“Tell me about yourself.”
This is a common interview question and all prepared candidates will be poised to answer with a synopsis of their interests and achievements. But how similar would your answer be if the question came not from an interviewer, but from a new acquaintance introduced at a party?
Too many candidates conceal all non-workplace aspects of their life from potential employers because they think it looks more professional. They may be missing out.
Here are five common interests which, contrary to popular wisdom, you should put on your CV.
Type “social media + job” into any search engine and the advice will be unanimous; having a public presence on the net is a massive no-no. This is hardly surprising when many unfortunate netizens have found themselves unemployed after making an off-colour joke on Twitter or complaining about their boss in a Facebook post. Yet with good common sense and privacy controls, savvy Snapchatters and talented Tweeters are a valuable asset to any company keen to improve their own social media presence… which, in this age of increased digital connectivity is almost all of them!
Millennials, notorious for their reliance on social media, are being courted by many companies for both their talents and their wallets. Social media is seen as an integral part of this campaign, so a demonstrable knowledge of such platforms will give you an edge.
One of the advantages of the modern world is that it allows us all to travel further and more frequently than ever before. Moreover, the ‘gap year’, once the domain of school leavers, is spreading to many older people looking to take a career break and see the world. Commonly, the advice given to those returning to the workplace is hide such career ‘gaps’ from employers at all costs. Doing so, however, means you lose the opportunity to show off the unique skills you developed while embracing new cultures and experiences.
Our world is increasingly global and many businesses have at least some exposure to areas and countries outside their own. Having a first-hand understanding of how culture and practices vary across regions gives travel-lovers an advantage. They often have fresh perspectives and new ideas which can inject vim into a company. Moreover, any traveller knows that it requires a great deal of organisation, self-motivation and confidence to embark off into the unknown, particularly if you travelled alone or off the beaten path. In short, globe-trotters have the skills that all companies, international or not, look for in their employees.
“Never talk about religion and politics” is one of the great rules of social etiquette. It is certainly true that you should never articulate a strong political opinion in any work environment without being 100% sure of how it will be received. Yet expressing an interest in politics in your CV or interview can be a valuable addition.
Political engagement shows employers you have an interest in current affairs and are switched on to the world around you. This is particularly important when you consider that no business operates in a vacuum, and local and global policies are likely to substantially affect its day-to-day operations. Demonstrating an understanding of these business risks and opportunities will impress employers.
Having a weekly kick about with your mates or regularly running 5km might not sound like the sort of thing employers would be interested in, but a love of sport is indicative of highly desirable employability traits. Playing team sports, unsurprisingly, makes you a better team player, and all fitness fanatics demonstrate determination and motivation.
There is a notion that candidates who are into extreme sports put off employers by appearing too ‘high-risk’, either because they seem more likely to make reckless decisions or because they are deemed more susceptible to injury. The problem with this argument is that it not only completely ignores the fact that employees who exercise regularly tend to take far less sick leave, it also disregards the fact that being a risk-taker in the workplace can be an extremely positive trait. After all, it is people who are willing to shake things up and try new ideas that innovate businesses. Moreover, being a risk-taker does not make you reckless. A part-time skydiver has the confidence to leap into the unknown, but he also has the foresight to prepare a parachute!
So you spend your Sunday mornings coding computer games and take a weekly class in parkour? Many job sites will advise you to stick to listing hobbies related to the role you are applying for but there’s a lot to be said for including something a bit more unusual. After all, any activity can teach useful skills which can be transferred to the workplace with a little imagination. The gaming geek may have the tech-savviness a company need to give its website that extra oomph. The parkour enthusiast is adept at practical problem solving. Understanding your strengths should go beyond your office life, and interviewers will be impressed by someone who can prove they live and breathe the qualities they’re claiming to possess.
There’s another reason a unique hobby can benefit a candidate: it makes you memorable. Employers may go through tens or even hundreds of CVs to fill a position, and anything that makes you stand out from the crowd is a bonus. Every good candidate can tell an interviewer how they project managed a team to success or showed impeccable organisational skills in completing a work document, but how many of them can show how they utilised the same skills in completing an ascent of Kilimanjaro?
Ultimately, no employer wants to hire a robot. Talking genuinely about yourself makes you more interesting, more likeable… and more employable!
Beth Leslie is a content writer for the UK’s leading graduate recruitment agency, Inspiring Interns. Check out their blog for more graduate careers advice. If you are an employer looking to hire an intern or a candidate wishing to secure an internship or find graduate jobs London, head to their website.
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