Is It Acceptable to Put Significant Volunteer Work on Your Resume Even if it was Not Done Through an Organization?

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out exactly how to craft a winning resume – you have so many choices, and there are so many things you can include — so how do you get the best chance of landing that dream job?

Let’s look at one of these big questions — what to do about volunteer experience. Many potential employers will value having some type of volunteer background — but how much? Think of your resume as an investment of valuable space — how much should you allocate to your volunteer history? Here are some tips from a company that offers forklift jobs in California and other types of opportunities.

Does It Add Value?

Think about the value that your volunteer experience adds.

If it wasn’t done for a formal organization, it might not sound quite as good. On the other hand, it might still be useful on your resume.

If you actually took a trip to an impoverished area to help people rebuild their homes, maybe it doesn’t matter so much whether you did it with Habitat for Humanity or whether you went on your own. But suppose you did something not quite as easy to categorize, like serving in a soup kitchen. If you can’t name the organization that ran the soup kitchen, you might want to leave that detail off — because it adds a lot less value if you just say that you served some people some soup.

Always Assess Length

As mentioned above, what you should be doing is going through your entire resume and looking very critically at how much space each item takes up. It’s also a good idea to look at where you position each part of your resume.

In terms of visibility, your volunteer experience should be toward the end. Hardly any employers are going to value volunteer history so much that it’s going to take precedence over your actual education, skills and qualification.

But even at the end, your volunteer information shouldn’t take up too much space. A few lines at the most. So you don’t want to write a book about some urban outreach experience you had, or some charity event that you hosted. You just want the facts — short and sweet.

Look Critically at Your Resume Claims

Along with the idea that you have to position information on your resume in the best way, there’s another big tip that can help: that you should be thinking about how you look when you relate your volunteer history to potential employers.

Think about that old issue of “puffing yourself up” or embellishing a resume — we all know that you shouldn’t lie on a resume — but should you stretch the truth?

In these media-savvy days, most hiring managers and interviewers are going to be fairly knowledgeable about what claims seem realistic and reasonable, and which ones seem hyperbolic, immodest and a bit arrogant. Whatever you put on your resume, you don’t want it to seem like you’re desperate to make yourself seem like a God in human form — you want your resume to read like a realistic portrayal of somebody who’s good at their job.

With that in mind, keep your volunteer history very concrete and skip the self-praising details for the interview.

These tips can help you to fine-tune your professional resume in order to improve your place in the work world.