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Build Your Career Get Ahead

Need a Resume Boost? Add Volunteer Experience

Need a Resume Boost? Add Volunteer Experience
Credit: RawPixel/Shutterstock

Having trouble landing a job? Try talking about your volunteer work on your resume.

According to a new study from Deloitte, more than 85 percent of those involved in hiring decisions, either directly or indirectly, believe resumes that include volunteer activities look more impressive. In addition, nearly the same percentage of hiring decision makers said they are willing to overlook negatives when an applicant's resume also includes volunteer work.

Nonetheless, just one-third of job applicants include volunteer experience on their resume.

"As the battle for talent continues, volunteering can be a strong leg up on the competition for both prospective employees and employers," Mike Preston, chief talent officer for Deloitte LLP, said in a statement.

Although employers view all forms of volunteering favorably, they are most impressed by skills-based community service, the research found. Skills-based volunteering is when employees use their professional skills to help nonprofit organizations, such as by offering free consulting or help with marketing. [See Related Story: New LinkedIn Service Matches Volunteers with Nonprofits]

"The majority of respondents believed that [skills-based volunteering] improves communications skills, strengthens accountability and commitment, and helps individuals develop strong character," the study's authors wrote.

Many hiring decision makers think employees who volunteer have a greater chance of becoming future leaders: Eighty percent of those surveyed believe active volunteers move into leadership roles more easily.

In addition, 92 percent of hiring decision makers think volunteering expands an employee's professional skill set, and 73 percent said people who volunteer are more successful.

"Given there is a strong interest in candidates with volunteering experience, businesses may need to do more to communicate to potential talent how much they value the critical professional skills developed through volunteer activities," the study's authors wrote.

Previous research from staffing firm Robert Half found that 41 percent of U.S. employees volunteer outside work. Of those, 61 percent think community service helps them improve their sense of well-being and effectiveness at the office, and 57 percent said volunteering helps them expand their networks. Additionally, nearly half said community service helps them develop new skills, and 35 percent said it enhances their company's visibility.

To help people get started with volunteering, Robert Half offered several tips:

  • Find a charity you can help. Look for charitable organizations in your community that you want to help. Then, contact them to see if they need your assistance. During your call, explain your specific skills and interests to ensure you will be a good fit for the organization's needs.
  • See what your employer suggests. Many businesses have established connections with nonprofit organizations that may be a good fit for you. Other companies offer volunteer matching or grant programs for employees who volunteer.
  • See if a co-worker wants to join in. While volunteering on your own is a great step, there may be an opportunity to make an even bigger impact by getting co-workers involved.
  • Don't think just about the holidays. Although the holiday season is considered a time for giving, don't limit your volunteering efforts to a couple of months out of the year. There are valuable community service organizations that need help year-round.

Given the benefits that employees gain from volunteering, employers should be doing more to connect their current staff members with volunteering opportunities, the Deloitte researchers said.

Less than half of those surveyed by Deloitte said their employer offers a volunteer program. Of those who work for an organization that doesn't offer volunteering opportunities, two-thirds said they would take advantage of these opportunities if they existed.

"[The] results indicate that corporate volunteer programs may be able to help employees develop stronger professional and leadership skill sets and better prepare employees for leadership roles," Deloitte's researchers wrote.

The Deloitte study was based on surveys of 2,506 individuals who are currently employed and either directly or indirectly influence hiring.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.