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During the last Imarticus Interview Prep sessions, a student asked me a question- ‘What hobbies should I put in my CV?’ He was distraught because he had put tennis as his hobby and had been unable to answer who won the last French Open. He didn’t get the job and wonders if this could have been the problem because everything else had gone so well.

Hobbies are tricky- not putting in any makes you look like a bore yet putting down something you know little about can ruin your chances of a getting a job, primarily because everything else in your resume will be questioned as well. So what’s to be done?

First let’s look at why we put the troublesome section in there at all. The ‘vitae’ curriculum vitae stands for life and this section, to some extent, gives you an opportunity to show that you have a life outside work. It helps an employer see that you can fit into various social situations, that you understand winning and losing or creating something from scratch.

A sports enthusiast comes across as both competitive and a team player especially if he/she is part of a local club. Hobbies are even more critical in client service businesses where relationships need to be fostered. It’s not for nothing they say that golfing is the networking game. But you can’t put ‘Golfing’ in just because you spent an afternoon at the driving range with your uncle.

The reality of the matter is few of us have real hobbies. We spend far too much time working or surfing the Internet and spending time on social media. Time that would have otherwise been spent with a book, a musical instrument or even sport is spent navigating traffic or checking Facebook. So what do we do? We make things up, things that most people say; reading, watching movies and sometimes even jogging.

So many interviews go like this? Students make the mistake of putting in cricket and get stuck when they’re asked whom they play for, where they play and when they last hit the ball. They usually follow up with - ‘I prefer watching Sir.’ The next question is- Tell me something about your favorite bowler and why? The end. Everyone watches cricket, not everyone knows everything about the game.

Here are some pointers on how to handle the hobbies section:

  • Stay away from general hobbies like ‘Reading’, ‘Watching movies’ unless you really know your stuff. Do not say ‘Reading’ unless you are a voracious reader, who can hold his or her own in a conversation. This means reading at least one book a week and talking about favorite authors or genres. The same goes with movies.
  • Be specific- If you do play football regularly, provide detail. Instead of just saying ‘Football’, say ‘Play football on the weekends with local club or goalie with local club.’ ‘Play the Guitar’ can be ‘ part of a small band’ because it’s quite likely that if you are a real enthusiast, you’ll have a lot more to say. If you are a history buff, try ‘Enjoy reading about Indian Independence or the partition’. This sets your resume apart
  • Don’t list your hobbies- the more you list, the more you belittle what you do. It also makes the interviewer wonder how hard you can really work.
  • Tailor the section to the job you are looking for- many JD’s prescribe specific traits they like, so choose the hobby that works best for that. Analytical could mean ‘Crosswords’ or ‘Chess’. Again, only choose one you actually practice.
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