While many job seekers focus on the education and work history aspects of their resumes, volunteer services are just as important in demonstrating overall skills and abilities. Describing your community contributions allows you to give a prospective employer more information about yourself as an individual. It also demonstrates a commitment to serving others, supporting the community and being a well-rounded individual with numerous interests.
Generally, volunteer work is listed toward the end of your resume following your work history, education and awards and recognitions. If you’re new to the workforce and don't have a formal employment history to your credit, volunteer work can be featured at the beginning of your resume. Volunteer work should be listed under its own heading and should be formatted much like the rest of your resume. Include the name of the organization, your title, if applicable, dates of service and a brief overview of the organization’s mission.
Describe Your Work
Include a summary or bullet points of your responsibilities and contributions in each of your volunteer endeavors. Wherever possible, show how your volunteer efforts tie into your professional aspirations. For example, if you're applying for a project manager position and you've organized events for a non-profit business group, highlighting this contribution demonstrates your skills in this area. Or if you're seeking an office manager role, describe how you juggled phone lines for a telethon fundraiser. When you feature strengths correlated with the job, you show your work capacity.
Including volunteer work on your resume shows you have good time management skills and can handle multiple responsibilities. Even if you don't have an extensive history of formal volunteer work, be creative in how you package the contributions you have made. For example, if you occasionally read to your niece’s elementary school class, you are, in essence, supporting your local school district in a volunteer capacity. Likewise, if you send out fliers to your neighbors to organize a summer block party and barbecue, you’re working to coordinate a community event.
What to Eliminate
Use caution in listing political, religious or controversial volunteer work on your resume. A potential employer may question your professional judgment and might intentionally or unintentionally judge your character based on how you spend your free time. This is especially true if your volunteer work conflicts with the goals or mission of the company. For example, if you're seeking a job at a high-profile financial institution and your volunteer work shows a history of supporting banking reforms, you're sending a message about your personal loyalty. This can cause a red flag to go up for potential employers.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.