Volunteer Experience In Your Resume? Why You should Dump/Keep It


Job hunting, sounds as fun as it actually is to do it. If you're swimming across the job market in search of your next (working) home, then every detail counts.

So whether you worked formally for a nonprofit, or had a few months of experience as a volunteer, this article will help you figure it what that actually MEANS for companies out there.

Should you fill out every detail of your volunteer experience? Or make space in your resume for something more “valuable”?

Let's find out together...

Do they really care?

Everybody loves surprises, and I'm sure you'll love this one:

What does unpaid work for a nonprofit have to do with finding a new job at a for-profit company? Most jobseekers apparently don’t see the connection. But job interviewers do, according to a new Deloitte study of 2,506 U.S. hiring managers.

The gap in perception is huge: 82% of interviewers told Deloitte they prefer applicants with volunteer experience, and 92% say volunteer activities build leadership skills.

So if you're thinking to yourself “yeah, that actually makes sense”, apparently most other people are not. In fact, it's rather the opposite. The report says, only about one in three (32%) of jobseekers mention unpaid community-service experience on their resumes.

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And here, with those incredible facts in your hand, you're thinking…. Why do they care about non-profit work?

Simple, although not easy. People who've put their professional skills to work for free – say, a marketing person who's developed a social media campaign for a non-profit – have a slightly bigger edge with hiring managers, Deloitte found, than those whose volunteer work was unrelated to their roles at work.

But what if you were helping in a field unrelated to your “professional skills”? The story is quite the same, actually. About 85% of the job interviewers said skills-based activities made candidates better at communicating, and 88% praised those applicants’ “strong character.”

On the other hand, for those collaborating on different fields unrelated to the job they're looking for a fewer number of interviewers had the same to say – with an astonishing 77%

So yes, fewer doesn't mean little in this case. And as we move forward, I'll try to convince you to put your volunteer experience to work.

Stats Don't Lie, You Might Get Hired

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We just heard how interviewers value volunteer experience, and to a shocking amount (I couldn't believe it either!). But what about your chances of actually getting hired because of it?

Ready for surprise #2? Here it goes…

According to an article published by Monster.com volunteers have a 27% higher chance of finding employment after being out of work for some time. Yes, 27 percent !

Truly amazing if you think about it. Even more when you realize most people are “leaving money on the table” by not even mentioning it in their resumes.

To quote the words of Doug Marshall, the managing director of corporate citizenship at Deloitte —” Volunteers may be underestimating how business value this kind of experience”

MAY be underestimating is a reach, they ARE doing it for sure. They leave it off their resumes because they think “employers don’t care, or they haven’t volunteered recently, or they think it would distract” interviewers from their professional experience. Another possibility: “It wouldn’t fit on their resumes.”

That reason seems especially likely for job hunters who are trying to stick to the (now outdated) dictum of fitting an entire work history onto a single page. Got you hooked on the power of volunteering experience yet? Now let's take your game to another level.

Volunteer From Home

If volunteering is sounding better and better by the second, then you may be thinking of ways to do it. Just like remote work, remote volunteering is actually a thing. Several websites will allow you to connect with charities and non-profits who will gladly accept your help in whatever they need.

Design, sales, photography, etc. But since you are already here, MicroMentor might be your best choice.

If you have business skills in any industry or field, then you can volunteer as a mentor to small business owners around the world. The MicroMentor platform makes it easy for you to sign up, browse, and connect with your perfect mentee.

After all, what could be better for your resume than “mentoring of small businesses to increase profitability through the application of marketing strategies (or whatever your background is on)” – I would hire you in a heartbeat

Volunteers Are "Better" Employees

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Understanding the “why is volunteering experience such a huge deal for companies” will make it easier for you to decide to go out to help the world —if you haven't already done so.

First and foremost, having volunteer experience in your resume sends several clear messages to your potential employer. For one, it shows that you can make a commitment and stick to it. One of the biggest risks any company faces when they hire someone is that, that employee won’t stick with the job.

If you're from my generation (the amazing millennials) I can tell you we are always on the lookout for that “better offer”. But, would you like somebody like that to be on your A-team?

Not surprisingly, most companies don't.

It’s true that you may work at a job, find it’s not for you, and look for something else. But showing that you can stick with unpaid volunteer work sends a message to employers that if they spend the time and resources training you for the position, you won’t just up and quit.

The point being, if you’re willing to devote your time to unpaid work, having volunteer experience in your resume tells employers that you’ll be a dedicated hard worker when you are being paid for it. That alone can help set you apart from the pack.

Different Companies, Different Game

If you've been around the last social media years, then you probably know the advice that every new entrepreneur will tell you when starting a business. “Work for free!” and show them your value.

How does it relate to your volunteering experience in your resume?

We previously touched on how having experience (paid or unpaid) will be a huge plus for your chances of getting a job. But I want to dive a bit deeper on some things you must avoid.

What the entrepreneurs got wrong with that “incredible piece of advice” is that no one can measure the impact you had as a “solo entrepreneur”, but working with an established non-profit is a different game.

Applying your skills for free with a non-profit will give you huge plusses, starting with the obvious, they'll most likely give you a recommendation. Or even a recommendation letter if you get lucky (not that peculiar).

Stating your experience at an established non-profit, like Mercy Corps, is way different from just writing down that you worked for free in “Johnny's Social Media Agency” —no beef with Johnny though

I hope you get what I'm saying. But the “where” actually matters, a LOT. A couple of months work for free at a charity is more valuable than running social media campaigns for your friend Bill, who will pay you $100 a week.

Yes, we are playing the long game folks... always.

The little things will get you hired

Last piece of advice that goes for the “Doubters” out there... Do – Not underestimate any kind of skills that you might have learned or applied during a volunteering experience.

Even if the job you are applying for isn’t directly in the same field that your volunteer work was in, odds are you are still coming in with some transferable skills.

These could include things such as team management if you were in a position of people working under you. Interpersonal skills, such as if your volunteer position required you to call people for donations.

A lot of people have a fear of calling strangers on the phone and asking for things. That fear alone has held many people back from their dream jobs, as communication is always a key.

Remember how we are playing the long game? The same thing applies here. Not being a great fit now doesn't mean it won't be in the future. In perspective, every skill is transferable in one way or another, that's what really matters.

Wrapping it up

I hope we cleared the air on the whole volunteering thing. Point being, it's totally worth it. If you go out and help the world you'll be rewarded somehow... a job, some money, or perhaps a coupon.

I don't really know, but it works! Go back to each section if you're still having doubts.

But hey, in case I missed something: Can you think of any other ways having volunteer experience in your resume can help you land your perfect job? Let us know, and thanks for reading!

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