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When writing a personal interests section in your CV is it appropriate to mention your family/children, if the majority (or all) of your spare time is taken up caring, playing and being with them?

It seems like a very honest answer but not related to the application. However, I have always thought this area was to showcase your genuine personal characteristics.

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A personal interests section is pointless unless the interest it geared towards getting you the position you want to be hired for. e.g. Applying for a sw developer position, home hobby programming/electronics is a good personal interest. Another good interest would be if you know some of the people at the company and they are interested in the same hobby as you. For example, you know a number of the employees have a weekly basketball game and you like basketball. Put it on the resume. Otherwise, what's the point? Who cares that you spend all your time with your family? –  Dunk Aug 4 at 22:33
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@Dunk: I was taught the point of the personal interests section is showing that you are not a "one-dimensional" mind stuck with your one and only topic that is the focus of your work, but a multi-faceted creative, interested and active individual who also indulges in activities that are not related to the job one is applying for. (Note that, to use your example, for an sw developer, ability and willingness to deal with topics totally unrelated to software engineering is generally a plus, because that means you're one step closer to understanding the customers.) –  O. R. Mapper Aug 5 at 6:52
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This varies depending on country/culture. In Sweden, an employer would be surprised if you have family and don't mention it on your CV. I've heard from friends in the US that it's something nobody mentions. –  Jenny D Aug 5 at 7:24
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I see that this seems to be dependent on countries and cultures. In UK the personal interests section is aimed at finding out more about a persons character and personality to explore how they would fit into the team. Interesting to read your comment Jenny D. I like the family centred element of that. –  slaterio Aug 5 at 8:07
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@slaterio While this is a cultural thing - for all intents and purposes, the UK culture near enough mirrors the US culture with regards to CV's and Resume's (Now a synonym). Keep it short, 2 pages max (Unless you're very senior), and professional only. The interview is there for them to flesh out you, the CV is for them to see if you stand a chance of being able to do the job. –  Dan Aug 5 at 12:20

5 Answers 5

up vote 10 down vote accepted

From your comment on the original post Slaterio I'm assuming that like me, you're UK based. When putting together my first CV whilst at Uni I was pretty much taught that there is a standard format with a 'personal interests' piece at the bottom. After landing my first job I dropped that section as I came to realise that it is essentially pointless and that the page space could be put to far space when ensuring that your CV exceeds no more than 2 pages at most.

IMO your CV is about getting you an interview, as a hiring manager now I can honestly say that when reviewing over 50 CV's for a single post, that I have literally no interest in what an individual does in their spare time. I'm looking for the relevant skills and experience from their qualifications and work history to make a judgement call on whether this candidate has what it takes to do the job.

The time for you to demonstrate your personality is at the interview, throughout the interview your general demeanor and personality ought to come across and I'll be able to gauge the team fit from that.

I think this is evidenced by the 'larger' companies within the UK many of which no longer accept CV's submissions and instead use their own web based application portal, if you have a scout around you'll notice that within the web form there is no 'personal interests' section for you to complete.

I'd concentrate more on making your CV the thing that lands you an interview, ensuring that your experience and skills detailed clearly demonstrate your fit for the job and make you more attractive to the person who's sifting through all those CV's.

If you get the traditional and often uncomfortable question 'so tell us a bit about you as a person' within the interview then feel free to talk about the things that matter to you as a person i.e. the interests you have outside of work, whether that be sports/hobbies/family etc.

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+1. This answer is absolutely spot on and sits directly with my experience as an experienced professional. Universities and "career advisers" give some terrible CV advice, but I guess a lot of it is to bolster your CV before you have experience. One you're in the work place, all extraneous information needs to be removed. Hell, after 10+ years I struggle to fit my professional career with in 2 pages - I certainly don't have room to list hobbies or whatever. –  Dan Aug 5 at 12:24

tl;dr

I would not mention anything about family on the CV as that can be a legal liability (in the United States, not sure about other countries) and prevent you from being interviewed.

