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5 Steps to help you understand how to put volunteer work on your resume

5 Steps to help you understand how to put volunteer work on your resume

  • What types of volunteering look good on a resume?
  • 5 Steps for putting volunteer work on your resume
  • 1. Decide on a resume format
  • 2. Describe your work concisely and accurately 
  • 3. Tailor the wording for each job you apply for
  • 4. Know when to leave off volunteer experience
  • 5. Highlight your transferable skills
  • Key takeaways

Demonstrating your skills, abilities, and interests through your volunteer work will help a potential employer determine what you can bring to the table, and set you apart from the crowd. In this article, we’ll show you how to put volunteer work on your resume concisely, honestly, and effectively.

Volunteer work is just that—work—and it can be included on your resume. It can also help "fill in the gaps" if you're a recent graduate or a career changer. But, like everything else on your resume, it should be worded effectively and relevant to the position you're applying for.  Learning how to put volunteer work on your resume can be a useful step towards standing out from the crowd and demonstrating to a hiring manager that you’re the best person for the job. 

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • What volunteering looks good on your resume?

  • Do employers like volunteer experience?

  • 5 steps for putting volunteer work on your resume

What types of volunteering look good on a resume?

There are a lot of different kinds of volunteering opportunities out there, and most of them will look good on your resume. It shows that you're willing to donate your time to a cause that is meaningful to you. It also highlights what makes you unique and can add depth to your work history. When you volunteer, you can develop skills such as communication, leadership, and teamwork, which are all sought-after by employers.

While you'd be hard-pressed to go wrong when deciding how to spend your volunteer time, here are a few types of volunteering that will look particularly good on your resume, depending on your field or industry:

  • Professional associations. These can also help grow your network.

  • Civic organizations. This group may be local campaigns or community improvement.

  • Nonprofit groups. Healthcare, the environment, or social justice reform are examples.

  • Educational organizations. This category includes schools, libraries, or museums.

  • Emergency services. Disaster response, Red Cross, or emotional support are ideal ones.

You might be wondering if you should put a one-time volunteer effort on your resume, and the answer is no. A "one-off" experience may be personally gratifying, but won't have much to add to your resume. 

If you’d like to find more consistent opportunities to volunteer, check out sites like volunteermatch.org or Points of Life Engage, which will match you up with relevant, meaningful opportunities to invest your time and help your community. 

Expert Tip

Do employers like volunteer experience? 

The Corporation for National and Community Service report showed that job applicants who had volunteer experience on their resumes were 27% more likely to get hired than those who do not volunteer, and 92 percent of leaders who responded to a survey by Deloitte agreed that volunteering “enhanced leadership skills.” And it’s good for your health as well—according to the Mayo Clinic, people who volunteer “report better physical health than non-volunteers, leading to “lower rates of depression and anxiety.”

5 Steps for putting volunteer work on your resume

It might seem like volunteer work is less important because it’s unpaid, but remember: you’re compensated with experience, skills, and growing your network. 

For details on how to put volunteer work on your resume, here are five steps:

1. Decide on a resume format

If you have some years of experience under your belt, you’ll probably be utilizing a reverse-chronological format, in which case, your volunteer work should go in a separate section towards the bottom of your resume. If you don’t have much work experience, highlight your volunteer work by placing it towards the top and include it in your “Professional Experience” section. If you need help deciding on a resume format and what to include, consider utilizing Career.io’s Resume Builder tool, which will provide you with more than 25 expert-tested resume templates.

2. Describe your work concisely and accurately 

Even if you don’t have a lot of work experience, you don’t want to spend paragraphs talking about your volunteer work; that can be saved for an interview, if asked about it. Instead, consider it part of your “highlight reel” and keep your descriptions to no more than three to four bullet points. If you’re more experienced, one or two sentences should be more than sufficient.

If you’re a recent grad with little to no work experience, it might look like this:

Professional experience example

Animal Shelter of Bolingbrook, IL Volunteer Shelter Associate, June 2020–Present

Train new volunteers cleaning animal environments, feeding, and socializing. Develop, systematize, and oversee shift calendar for a staff of 15 volunteers.

  • Coordinated food and supply donations, resulting in a 10% decrease in outgoing shelter costs.

  • Increased overall donations 20% by updating the shelter's website to accept monetary donations.

However, if you have considerable work experience, it will look more like this:

Volunteer experience example

Meals on Wheels, Volunteer January 2018—January 2021

Brought meals to homebound senior citizens and performed well-being checks. Assisted in fundraising efforts, which resulted in a 10% increase in donations for 2019 and 2020. (Note: this description is optional if you’re short on space.)

3. Tailor the wording for each job you apply for

You’ll want to target your resume for each company and position, depending on the qualifications and keywords listed in the job description, that includes your volunteer work. Also, research the company and determine if it participates in any volunteer or community service projects. This will help you get a sense of the company’s values and align your volunteer description accordingly.

4. Know when to leave off volunteer experience

If you have years of experience, your (paid) job history is more important to a potential employer, so if you're short on space, it's okay to omit volunteer work. Also, if your volunteer work gives away more personal information, don’t add it. This may include volunteering for political organizations or campaigns, or hot-button social causes such as women’s health or social justice groups. These are valuable and worthy causes, but if you’re unsure how it will “play” with a potential employer, hold off mentioning it.

5. Highlight your transferable skills

Using your volunteer work is a great way to show off the skills you’ve developed and demonstrate how they can help your new company. For example, fundraising requires organization and time management skills. Working on an organization's website can highlight your tech or data analysis skills. If you spent time as a mentor or tutor, that demonstrates your interpersonal and communication skills. Again, tailor these descriptions to align with the job description and utilize pertinent keywords.

  • Include the name of the volunteer organization, your title (if you had one), and the dates you worked there.
  • Emphasize your achievements in your work.
  • Highlight any transferable skills you developed.
  • Keep the description short—two to six bullet points should be enough, depending on your experience level.
  • List the volunteer work if it was a long time ago or if it has no relevance to your career.
  • Include volunteer work if it will make your resume longer than one page; the priority should be your work experience.
  • Lie about any volunteer work. Many employers verify this information, just like your education or previous experience.

While you know how to put volunteer work on your resume, if you need some inspiration for creating your resume, Career.io has you covered with its Resume Examples tool, which will provide a variety of industry-specific examples to help you create a resume that will get you noticed.

Key takeaways

  1. Including volunteer work on your resume shows that you're willing to give your time to a meaningful cause. 

  2. Examples of volunteering that look good on your resume include civic organizations, non-profit groups, educational organizations, or emergency services.

  3. If you’re an experienced professional, keep your list of volunteer work concise and place it in a separate section near the bottom of your resume. If you don’t have a lot of work experience, you can place it under “professional experience” so it goes near the top of your resume.

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