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What should you include in a cover letter? How about interests, activities, and hobbies?

Updated on September 21, 2014
Working on your cover letter? Consider the strategic inclusion of personal interests.
Working on your cover letter? Consider the strategic inclusion of personal interests.

Introduction

Career counselors often suggest that you don't include hobbies or interests in a cover letter because that information is often extraneous. After all, you only have a certain amount of space to "sell yourself" as the best applicant for the job. Sometimes, though, your hobbies are the perfect vehicle for showing off your strengths and skills. As long as you have a purpose for adding this information and also offer details and an explanation, adding hobbies, activities, and interests to a cover letter can make you standout from the crowd.

Be Specific & Focused

If you want to write about your hobbies or interests, include specific details that will make you stand apart from other applicants. For example, "I love running" is far too generic. Instead, you might add something like this: "In my spare time, I enjoy running, and have completed three half-marathons in the past year." Everything you mention in the cover letter should speak to your skills as a potential employee. Running long distances may not relate to your job specifically, but it is pretty impressive and it shows ability, determination and drive. If you include information about yourself or your hobbies, do so in the final paragraph.

Reveal Skills

If you have hobbies or interests that speak directly to the skills necessary for the position, mention them and explain how they will help you succeed in the workplace. For example, let's say you're applying for a job as a teaching assistant in American History. You might say, "I am knowledgeable about a variety of different eras in American History. In my spare time, I run a history book club in which we read a new book each month. In the last year, we've read and discussed book such as "A People's History of the United States" and several biographies of U.S. presidents." This shows both your breadth of knowledge and that you are interested and enthusiastic about the subject matter.

Create a Connection

If you've done your research, you might know that your employer enjoys a certain sport, is active in a particular charity, or has other hobbies in common with you. Mentioning shared interests might get your potential employer's attention, make you seem more personable and give you something to talk about in an interview. If your employer's interest is public knowledge, it's OK to mention that you know this is a shared interest.

Spark Interest

You might also want to mention anything that could spark an employer's interest because it is unique -- you are a skilled unicyclist, you enjoy geocaching, or you are fluent in American Sign Language. While this tactic may not be conventional, you might just get an interview because you sparked the curiosity of your future employer. Only include this information if you have space, and do so at the end of your letter only briefly. For example, "In my personal life, I enjoy trying new and different activities. I am an avid unicycler and an active member of the Women Unicyclist's Group." Choose the information you include wisely. For example, showing off your enthusiasm for unicycling might go over better if you are applying for a creative profession than for a job at a law firm.

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