In the world of job hunting, voluntary work experience can be just as important as your skills and academic qualifications.

This is especially true for jobseekers who lack relevant paid work experience or who are applying to companies who will take a candidate’s personality and morals in consideration when assessing them.

Volunteering is a great way of showing that you’re someone who cares about giving back to the community and not just a money-driven candidate. This can resonate with certain hiring managers.

All in all, volunteering is an excellent way to learn new skills and strengthen existing ones.

By: Iejaz Uddin – 30 April 2024


Advantages of including volunteering in your CV

It shows employers the person behind the CV.

Everything in your CV is about catching the hiring managers attention, and volunteering, if explained properly and is in a relevant field, can do that.

It can also show employers that you are public spirited, and someone who is willing to put time and effort into unpaid work to help others. These are honourable traits that can help you get noticed by hiring managers and beat other equally qualified candidates.

By showing your commitment to worthy causes you can convey a favourable first impression. This in turn can reassure recruiters that you have the right cultural fit and temperament for both their job and company.


When to include volunteer work on your CV

Only include volunteering activities that are recent and relevant.

Do not waste the recruiters time with hobbies or pastimes that have nothing to do with the vacancy you are applying for.

Avoid anything that does not strengthen your case. Instead focus on those that can be linked to the job you are applying for. There are many situations when including any volunteering experience in your CV can make a real positive difference to your application, below is a list of a few of them.


Relevant to the vacancy

Many of the skills you pick up as a volunteer are transferable and can be used in lots of paid jobs and industries. Comb through what you’ve done and if you’ve done something that is particularly relevant to your desired role, then include it in your CV. Explain how what you’ve learnt can help you carry out your duties better and assist you to fit into an existing workplace environment.


Career gaps

Hiring managers can look suspiciously upon gaps in employment. Even though people leave the workplace for legitimate reasons, such as travelling the world, gap years, raising children or just having a break, it is still a hole in your CV that needs to be filled and explained.

Voluntary work is an acceptable way to cover up any career gaps. They can show prospective employers that you haven’t just been sitting on the sofa, doing nothing, for months on end, but have used your time productively helping others and learning new skills.


Transferable skills

The useful transferable skills you gain through them can also be beneficial when changing careers or industries.

Invaluable abilities like problem solving, time management, mentoring and communicating can complement your existing abilities, achievements, and qualifications. The exposure you’ve gained to situations you otherwise would not have in your ordinary life can be a stepping stone to moving into a new career. As always try to relate these to the position you are applying for.


Show your personality

Aside from the above, it can also help recruiters to know about your interests outside of work. This is crucial in roles where you have to interact with colleagues of customers. It can also show positive personality traits like having a good work ethic, as well as being reliable, loyal, and punctual. All of these are character attributes that can influence an employer’s decision to hire you.


Career change

If you’re looking to do something new, but have little relevant experience in that field, then any related volunteering you’ve done can help in more ways than you think. Showing that you’ve taken the time to do unpaid work in a particular field can demonstrate your passion for the industry you now want to enter.

If you’re thinking of changing careers, here’s a few other ways that volunteering can help you:


Gain experience
Top up your real-life experience in a new field by getting your hands dirty and doing some free work in it.


Make contacts
Connect with other professionals already in this field and expand your network of people in in the sector. Also a great way to find out about new job openings.


Improve your skill sets
Practice, practice, practice. The more you do certain tasks, the better you become at them.


Test out the role
Volunteering is a good way to try out a new field before fully committing yourself and taking the jump into a different career. It’ll also help you confirm you’re making the right choice.


Students and graduates

Very often young people who have been studying at college or university will lack experience in the role they want. This makes volunteering experience especially valuable to graduates or school leavers with limited work exposure.

It’s an ideal way to show you passion for a job, industry, or cause by showing you’ve gone the extra mile to get in. However, remember that the experience must be in a position that is relevant to the vacancy you want.


How to include volunteering experience in a CV

Encompass your nonpaid work in the best possible light by directly linking it to the job you are applying for. Show that what you’ve done for free is relevant to the employer’s vacancy and that it can add value to their operations.

Make every sentence count by explaining how these experiences have contributed to your personal and professional life. Fine tune what you write further by not using unnecessary words and only including that which is relevant. Stress your abilities most by making industry keywords bold in any sentences.


Target the job

As with everything else in your CV try to connect your volunteer experience to the job you are applying for. Do this by reading the vacancy job description to identify the competencies the employers want in a candidate. Look for keywords that describe the precise skill requirements. Then comb through what you did as a volunteer to try to find matching skills and experiences.

Your aim is to highlight those pertinent attributes that you can transfer to the real-world.


What to mention

When explaining your volunteer work always remember to only focus on relevant experience and the hard and soft skills you acquired. There is no need to have a long list everything you did, instead keep it short and sweet.

Highlight any awards for your work or any noteworthy recognition and always prioritise achievements over responsibilities.


Where to put volunteering on a CV

You have two ways of doing this, you can either create a separate section for it, or include it within your employment history.


Option 1

Make what you did distinctive by creating a stand alone section to place your volunteering. If you go for a dedicated part, then place this underneath the main work experience or career history section.


Option 2

Merge your volunteering activities with your principal work experience section. At the bottom of it have a heading saying ‘Volunteering experience at … (name of organisation)’ and then use bullet pointed sentences to describe your achievements, duties, and skills.


What volunteering information to give

When giving details of what you did as a volunteer, firstly clear state that it was unpaid and then include the following information:

  • Name of the volunteering organisation.
  • Whether it was a charity, NGO, or non-profit operation.
  • The dates you were there.
  • Your duties and responsibilities.
  • Your accomplishments.


When to leave out volunteering work

Sometimes its best not to mention what you did, as it will not bring any extra value to you job application and will just take up valuable CV space.

Here’s when not to include it:

  • Any volunteering you did a long time ago. Most employers are focused on the recent past and would not be interested in what you did 5 years ago.
  • If you already have broad relevant work experience, then there is no need to include any volunteering you may have done.