common: They make me want to meet the applicant in person. How do they do that? For one thing, good resumes often include a hobby section that sends a strong message to a potential employer, confirming that the applicant is the right type of person for the job.

Many applicants don’t pay enough attention to the hobby section, and that apathy can work against them. Like other resume sections, your hobbies must support the all-important goal of getting the interview. Here’s how to make sure your hobbies are in line with the job you want.

Hobbies offer a window to your personality
Imagine an IT manager who wants to hire a database programmer, desktop publisher, help desk consultant, technical writer, or data entry specialist. These jobs tend to require many hours working in front of a desk. Now imagine sifting through resumes that include active hobbies, such as skydiving, surfing, touring, camping, car racing, mountain climbing, and sailing.

These hobbies don’t seem to say, “Hey, you need me for your desk-bound job!” While there are exceptions to this principle and a person can have any one or more of these hobbies and still be great at desk-bound positions, a manager looking at two equally skilled applicants will often choose the person whose hobbies reflect a personality more suitable to the job description.

Although there are no set formulas, hobbies such as reading, writing, Internet surfing, frequenting Internet chat rooms, drawing, and painting tend to indicate a personality disposition that is better suited for desk-bound work.

IT jobs that call for fewer hours at a desk often require a more people-oriented personality. Such positions might include technical consultants, support technicians, networking officers, sales consultants, business development officers, and instructors. When considering applicants for these jobs, I look for applicants who are comfortable meeting and working with new people.

You should use your “face-to-face people-meeting” hobbies to perk up a potential employer’s interest. Here are some activities that reveal an outgoing personality: involvement with clubs, associations, or churches; traveling, camping, and touring; and team sports.

Gaming, reading, or soccer?

What hobbies are listed on your resume? Have you ever been asked about your hobbies during a job interview? Are your hobbies even listed on your resume? Post a comment to this article and share your opinion.

Lying is not a hobby you want to highlight
Before we go any further, I want to stress the importance of being honest on your resume. Don’t list hobbies you really don’t have just to impress a potential employer. You can, however, choose to only list those hobbies that emphasize your compatibility with a particular job description.

Let’s say you’re an avid soccer player who also enjoys computer gaming, basketball, and reading. When applying for a desk-bound position, only list the two hobbies that show your ability to sit for long periods of time behind a desk: computer gaming and reading.

Tailor your hobbies to the job description
When deciding which hobbies to list on your resume, think about whether the job is more or less desk-bound or more or less people-oriented.

For practice, let’s dissect a job description. Read this sample job description for an Information Systems Manager. While reading the description, pick out keywords and phrases that help you decide which of your hobbies might interest this potential employer.

Here are the keywords and phrases that I found to be the most pertinent:

  • “Provides for systems feasibility studies”
  • “Develops and implements user training programs”
  • “Initiate needs assessment”
  • “Supervise, train, and evaluate the performances of subordinates”
  • “Duties also involve contact with staff from other organizations and the general public”
  • “Ability to establish and maintain effective working relationships with coworkers, other professionals, and the general public”

These indicate that the job is less desk-bound and more people-oriented. You might also note that they are looking for someone who can be both a team leader and team player.

To show that your personality would be a good fit in this job, you should include any of your more outgoing and team-oriented hobbies. For example, basketball, football, soccer, team sailing, club memberships, and non-job-related classes would all reveal the more extroverted side of your personality.

I’d leave out solo hobbies or hobbies that involve just one or two people, such as tennis, chess, surfing, reading, and writing.

Make yourself stand out
As you can see, your hobbies can make your resume stand out from the rest. While you will not (usually) be given a job based solely on whether you enjoy basketball or bridge, your hobbies can play a role in getting you in the door. Then it’s up to your interview skills to get you the job.

More resume-writing help

To find out more about creating an informative, effective, and professional resume, check out these other TechRepublic articles, columns, and downloads:

  1. “Explaining gaps in work history”
  2. “Tips for rewriting your resume”
  3. “Tips for writing the perfect technical resume”
  4. “Download this sample contractor’s resume”
  5. “Hand-delivered resume may net a close encounter”
  6. “Resume and cover letter makeovers build winning job applications for IT pros”
  7. “Resume tip: Emphasize your management experience”
  8. “Resume essentials for independent contractors”
  9. “Explain it to your grandmother”
  10. “Beef up your resume by doing volunteer IT work”