This turned out to be a little more complex than the title suggests.

I have many years of professional programming experience, so several months ago I left my last job to pursue freelance software development. While it is going alright, I decided to start sending my resume out to various places I felt I would love to work for. But unfortunately I'm getting less than positive responses if any at all.

So feeling bummed about my poor choice to do freelance work, and to occupy some time by doing something that helps others, I applied and got accepted as a volunteer firefighter. It has been really great and something I love doing, so I have been trying to decide if it is something I should add to my resume or not.

On one hand, I hate bragging and I feel like that might just be a "look at me" thing to put on the resume. But on the other hand, I know some companies see "freelance developer" as synonymous with "unemployed" so I feel like it might help show them that I have other things that occupy my time.

Is this something that I should include on my resume? Also, should I put it under employment or a new volunteer section? Because to me it is kinda both.

  • 2
  • 10
    If asked about it... Bugs? Customer Problems? Buildings on fire? just say putting out fires is what you do. Volunteering at the local firehouse just seemed like a good extension to what you do as a programmer/developer.
    – WernerCD
    Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 22:56
  • 1
    I know some companies see "freelance developer" as synonymous with "unemployed" - only if you can't provide evidence that you produced any work as a freelance...
    – HorusKol
    Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 23:09
  • 1
    I was told once that I got the interview in the end because I put "And I brew a mean cup of coffee" in my resume. You never know!
    – John Wu
    Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 0:27
  • 3
    I agree with David K's first comment, this is a duplicate of that question. All medium-large enterprises are likely to have fire wardens, first aid officers, and potentially diversity support or similar roles and will always be on the lookout for a new or spare person for these roles. Firefighting experience is relevant to any job where there is even the slightest chance of a fire, which is pretty much all of them.
    – Scott
    Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 1:40

9 Answers 9


I feel like that might just be a "look at me" thing to put on the resume

That is exactly what you want on your resume.

You want people to look at you, which you accomplish by standing out. When companies go through applicants, having a hook like 'volunteer firefighter' could be the edge you need to land an interview. Instead of HR looking at 'resume #32', they're looking at 'that firefighter guys' resume.

  • That is a great point! I am generally pretty introverted when it comes to me having to show-off myself and what I do so a lot of times I might not include something that should be included just because I think the reader might get the impression im trying too hard or something. Thanks!
    – Mungoid
    Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 2:45
  • 35
    I'm not a recruiter, but I'd want in my team people who volunteer.
    – user27051
    Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 6:38
  • If you have room it's OK to mention any leadership role you have, and any formal training you've completed, for the VFD.
    – O. Jones
    Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 12:31
  • 8
    Being a volunteer whatever means you care about something. You don't get to see that as often as you'd think. Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 13:45

The purpose of a resume is to get the interview. That is it's only purpose.

People will give you advice about what's relevant and what's not, but it's only a distraction. The only question you should have when putting anything on your resume is "Will this get me an interview?"

Something like "Volunteer firefighter" has a bit of a "wow!" factor that will make you stand out. To be honest, if I saw that on a resume, I'd be tempted to, and likely would bring you in even if you didn't quite make it on the hard qualifications. I'm not unique. Firefighters still have a noble appeal to many people.

Put that down, and when you get the interview, USE IT!

If I were in your position, I'd answer the "Why should we hire you" question with "I'm very good at putting out fires".

If you don't want to go the humor route, you can still relate your firefighter position to the job by talking about how you have to think quickly and react to and anticipate problems.

In short, YES! Include it!

  • 9
    I disagree that the only point of a resume is to get an interview. It may the the primary purpose, but it will also be read by your interviewers (who in many cases won't be the same people who selected you to be interviewed), will give them their first impression of you, may serve as a centerpiece or at least a source of question ideas in the interview.
    – stannius
    Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 22:07
  • fwiw first statement is a little inaccurate, for instance large co's use resumes for routing and placement after initial interview phase but before team matching.
    – user42272
    Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 0:52
  • I agree: Put it on. I'd consider adding a comment about how this will affect your work: Do you want to continue doing it? How often do you get called out? Will you make up the hours or take unpaid leave? What sort of work do you do? If it is mostly head down in code, a couple of shouts a month is not going to be a problem; if it mostly meeting with people and you get called out 2/3 times a week, that probably is going to be a problem. Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 9:10


Most companies hire on two things:

  1. Do I want to spend 8 hours a day with this person?
  2. Are they skilled enough to get the work done?

If you've spent years developing, you most likely have the skills required. The only thing, then, that makes you different from the others is how interesting you are, and how pleasant it would be to work with you.

Consider the following example interviews:

Interviewer: "So, what do you do with your free time?"

Lame Guy: "Oh, nothing much, I watch a bit of TV"

Interview: "Oh... Ok."

Interviewer: "So, what do you do with your free time?"

You: "Well, the other day a house was burning down, right, so I kick the door down to get in, only there was a back draft and a giant fireball leaps out at me. I fell back onto my ass, and just when I thought there was no hope I hear the family cat meowing—turns out it had climbed up a tree and wasn't in danger at all."

Interviewer: "Damn I need to stop watching TV and start living life."

