Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community – and, as it turns out, a great way to land yourself a job.
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That's according to Deloitte's 2016 Volunteer Impact Survey, which found that 82 percent of hiring influencers – that is, people who directly influence either hiring decisions or the people making the hiring decisions at their companies – are likely to choose candidates with volunteering experience over those who do not have such experience. Eighty-five percent of influencers also said they were likely to overlook a candidate's resume pitfalls if the candidate included volunteer experience on said resume.
"We surveyed a bunch of professionals who have direct influence over hiring, and it was very clear that people in those positions are looking for volunteer experience on resumes and during the interview process," says Doug Marshall, managing director of corporate citizenship at Deloitte. "It's also clear that they view volunteering as a way of building leadership skills, especially some of the elusive leadership skills that people are always looking for [in candidates]."
Ninety-two percent of respondents to Deloitte's survey said they felt volunteering was a way for people to build broader professional skill sets, and Marshall notes that volunteering often helps build those softer skills that are so difficult to find, like communication and emotional intelligence.
And yet, despite holding volunteer work in such high esteem, hiring influencers rarely see it on resumes. According to Deloitte's survey, only 30 percent of resumes include any volunteer work.
It's not that applicants don't see volunteering as important – it's that they don't play it up on their resumes. This, Marshall says, could be for a number of reasons.
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"[For some,] there isn't enough space on their resume, which may be the legacy of people trying to fit everything on one page," Marshall says. "Or maybe they believe that recruiters wouldn't see [their particular volunteer experience] as an important thing or relevant to the job."
But maybe it's not that candidates are struggling to fit their entire careers on single sheets of paper or underestimating just how much employers value volunteering, even if it isn't directly related to their field. Maybe, Marshall suggests, "businesses aren't doing enough to signal how strongly [they] value volunteering."
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If You Value Volunteer Experience So Much, Why Don't You Help Your Employees Find Opportunities?
Marshall says that a lot of responses to the Deloitte survey indicated that many candidates don't come from employers with active volunteer programs. Therefore, these candidates don't have as much volunteer work to include on their resumes as other candidates might.
"That's an opportunity for companies, because as we see, most people ... believe that [volunteer work] can develop leadership skills," Marshall says.
What he means is that, if employers value volunteer work on candidates' resumes because it can be a powerful skill-building experience, these employers should also think about offering volunteer programs to their existing employees. Why not cultivate leadership skills in house?
Heidi Soltis-Berner, talent director of the evolving workforce at Deloitte, says that volunteer programs are also a good way for companies to signal to prospective hires that they want to see volunteer experience on their resumes.
"For example, at Deloitte, we offer an Alternative Spring Break for future candidates before they even apply or get hired," Soltis-Berner explains. "We take them to parts of the country where they have an opportunity to help out and improve their leadership skills, which in turn encourages them to view volunteering as important."
Soltis-Berner also notes that Deloitte University, the company's leadership center, offers plenty of volunteer programs – especially for interns.
"We try to actually encourage volunteering and bring that to life, even before we bring people in as employees," Soltis-Berner says. "We're trying to role model that behavior so people feel comfortable sharing what they've done and putting it on their resumes."
Plus, when prospects, interns, and even existing employees take part in volunteer programs through an employer, they're likely to share that information with their friends, family, and other social connections. Thus, word of the employer's volunteer-friendly brand spreads.
The good news is that Deloitte is not alone in this effort to show candidates just how valuable volunteer experience is. Marshall says many companies are taking similar steps – and he believes more are soon to join in.
"I was just at the Points of Light Conference [a conference dedicated to volunteering and service – ed. note], and all the major companies in America were there," Marshall says. "I think businesses are seeing the value of having these programs."
And people want to volunteer, according to Marshall and Soltis-Berner. They want their companies to help them find opportunities to volunteer – and they want to show off their volunteer experience without it falling on deaf ears.
So, if your organization values volunteer work but sees few resumes that play it up, that may be your own fault. Are you signaling to prospects that volunteer work matters at your organization? Are you giving your own employees time to volunteer? If not, you may want to think about how you can walk your own talk.
And for the workers reading this article, know this: If you have volunteer experience, flaunt it on your resume. There's a good chance it'll be the reason you land your next job.