Do we need to see jobseekers’ hobbies on CVs?

Hobbies and interests

One of the most common debates I have with candidates both as a recruiter and while wearing my career-coaching hat when reviewing or writing a client’s CV is the level of personal information that should be included.

It’s remarkable how much debate I have had around this point, as some clients are adamant that their hobbies should stay on their CV. My answer, with the odd exception, is absolutely not, particularly for experienced candidates. Here’s why:

Judge on skills, not hobbies

The reasons for this are simple. I believe a candidate should be judged on skills and suitability for the role rather than on their hobbies.

I encountered an extreme example of this when I worked for a Midlands-based business, where I worked closely with the line managers within the IT division where there were regular vacancies. As most in-house recruiters would do, I initially reviewed all candidates for suitability, then worked with the line manager filtering candidates’ CVs for the next stage.

On this occasion, I sat down with the line manager and went through each candidate’s details and each time he went straight to the candidate’s hobbies and interests section. One of the candidates had put that they were a season ticket holder for one of the local football teams. The line manager looked at this and immediately tossed the CV into the reject pile saying that he didn’t want any more fans of that team working for him.

I genuinely thought this was a wind-up, being relatively new to the business, and thought it was just to get a reaction, however after five minutes of debate I realised that he was deadly serious and that he was rejecting a perfectly able and suitable candidate based purely on their football affiliation.

I was livid, not only for the candidate, but for all of the work that my recruitment team had put into filling the role only to have a candidate rejected just because they did not follow the right team.

We had an exchange of views in which I refused to present any further CVs and went to the IT Director to explain the situation. I’m glad to say I got the initial decision reversed and the candidate finally got to second stage interview before being declined, however it was certainly not based on what football team he supported!

I wish I could say this was an isolated incident, but sadly not. I spent over 10 years in corporate recruitment roles and you would be surprised how many line managers used hobbies and interests to contribute towards the selection decision. Most with good intentions based around team fit, but still the odd occasion where a decision was made purely on what the candidate’s interests were.

Questionable CVs

Every recruiter I know has a story about questionable information a particular candidate has included on their CV. This can be anywhere in the CV, but I have seen some real howlers in the hobbies and interests sections.

A recent client of mine argued the case for 10 minutes on why he felt that managing his two teenagers through puberty should be on his CV as he felt it showed his management skills. While bringing up teenagers is a challenge, I’m sure there were more relevant work-related challenges that would have better demonstrated this! I’m glad to say that he finally relented and is starting a new role soon, but if he had left that information on his CV, I believe the outcome could have been very different.

The only exception…

The one exception to this rule however is the inclusion of certain hobbies and interests that can add genuine value to an application, such as Duke of Edinburgh awards or mentoring roles. These are especially useful for candidates who have recently left school or have limited work experience and need to show in a competitive market what qualities they can bring to a role.


1 Comment

  1. Maurice July 19, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    Sounds the candidate had a win and avoided working for a sectarian boss – you sould have mentioned that “football” is seen as a proxy for your “tradition” in some parts of the UK.

    Surprisng that its Brum I would have said Scotland or NI

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