Some job-seekers shy away from discussing their personal interests in their cover letter, fearing it looks unprofessional to list anything other than academic credentials or professional experience. When presented strategically, however, your hobbies, activities and outside interests portray you as a well-rounded candidate. In addition, if you lack direct experience or other qualifications, you can use your life experience to support your suitability for the role you’re seeking.
Only Discuss Relevant Subjects
No matter how proud you are of winning that bowling championship or taking top prize at the county fair for your apple pie, don’t include this unless it directly relates to your qualifications as a potential employee. If you’re applying for a position at a nonprofit organization, for example, noting volunteer experience can distinguish you from other applicants and demonstrate your commitment to helping others. Before mentioning anything outside your professional credentials, review the job description and determine if you can make a strong link between the two.
Highlight Transferable Skills
Provide context for your extracurricular activities by noting the skills you’ve used as part of these undertakings and how this makes you an ideal employee. If you don’t make a connection between these accomplishments and the job’s requirements, employers might think you lack relevant experience or that you’re trying to pad your qualifications. When seeking a position that requires teamwork, for example, describe how your experience in community theater has taught you how to collaborate with others and put the needs of the group and the project ahead of your own ego or ambitions.
Describe What You Learned
Even seemingly unrelated interests and accomplishments can enhance your image in the eyes of prospective employers if you frame them as learning experiences. For example, discuss how working with people who have disabilities reinforced your commitment to living life to the fullest and never taking anything for granted. If you speak a second language, describe how the process strengthened your self-discipline and gave you a greater appreciation for other cultures. If you build furniture or create art, note that this pursuit has boosted your creativity and helped you approach other areas of your life with an outside-the-box mindset.
Emphasize Leadership Potential
Many employers value candidates with the ability to step up and take charge when needed, especially when evaluating applicants for managerial and executive positions. Highlight leadership roles, such as holding an officer position in a professional association, community organization or other group venture. Point out that you serve as captain of an amateur sports team, for example, and describe how this has strengthened your ability to motivate others to contribute their best efforts.