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Are Your Personal Interests in the Best Interest of Your Attorney Resume?
By Lancelot Larsen
Professional resume writers are in disagreement regarding whether or not a resume should include a Personal Interests- or "Interests" section. Half find it interesting; half find it irrelevant-those who even have an opinion on this questionable resume accessory. Many employers are not concerned either way and will not hold it against you if you have an Interests section on your resume. For some attorneys looking to make a move or change careers, it is a decision worth bearing in mind. If you are one of these attorneys, consider the following regarding your resume and the possibility of a Personal Interest section:

  • It can display a strong knowledge of a subject or a skill applicable to the job you seek.
  • It can indicate positive traits such as being in good health or having a versatile personality.
  • Most importantly, it can establish a connection with the interviewer and provide for a comfortable atmosphere of conversation.
  • It can be viewed as a meaningless waste of space at the bottom of your resume, even so far as to seem like you are not serious about your candidacy.
  • It can act as a distraction if the employer happens to detest your personal interests.
The reason most attorneys decide to use the Interests section is because they want to tell the employer something more personal about themselves to show that they are unique legal professionals who can bring more than just professionalism and experience to the table. These attorneys believe that subjects like sports, travel, and hobbies will add a touch of personality to their resumes and demonstrate that they, as faceless candidates, are not as two-dimensional as the paper their qualifications are printed upon. You can add an Interests section if you truly believe your personal activities will enhance your work experience. Cinema is a nice addition if you are going into Entertainment Law. Travel will work if you know the firm or company will send you out of town frequently. Sometimes your activities and hobbies will indicate an important skill you will offer the employer. Practicing martial arts shows that you have patience and fortitude. International cooking might suggest that you will implement excellent attention to detail and time management abilities.

If you are an attorney for a firm that does substantial business abroad, the Interests section is a way of telling the employer that your hobbies and activities are relevant. When submitting a résumé to a firm with international business, an Interests section would show a prospective employer that your hobbies and activities are harmonious with that part of the world. For example, if you are an avid World Cup fan, you will have something in common with your continental counterparts who frequent football matches.

Keep in mind that anything you write in the Interest section will more than likely not lead the employer to deem you the best attorney of the lot.

Simply put, the best reason to add an Interests section is if you have some extra space at the bottom of your resume.

Law students and recent graduates might find an Interest section helpful if they don't have a lot of experience for an ideally presentable resume. Otherwise, law students and recent graduates can also add an Activities section to showcase any leadership or teamwork experiences they might have gained while volunteering or participating in organized activities. Unlike the old "References Available Upon Request" eyesore, the Interests section is debatable. Posting that you will give references if asked is unnecessary, and employers assume that you will give them when requested. If you do not, more than likely, you will not be considered any longer. Bringing a list of references to the interview is standard practice, however.

If you have white space in your resume, your interests could help you. But they could also leave a lasting negative impression if the employer doesn't take them seriously or doesn't like what you like.

A better point to consider is that you should not include anything in your resume that will make the employer think twice about calling you for an interview. This is why attaching photos and listing religious and political affiliations can be harmful to your objective. Since the point of your resume is to get an interview, you want the employer to judge you at the interview, not beforehand. Photos are fine if you are going into acting. Your membership to the Republican Charity Association of Wisconsin might help if you know the company votes that way. Your acting as Chair for a Christian organization might not benefit you if you apply to a firm of non-believers who might not want to risk the presence of a "Holy Roller." All the same, the main question to ask before including an Interest section to your resume is: "How will my interests be judged on paper before I am judged at the interview?"

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