  • 3
    Also aside from the cool factor, never having been a volunteer firefighter, I would view it as an plus in terms of teamwork ability. If you volunteer for work outside that makes you more likely to help your teammates when they need it, not be someone who says "this is not my job", for everything that isn't literally printed in their job description.
    – CodeMonkey
    Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 6:42
  • Interviewer: "Damn I only asked him what he does in his spare time, and I get Mission Impossible 13. What a wanker."
    – Jeremy
    Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 14:37

I think you should put it on your resume, because it's not only for showing your technical or professional skills, but to know about other skills that would make you a valuable employee, and being a volunteer firefighter shows that you care for other people enough to put yourself in danger, which i think it´s a great quality. I forgot to answer the last part of the question: it depends on whether you got paid or not.


Sure it shows ability to work with a team and a sense of service.

It is a job if you got paid.

As an IT person I was on the fire team at a refinery as I was non-essential personal. I got to go to fire school at Texas A&M.

  • Teamwork, reliability, self-organization, exactly! Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 6:51


On one hand, it looks good on a resume - you are giving some of your time to a good cause for free (volunteering), you like to help others, you are not afraid to take risks. It would even help you, especially if your potential employer needs to have personnel trained on Health & Safety, Fire etc. , and this might also give you an advantage over other candidates for the vacancy which you apply for.

On the other hand, fire fighting is risky, and some people (including recruiters, your potential employer and/or superior) can see this as a risk, god forbid you get hurt during the course of this voluntary work, so they would not feel comfortable in giving you important tasks/projects. Same like an insurance policy, an insurer would either increase your premium on a health policy (eg. because you smoke, since it presents a health risk), or refuse to sell you the insurance policy. However, if you do not list it in your resume/CV, and they find out, it would not look good on you, since it would appear like you were hiding something from them (especially if they are uncomfortable with such activities), so for just this reason, I would list it on my CV/resume.

Like anything else, it all depends on the opinion and perspective.

  • I think going from "volunteer firefighter" to "risk of catching on fire outside of work" is a little hyperbolic. I've never heard of someone with a long car commute penalized for risk of a traffic accident...
    – user42272
    Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 0:54
  • and no, it definitely won't appear as if you are hiding something. resumes are not comprehensive "come clean about all your interests in life" documents.
    – user42272
    Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 0:55

Sure, mention it like everyone else suggests. And if you did it fulltime, it looks in any case very much better than "unemployed".

On a tangent:

But on the other hand, I know some companies see "freelance developer" as synonymous with "unemployed"

They do? Then make sure you list what you did as a freelancer, just as if it were a non-freelanced time. You still did many projects, you had clients, you used technology etc.; only because you freelanced does not invalidate that. You can also ask your freelance customers for a written feedback, occasionally, and include that when you apply.

  • Yeah that's a good point. I wasnt really sure how to prove to a potential employer that I have been doing freelance work and not just trying to 'cover up being fired'.
    – Mungoid
    Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 2:49

Of course, put it on your CV. Being a volunteer fire fighter must have helped you develop core skills most companies want from employees; IT employer or not. Many students and job seekers are encouraged to volunteer with charities to help their applications, also because such often helps make them more rounded characters.

Yes, it's a nice USP (unique selling point) against other candidates. But it's also that being a fire fighter proves you have good experience: handling a stressful job, working with a team, good with people, achieving time-critical objectives, quickly assessing and responding to risk, reliable even outside of office hours, etc. Not to mention that because you have volunteered for this, and kept at it, it shows initiative, dedication, and professionalism.

These are the sort of things other candidates will sometimes struggle to evidence, while you no doubt have training and real experiences which you can talk about which make you a great candidate. Cue jokes about your being able to put out metaphorical fires at work because you put out real fires in your spare time.

"I'd say don't contact me unless the office is on fire... but clearly you don't need to contact me then either, as Mungoid will have solved that issue too."

Bottom line, do it. Your CV shouldn't just say that you have the qualifications for the job. It should tempt employers by suggesting that you are a well rounded and skilful person who can bring a lot more than just the base requirements to the table.


"Hating bragging" is something you need to get over fast when putting together a resume. It's not a virtue. Promoting good work is a skill - if you're unable or unwilling to showcase your own talents, I may assume you'll do a similarly poor job of promoting the company once you join, and representing anyone that works for/with you (a leadership skill).

As for the firefighting, I'd definitely mention it - but for more than just "interesting factor" it often helps to go a little farther to indicate specific things you learned/did that might be relevant to your target job. inappriopriateCode points out a number of these potential areas, but don't make them think them up, put them on the resume.

Specifically, I work with integrated DevOps teams supporting online products where both operations and development personnel are on call. We use incident management processes consciously modeled on the Incident Command System, per Incident Command For IT: What We Can Learn From The Fire Department. If I see a resume that has firefighter experience, I definitely put it into the "talk to them" pile and think "Oh good, sounds like he won't be hapless when put on call."

Also understand your industry enough to know when there might be negatives and proactively address those. In this case, "firefighting" in a technical environment is necessary but not desirable and you may get questions about "do you like to respond and not think" trying to avoid situations like Reward Firefighting And You'll Create A Culture Of Arsonists.

Firefighting is a great example because there's existing explicit correlations to tech work. But whatever it is you have that you have done/can do, take a minute to find out about its relevance to your chosen field, positive and negative. Then use that as a line on your resume that's an explicit asset to your job search.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .