How Important is Having Volunteer Work on Your Resume?

Resumes are hard to format—you have to make sure that you include your education, appropriate work experience, skills (ranging from editorial to software-related), coursework and oh, yeah, you only have one page to fit this all in! The question then becomes, what really needs to be included in your resume?

With the sheer number of resumes most employers are looking over, they likely won’t have time to give your resume more than a quick scan; so it is essential to include the most important information and leave out the rest, as painful as that may be. So is volunteer work something you definitely need to include? Does it show a potential employer that you have more skills, or does it simply take up extra space? Here’s what the experts had to say.

If you have volunteer experience…

It displays interests beyond academics


If your goal is to find an internship or full-time job in the non-profit world, including volunteer work on your resume is a great move. According to Jane Finkle, a career consultant and founder of Career Visions, “Volunteer experience demonstrates your interest in building community and the likelihood that you will be a good citizen in the workplace,” she says. Volunteer experience can also help you land jobs in the business sector, as employers recognize that it helps students build various skills and organizational experience outside of what they’d learn in school.

It can lead to a job offer


Your volunteer work is important not just for the resume boost. Sometimes, volunteering actually leads to direct job opportunities! Megan Rooney, the cooperative education coordinator at Drexel University, says, “I have had students convert their volunteer work into co-op jobs. [I worked] with a student who stayed as a volunteer with an organization after her co-op ended. That student has received an offer of employment with the organization upon her graduation.” Rooney says that employers are looking to hire someone who goes above and beyond the call of duty, and having volunteer experience on your resume is a surefire sign of that.

It is invaluable to the corporate world

According to Rooney, your volunteering work ranks as just as important as job experience when it comes to applying for certain positions, especially in the corporate world. “Every big corporate organization has a department dedicated solely to philanthropic work,” she explains. “Having volunteering work on your resume shows the employer that you care about the same causes as the organization.” Furthermore, Rooney gave examples of companies like Comcast and financial services firms like JP Morgan Chase & Co. that value philanthropic endeavors. If you’re looking to enter the corporate world, having volunteering work on your resume can instantly tell the employers that you value giving back to the community just as much as your potential employers do.

It will showcase your dedication to an employer


Maura O’Connor, also a cooperative education coordinator at Drexel, says, “Volunteer experience is an opportunity for a student to showcase passion and commitment to an employer, due to the fact that it is optional in nature.” It showcases a student’s commitment and loyalty to an organization, because working as a volunteer is completely, well, completely voluntary. These, according to O’Connor, are the qualities that can help your resume stand out from the rest.

It will help you present your best self


According to Patricia Corrigan, a career counselor at Boston College, your resume is oftentimes the first contact a prospective employer will have with you and therefore presenting your best self is key to landing an interview. “[Volunteer experience] demonstrates leadership, it shows compassion, and every volunteer experience will allow for growth and development of new skills,” she says. More importantly, Corrigan says that volunteering can show a potential employer that you are devoted to something, which is a trait that employers value.

It will help you market your hard and soft skills


Volunteer experience not only makes you stand out, but also it also helps you gain transferrable skills. According to O’Connor, “Volunteerism can equip a student with ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills including technical, communication, teamwork, problem-solving and leadership, to name a few. Most people who volunteer are devoted to a cause and can easily convey their enthusiasm via a natural narrative.” These qualities that you’ve gained from volunteering—communication, teamwork, problem-solving, leadership and enthusiasm—are superb skills to have listed on your resume, cover letter, and other applications materials.

Make room for volunteer work on your resume

Rooney says that almost every industry values volunteer work, so it’s important to make sure that you include it in your resume if you have it! Whether you are actively affiliated with an organization or dedicate a few hours to a local animal shelter every month, including this experience on your resume instantly gives you an edge over other applicants for a position. Rooney says that if your resume is already packed with information, get rid of extraneous stuff like “relevant coursework” to include volunteering work. 

2. If you don’t have volunteer experience…


Corrigan says that not having volunteer positions on your resume isn’t a deal breaker for employers. In that case, she says that it’s even more important for students to have interned or worked throughout college to ensure that they have a history of relevant experience.

Corrigan suggests that if you do find yourself with some extra hours a week, find a volunteer site and commit yourself to a cause that is meaningful to you. You can visit your college’s career center to learn about such opportunities, join student organizations that are devoted to social causes, or even look for volunteering opportunities on websites such as Volunteer Match, Hands on Network and Idealist, which can help pair you with an organization seeking volunteers with similar interests. 


The path to success can be paved through constant hard work and dedication, and one of the ways you can indicate that on your resume is by showing you have volunteer experience. But beyond the resume, attaching yourself to a meaningful cause can give you a sense of satisfaction and a feeling of accomplishment. So, if you do find yourself with a bit of extra time each week, don’t hesitate to devote them to a cause that you care deeply about!