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  • Stacey Baker

Why having a hobby can give you the edge in a job application?

You've got the qualifications, you've got the experience, you've got the job, right? Wrong. You may very well have the brains but if you are as interesting as watching paint dry, then would an employer really want you to join their company?

Often degrees, qualifications and your education can be summed up with simple grades. This helps the interviewer narrow down their search from a mountain of eager candidates to a handful that meets, or indeed exceeds, the job description criteria.

Once this is done, then comes the tricky part. Having sculpted an idea of your academic background and your general presentation skills, employers must then attempt to build a picture of the type of person your CV portrays and most importantly, whether or not you are the right fit for the business.

It's no coincidence that in an increasingly competitive job market, more and more employers are looking beyond qualifications and focusing on personal interests to identify your individual talent, personality and creativity. In addition to enhancing your qualifications, your hobbies can actually fill the gaps in your work experience and even substitute for skills stipulated on the job description. Considering your personal interests can set you apart from the competition, give potential employers a more rounded view of your personality and clinch you that coveted spot on the shortlist.

There isn't necessarily a one-size-fits-all method for highlighting your interests and, arguably, some professions will rate your personal hobbies more highly than others, so consider how you tailor your interests. In sales-driven sectors, where client relationships are the heartbeat of the business, they'll be more interested in seeing how you interact with people outside work. If you identify yourself as a member of a sports team, for example, it's a good indication that you are sociable, committed and can mix with people from all walks of life.

Not only can your hobbies help you to stand out from the crowd but they can also provide you with those invaluable examples of where you've overcome adversity or tackled a difficult situation and emerged the other side. Be specific. Discussing how you came back from behind to win a football championship or stepped into a lead role at the last minute can set you apart from the competition and prove that you're able to think on your feet, helping you to stand out as a motivated and confident candidate. It also helps to elaborate on your leisure activities, rather than just supplying a long list. Anyone who's coached the under 11s: marshalled their team mates on a football, rugby, hockey or cricket pitch, on a netball or basketball court or on any other sporting platform will have shown the supervisory skills required to succeed in the workplace.

Match your hobbies to the attributes listed in the job specification and, where possible, mirror the language used at your interview. If an employer is looking for a candidate with an ambitious streak, highlight how you've improved your interpersonal skills and honed your competitive edge by joining a club or team and achieving success by developing within that environment.

Once an employer can understand your personality and what motivates you, they can then begin to see where you will fit in the team structure and the benefits you will bring to the business.

So how do I show off my interests?

Ultimately, hobbies demonstrate to an employer that you are a passionate, enthusiastic and engaging individual and that there's more to you than good grades. CV's are your foot in the door and, while you may be as qualified as Einstein, if your hobbies and interests lack any real substance, then why would an employer invite you to interview? It's important to have interests that actively promote you, and best reflect your skill set.

So, a few things to remember the next time you update your CV:

• Pick genuine hobbies that demonstrate an element of both your personality and your skills and how they will benefit the business. You might be keen on cats but unless you bring something to the table, such as volunteering in a cattery at the weekends, you're not giving them much to go on.

• Can you link your interests with any achievements? This way you can further highlight your passion, commitment and determination to succeed. Maybe your tennis team has gone up a league since you joined, or your amateur dramatics group has reached a regional final – think about how you can use your progress to highlight your drive and ambition.

• Make your hobbies sound appealing and interesting to employers. You don't want to give away the whole story, but capture their interest and make them curious to find out more about you. Your interests may also provide some of the best examples you have of overcoming a challenge or turning a negative situation into a positive.

• Be honest. Mentioning that you're a keen polo player when the closest you've come is a donkey ride at Blackpool might backfire if you're recruited for a charity polo match down the track. If you progress to interview stage and get rumbled, it's unlikely that you'll be joining the business any time soon.

The thing with hobbies is that, most of the time, it is all about being open to new experiences. Being a hobbyist is much more than collecting stamps, it's about following your passions, learning new skills and above all, enjoying yourself. If an employer can see that, then you are halfway through the door.

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