Pro’s & Con’s of Listing Volunteer Work on Your Resume

volunteer work on a resume

Listing volunteer work on your resume can be a great way to show who you are. And being part of any community, which volunteer work mainly entails, can show you care about teamwork and are compassionate about others.

But what are some of the drawbacks of listing volunteer work on your resume? Here are the “pros” and “cons” of listing volunteer work on your resume.

listing volunteer work on the resume

Table Of Contents

3 Pro’s Of Listing Volunteer Work On Your Resume

Let’s start with the “pros” of putting volunteer work on your resume.

Show’s team work and people skills

As a byproduct of putting volunteer work on your resume, you are communicating to your future employer that you know how teamwork can accomplish great things. And you know how to be compassionate towards others.

Empathy is a great soft skill. And showing your volunteer work proves that you have these qualities. Volunteer work can communicate a variety of soft skills, including:

Show’s you go above and beyond the job

Showing your volunteer work means that you don’t end your passion and workday when it’s 5 pm. You extend yourself beyond normal working hours to see progress. This can be a great indicator to future employers.

Show’s experience

For those who don’t have a lot of working experience, showing volunteer work can be a form of work experience. Most volunteer work requires teams and coordination. Which happens to be the primary way that work is done within the workplace. While it’s not a one-to-one example, it can definitely help to “pad” your resume when you’re missing vital work experience.

Pro tip: 82% of managers like to see volunteer work on the resume as previous experience.

3 Con’s Of Listing Volunteer Work On Your Resume

While there are a number of pro’s for listing volunteer work on your resume, what are some of the risks that you should be thinking about?

It takes up vital space

If you have enough work experience to fill an entire page on your resume, you shouldn’t be adding volunteer work if it extends your resume over one-page. If your resume ends up being two-pages, then you could risk the future employer not reading your entire resume.

It may not replace work experience

While having volunteer work on your resume can definitely help when you’re missing vital experience, it doesn’t replace it. By showing too much of your volunteer work, however big or small, it could point out to the reader that you don’t have any work experience.

It doesn’t mean you’ll get the job

Listing volunteer experience is great, but it’s a “trick” that many other applicants will also be taking. This can mean that it doesn’t separate you from the crowd. You should consider that when thinking about the real estate on your resume and what you want your resume reader to pay attention to.

Resume readers, on average, spend only 7 seconds looking at a resume. This means you have a very limited amount of time to grab their attention. Is listing volunteer experience worth it, then?

How And Where Do You List Volunteer Work On The Resume

If you’ve decided that listing volunteer work is right for your resume, consider the placement and what you want your volunteer work to communicate.

The first thing is the placement of your volunteer work. Ideally, you place it after your work experience, but in the same column.

Simply start a new line and a small header that is similar to “work experience” and call it “volunteer work”. After that, add one to three strong bullet points regarding your volunteer work.

When thinking about what goes in your bullet points, consider the actions that you’ve taken with your volunteer work experience and the outcomes that you’ve produced from it.

For example, don’t say, “Helped the homeless.” Try to say something like, “Fed 30,000 homeless people each week.”

Tying a number and a result of your volunteer work to the experience shows the soft skills that your employer is looking for.

Here’s what it should look like:

Volunteer Experience:

It’s as simple as that!

Deciding Whether Listing Your Volunteer Work Is Worth It Or Not

If you are having trouble deciding whether or not to list your volunteer work, consider these points. The first is, does your volunteer work have a big impact? If your volunteer work is something along the lines of, "coaching youth baseball" then you might want to leave that off. It doesn't have as much of an impact as "feeding 10,000 homeless each week" would.

The only way to decipher if your volunteer work will have impact is to try and write down the results you produce from your work each week, month, or year. If you are struggling to find something impactful to say in terms of results of your work, then you may want to veto adding it to your resume.

If finding impactful points about your work seems easy, then it might be something you want to include. It truly depends on what you can say that shows your ability to make an impact on people. Which is emulating the experience an employer may have with you having a positive impact on its customer base.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.

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