Why not?

The United States government specifically mentions that employers should NOT ask anything about marital or family status before a candidate is hired.

It is clearly discriminatory to ask such questions only of women and not men (or vice-versa). Even if asked of both men and women, such questions may be seen as evidence of intent to discriminate against, for example, women with children.

Generally, employers should not use non job-related questions involving marital status, number and/or ages of children or dependents, or names of spouses or children of the applicant. Such inquiries may be asked after an employment offer has been made and accepted if needed for insurance or other legitimate business purposes.

There is nothing in the law which prevents candidates from mentioning marital status on their own. With that said, it has been my experience that employers (and HR departments) will generally shy away from candidates who bring up their membership in a protected class as the risks of a lawsuit against the company for hiring (or not hiring) the candidate outweigh the benefits. There is much less risk in simply tossing the CV into the trash and not moving the candidate forward in the hiring process.

Why is this such a big deal?

For those unfamiliar with the legal system in the United States and why a company would want to avoid a discrimination lawsuit

  • They are very expensive, take a long time to resolve, hurt internal morale, and generate bad publicity.
  • Much of the damage to the company is done well before the case is over. Losing the case increases the costs, but winning the case does not fully repair the bad publicity or refund the lost productivity due to poor morale.
  • Settling the lawsuit out of court, while not cheap, is usually less risky and less expensive than going to trial and potentially losing.
  • Even defending against a frivolous case has a non-trivial cost

This article about why and how employers avoid employment discrimination has more information.

Because of the risk for potential damage, company policies and HR will try to limit even the slightest appearance of discrimination that might lead to a lawsuit. This includes prohibiting certain questions in interviews.

As pointed out by Steve Jessop, tossing out all CVs which mention a protected class is a form of discrimination, and will probably not be specifically mentioned in a policy. With that said, there are many other safe reasons to use for rejecting candidates at the resume stage, such as having too few or too many years of experience with the skills listed in the job posting. These types of reasons are more difficult to justify after a phone screen or in person interview, where the candidate could argue that the company decided to drop them because they sounded/looked like a particular gender or ethnicity.

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Since you used the word CV instead of Resume, I'll assume you are not in the US.

In the US, since the resume is limited to 1-2 pages, it is better to not have a personal interests section at all. All emphasis should be on your job qualifications and what you can provide professionally. Sections that don't add to that goal are best left off altogether.

A hiring manager in the US will spend perhaps 10-30 seconds on the first glance of a resume. They're not looking for personality, they're looking for a good match to their needs. Personality and fit can come later, during interview discussions, when they're already convinced on qualifications.

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Why is resume limited to 1-2pages just in the US?? Short as possible is better no matter where or did I think wrong? –  Brandin Aug 5 at 5:49

I am surprised that people still include a "Special Interests" section in their CV.

@Thursdaygeek is right. Employers are looking to fill a need, and their want to see how your package of work experience, skills set and possibly educational attainments is what they need. Anything else is distraction.

That's why the "Special Interests" section and the "References Furnished Upon Requests" sentence among others went the way of the dodo along with skills that it used to be a big deal to mention such as "word processing".

I regret to say it, but no one including myself is interested in what you are like as a human being - at least, when you are sending in the usual letter and resume :)

Yeah, I agree with you - those who focus on work at the expense of everything else that's going on in their lives are pretty one-dimensional :)

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When writing a personal interests section in your CV is it appropriate to mention your family/children, if the majority (or all) of your spare time is taken up caring, playing and being with them?

In general, No.

Resumes/CVs should highlight your professional skills, and the attributes which make you a great fit for the job.

Unless you are applying for a position where "caring, playing and being with" children are part of the day to day role or preferably part of the job description (nanny? daycare provider?) then these add little value to your CV.

Think of it this way, doesn't virtually everyone have "care for their family" in their background?

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