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Why Applicants Should Include Volunteer Experience on a Job Application

Updated on June 19, 2013
ChrisMcDade8 profile image

Christine McDade is a Human Resources professional (PHR & SHRM-CP) with over 18 years in the public sector.

Christine McDade is an experienced human resources manager.


Filling out the job application

As job seekers begin their search for a more rewarding, better paying job, it will be advisable for them to include all past experience on the job application to give them an edge or certainly a boost over others who also make it to the interview step in the hiring process. While education and past work experience are still crucial to meeting the minimum requirements of the job, having that extra bonus of volunteer experience included on the job application will be something interesting and Iikely capture the attention of the folks in Human Resources and the hiring mangers. As they prioritize and rank applicants for interviews, they will be looking at all aspects of the resume and/or application for any additional experience and items of interest. Volunteer experience can be an attractive aspect of an applicant's background that would capture the attention of the screener.

Why is volunteering important to the hiring manager?

Volunteering for a favorite cause, community function or nonprofit organization can be a rewarding experience for an individual. Having a passion to participate in a good cause and offer assistance in reaching organizational goals are admirable traits. Furthermore, these organizations exist and thrive on the efforts of volunteers who work tirelessly for something or some purpose that is near and dear to their hearts. Hiring managers respect the free time that one commits to helping others. The spirit of volunteerism is very impressive to hiring authorities who want a hardworking, dedicated individual to join their team. Some aspects of volunteering that impress hiring managers are:

  • How the applicant participates in organizations that are similar or dissimilar to their professions.
  • How the applicant demonstrates commitment to an interest, such as promoting animal welfare, preserving local history, fighting poverty, etc.
  • How the applicant gives back to the community.
  • How the applicant makes the most of opportunities that are available to them.

Whatever the charity, volunteering is an act of giving to others. Employers are most interested in applicants who choose to volunteer and value it enough to include it on their resume and/or job application. In addition, many volunteer opportunities are in the very same fields of interest for which people have chosen careers. For example, people who volunteer to preserve local historical buildings by serving on an advisory board also may be employed as a planner or an architect. Listing the advisory board experience on a job application would be a positive reflection of the applicant's experience.

What information should a volunteer include on the job application?

A job seeker should always include volunteer experience on a job application and resume because this information will add to the overall description of the applicant to those reviewing applicants for a job opening. Information that applicants should include would be:

  1. Name of the organization - Much like a past employer, applicants should list the agency, organization, or cause for which the applicant volunteered. A well-known agency, for example, can be quite impressive to the person screening applicants. If the charity is not well known or has a name that might not provide a description of the work, include a sentence which describes the charity's mission.
  2. Dates of the volunteering experience - The number of years, months, etc., spent as a volunteer may apply to experience that will be figured in for applicable work experience to the new position if it is applicable. For example, if an individual volunteered as a tour guide for several years and then applied for a paid guide position at a similar type of museum, the hiring company may give consideration to this experience when calculating compensation for the new employee. In addition, time spent volunteering might explain job gaps on an application.
  3. Description of volunteering experience - It will be of interest to the screener to know the specific responsibility, task, etc., that the applicant had to perform as a volunteer. For example, if volunteering included planning large events with the public, a job applicant should include this planning and coordinating experience as it may be applicable experience for the job vacancy.
  4. Contact information of the supervisor in charge of the volunteers - Contact information for the person to whom the applicant reported to during the volunteer experience will provide a possible reference for the job.
  5. Any letters of reference from leaders of the nonprofit organization - Volunteers who spend a great deal of time volunteering and doing relevant work may choose to get a letter of reference from the leader who can speak to the specifics of the volunteer work experience.

Past volunteer experience should be treated much like past work experience on a job application. It can serve as time worked for purpose of gaining particular work experience, explanation of gaps of employment and valuable time spent serving the community and a good cause. Hiring employers will want to know of such worthwhile time spent.

Caroling at a nursing home with Brownies.
Caroling at a nursing home with Brownies. | Source
History buffs can participate in a lot of historical endeavors and preservation causes.
History buffs can participate in a lot of historical endeavors and preservation causes. | Source
Little League volunteers have been making a difference in our communities for decades.
Little League volunteers have been making a difference in our communities for decades. | Source

A variety of opportunities present a diverse background.

There are endless opportunities in this world to volunteer for a favorite interest or passion. Since many people still find time to volunteer when holding a job or choose to volunteer in between jobs, it is important to add the volunteering experience to a resume to help build the applicant's overall background or experience. Applicants who meet the minimum qualifications of a job vacancy might just get an edge over other applicants with like experience because of volunteer experience that is applicable to the job vacancy. Volunteering is an admirable and selfless way to spend time doing something for others. Not only is such experience time well spent for the individual but such efforts touch others affected by the charity or cause.

Variety of Volunteering Opportunities

museum tour guides
PTA (Parent Teacher Association)
church services
Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts Leaders
animal shelters
sports coach
volunteer firefighters
elder care
city advisory boards
police explorers
political campaigns
There are many different ways to volunteer for our communities.

Some closing thoughts...

Job applicants who fail to include volunteer experience on a job application and/or resume are missing out on an important opportunity to describe valuable experience to a potential employer. Hiring managers are interested in an applicant's experience which will often include time spent volunteering. Such information can often give a better overall image of an applicant's background and potential contribution to be made to a new employer.

The Power of Volunteering


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    • ChrisMcDade8 profile imageAUTHOR

      Christine McDade 

      6 years ago from Southwest Florida

      Thanks to all for the comments. As you have said, volunteering can be such a rewarding experience for the volunteer, the cause/organization and, most importantly, for the people you serve as a volunteer. Potential employers will likely be impressed by such time being given for the benefit of a cause and helping others. Volunteering is certainly something to be proud of.

    • joaniebaby profile image


      6 years ago

      This is important when applying for college admission also. My granddaughter did much volunteering, especially at a free clinic in Chicago and when it came time for her to apply to medical school, that volunteering really "upped" her credentials. Great Hub. Voted up and useful.

    • purl3agony profile image

      Donna Herron 

      6 years ago from USA

      I've also done some volunteer work and have always included it on my resume, but not I might move it to a more visible area where it will catch a hiring manager's eye. Thanks for the great information! Voted up!!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      6 years ago

      Shared, up and useful. As a stay at home mom for 10 years I am updating my resume in preparation for going back to work in the next couple of years. I have done quite a bit of volunteer work and it will fill in the gaps. Great hub.


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