Personal Section or Not? Ways to Show the Real You on Your Resume

A while back, there was a blog post on a the TechRepublic site about three mistakes people make on their resumes.

The writer listed having a personal section of interests and hobbies on your resume as one of those mistakes. (If you’d like to read the whole thread, you can go here.)

I’m in complete agreement with the other two (grammar and spelling errors, and cutesy gimmicks), but I don’t agree about personal information, and here’s what I wrote in response:

“On the personal section, though, sometimes that’s the best way for you to bring your personality into your resume, and that’s one of the secrets to getting noticed… having some personality. Who says that technical people need to be dry and boring and only recite the acronyms for what they do?

The personal section can allow you to share things that you might not be able to tell someone directly…perhaps that you’re a minority candidate, or have some affiliations to a pertinent group. Someone here linked to an article that talked about how some personal things are “good” (like running, music and being a scout leader) but some are “bad” (their example was raves and body piercings, which makes me laugh since these would both be things that I might personally list if it were appropriate).

There are not good or bad things… only things that let someone know what you’re about. And if you’re a raver into body piercings who has great technical skills, and you really don’t want to work for someone who has negative judgments about you and your personal choices, then giving a hint about it up front could be helpful, just as if you’re a gun-toting hunter who loves NASCAR and you would hate to work in some uber-progressive place, you can save a lot of time by giving a hint about that upfront.

Your call, and if you don’t know your audience, better to be safe than sorry, but don’t underestimate the power of a personal section to communicate things you might not be able to say otherwise. People like to hire real people, not just lists of software skills.”

Someone replied that he (she?) thought that was ridiculous because if someone put that they were treasurer of a church, they’d instantly toss the resume out, adding, “Religion zealots turn my stomach.”

I think that example actually proves my point and I replied:

“I don’t know if you are a hiring manager, a recruiter/screener, or just someone with an opinion who doesn’t really review any volume of resumes, but my view (as a recruiter and a job-search coach) is that we all deserve to work with people who respect us for who we are.

If someone feels their church job is a part of who they are, and the hiring person thinks that anyone who is associated with a church is a “religion zealot who turns my stomach” based on something like that, then it’s not a match, is it?

In other words, if the church is a real part of who someone is, why in the world would they want to work for you anyway? Because it is equally possible that the next person might look at that resume and say “thank god, someone who shares our values.”

Companies are not one-size-fits-all, and what’s a positive in one place may be a negative in another.

When you create a resume for a job, think carefully about whether certain information is going to be a help or a hindrance. But don’t be afraid to be who you are. If someone wants to use that against you, then you don’t really want to work there, do you?

(BTW, my advice in this context is for people are who are looking for a job that is really a fit for them… if your goal is to weasel your way into a job at any cost, even if it means pretending to be something you’re not, the advice would be different, but so would the results. It’s my firm belief that if you’re going to go after a job, do yourself a favor and find a place where you can be yourself.)”

That really is the essence of what I know as one of the secrets to happiness in life… find the people who accept you for who you are.

A lifetime of pretending to be something else, or hiding part of yourself to protect yourself from narrow-minded people, will leave you looking back and wondering what might have happened if you’d gotten up the courage to really be your real self, without pretense and without apologies.

When you are willing to be real, to be yourself, all the time, new doors open that more than make up for the ones that are shut by the people you didn’t want to work for anyway.

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