In the past we at VolunteerSquare.com have talked a lot about how volunteering can help you land a job. But how you position your volunteer experience on your resume can be a big part of getting that crucial second look that lands you an interview. We’ve put together 5 simple tips that will help you along the way.
The term “volunteer” is an extremely broad term encompassing many potential responsibilities. Your resume will stand out both to resume-scanning software and to hiring managers by including a specific job title. If you were a general volunteer but had a lot of exposure to a specific field, such as accounting, ask your agency if it’s okay to address yourself as an accounting volunteer.
Think about which of these two catches the eye of somebody looking for an accountant:
1) Position Title: Volunteer
2) Position Title: Donor Accounting Volunteer
The second example is more clearly defined as a working responsibility with transferrable skills and just may help get your foot in the door for an interview.
BE CLEAR ABOUT YOUR ROLE
Recruiters and hiring managers thrive on the specifics of your work history, especially if you are a recent graduate or are still in school. These specifics can clearly illustrate your skills and interests, and how they align with the position you are applying for. You also define where you are in an agency so that recruiters have a better understanding of your functions. Compare these two descriptions:
1) Served as a marketing intern executing online promotions and social media.
2) Served as a marketing intern and reported to the online marketing manager. Handled copywriting and photography for the E-newsletter, ran Google Adwords campaigns, and networked with prospective program attendees and donors using Facebook and Twitter.
Example #2 gives recruiters a much clearer picture of what this volunteer did by listing very specific skills a potential employer may be on the hunt for.
QUANTIFY YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS
One of the only things hiring managers love more than specific job descriptions is quantifiable summaries of what you accomplished. What value did you bring to your agency during your volunteer time? Illustrating what you did for your volunteer agency showcases what you can do for your potential full-time employer. Keep detailed notes of what you do during the day and how it supports your volunteer group. If you can, ask for information about how your work has helped the agency and if you have permission to use it as an example of your success. Find ways to connect your work to successful agency events, campaigns, or donor drives. Consider these examples:
1) Helped to increase overall donor contributions through direct calls and mailing campaigns.
2) Helped to increase overall donor contributions by 150% over a three month period through direct calls and mailing campaigns.
When it comes to accomplishments that impress recruiters, remember the bolded parts: numbers and time frame.
LIST SKILLS YOU LEARNED
When describing your job responsibilities, be sure to mention any type of skills you developed or software you became more familiar with. It helps you survive the resume scanning programs we’ve talked about and it also demonstrates interest in your career field. Look at these two examples:
1) My primary responsibility from 2011-2012 was graphic design.
2) My primary responsibility from 2011-2012 was graphic design using the Adobe Creative Suite including Adobe Photoshop CS6, Illustrator, and Fireworks.
Example #2 is much stronger. It tells recruiters that you have a year of exposure and experience in specific and popular design programs. It shows that you spent significant time honing skills for the job you’re applying to and it demonstrates willingness to learn, especially when you sought out a volunteer position in the field.
KEEP IT CONCISE
This article has emphasized specifics, but it’s very important to keep concise as well. Hiring managers are busy people, and if they find that your volunteer description takes too much time to read, it’s likely to end up in the discarded pile. Try to describe your volunteer position in the least amount of words you need to explain everything we’ve listed: Responsibilities, accomplishments, and skills developed. Save the more detailed analysis for when you get called back for an interview; recruiters will pepper you with questions anyway.
Never underestimate the power of volunteering to get you hired, whether you have been a prolific volunteer for years or even if only had a temporary three month position. You just need to articulate it in a way that gets you to those magic words: You’re hired!
Find your next volunteer project here in Connecticut at VolunteerSquare.com and be sure to sign up for our free e-alerts. These will let you know when a volunteer need is posted that matches your skills and interests.