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Interests can be a hit and miss affair on executive resumes. We approached a few Australian recruiters for their tips.
Businesses want leaders who are good with other people, have the right social connections, and seek knowledge that improves their understanding of market conditions, they say.
You may be surprised at which of the following should be left on or off your list:
Russell Johnson of executive career consultancy EPR says executives should downplay “anything that tends to indicate a preference for solitary pursuits”.
“An executive life isn’t solitary,” he says. “It’s not a bad thing to spend time in solitude, but you’ve got to be careful of what you emphasise on your resume.”
According to Andrew McEncroe, partner at Derwent Executive, triathlons are in vogue among executives in “white collar advisory and professional services settings” like banking, legal and management consulting.
Extra points go to those who have completed a charity event including some adventure or sport requiring endurance such as long-distance cycles, multi-day runs and extreme locations such as deserts, he says.
Yoga is also in vogue, McEncroe says. Yogis say it improves physical and mental health, and reduces stress.
Yes, you can play golf on your own, but EPR’s Johnson says it’s still a favourite on executive resumes because business deals tend to be made on the green. “In a lot of circles, that’s how business gets done,” he says.
Johnson says executives should take on board-level positions in not-for-profit organisations: this emphasises leadership skills and the “intent of doing something worthwhile”.
One of his clients joined the board of an organisation that aimed to support female business leaders – a pursuit that was “worthwhile for its own sake” as well as being an excellent networking opportunity.
Whether an interest in reading will help or hinder your career prospects depends on what you read. Johnson says the interests of successful executives are typically aligned with their careers.
That means executives should read material that develops either their understanding of the world or their social skills, but not fantasy books.
“Definitely not fantasy books,” Johnson says. “As an executive, you probably a. don’t have the time, and b. don’t have the interest.”
Executives and politicians seem to love mentioning their teenage children in public speeches, especially with topics like smartphone use and social networks becoming increasingly prevalent.
Johnson says a devotion to family is a “deep and fundamental” part of life and, if properly handled in job applications, can help by humanising the hiring process.
If you’re still unsure, you may want to play it safe and leave interests off your resume entirely. Derwent Executive’s McEncroe says the risk of having your application ruled out for being “too quirky” outweighs the benefits of differentiating yourself through your list of interests.
Information on networking sites like LinkedIn could also be enough to add colour to your application with photos giving “a sense of their style”, McEncroe says.
“Interests are not a feature on many senior white-collar executive [resumes] and as a recruiter, I won’t run an initial screen based on them,” he says. “In any event, executives play it pretty safe to reflect the conservative nature of many large companies.”
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