How to use volunteer experience to make your resume stand out

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Sep 8, 2022 5 min read

Quick Answer:
Absolutely! Your unpaid work reveals your character, goals, and ambition. Besides, recruiters love this, and they are more likely to overlook potential resume flaws if you include volunteering. Showcase relevant volunteer experience in your work experience section, pinpoint specific results of your work, and demonstrate how it aligns with your desired career.

With ten years of experience in my professional field, I’m not lacking things to include on my resume. But there’s one thing I never leave out – my volunteer work.

Why’d someone leave it out?

More often than not, the conversation with potential recruiters veers off in the direction of charity work. That’s why I am always dumbfounded when I see people leaving their pro bono work off their applications.

It’s simple, including a section devoted to volunteer activities on your resume not only showcases your skills and interests in front of possible employers but also reinforces your candidature especially if you have little to no work experience. That said, let’s see where exactly to list your volunteering experience and how to make your resume stand out.

Should you put volunteer work on your resume? It’s unpaid after all…

There’s a myth around resume building that says that unpaid work doesn’t belong on a resume. But if you can include your grad school internship, who’s to say you shouldn’t put in your volunteer work? Even if it’s not paid, your community service is as valuable as paid work.

It shows you’re proactive and ready to give back to society without waiting for any monetary compensation. The bottom line is; always put volunteer experience on your resume.

Does volunteering count as work experience?

It depends. It could count as work experience, as long as the knowledge and skills you acquired and developed during your community service somewhat align with the responsibilities of the job you are after.

But where to list your volunteer work? What section would it fit best in?

Where to put volunteering on your resume

If it’s tied to the job offer, or if you lack paid work experience, you can add it to your resume work experience section. If it’s not related, or you’ve tons of paid, relevant work experience, consider listing your volunteer activities in a separate section of your resume.

I’d argue that having an extensive working background shouldn’t even remotely relegate the opportunity of including volunteer experience on your CV, but I’ll leave the rant for another day. Adding it, along with the essential resume prerequisites, can only help your resume stand out. Here’s why…

Why volunteering resumes stand out

It’s not just a personal opinion, but one backed by data. According to Deloitte, recruiters are drawn to your volunteer work. 82% of hiring professionals prefer applicants with volunteer experience.

Another survey, this time by LinkedIn, found that 20% of the hiring managers in the U.S. admit that volunteer work tipped the balance in favor of the candidate who had it included in their resume.

Recruiters believe unpaid work builds leadership and communication skills, shaping a strong character. What’s more, they love this kind of work so much they’re often willing to overlook some resume flaws (not that there’d be any, if you use Enhancv, right?). So your volunteer work might very well compensate for lack of work experience or poor grades in university.

And yet, only one in three job seekers mention any unpaid volunteer experience they’ve had. Which, come to think about it, is good news for you. Including your community service work will help you stand out from all the other CVs and applicants out there. Let’s see how to do it properly.

How to put volunteering work on your resume and make it really count

  • I may have led you off by presenting charity work as the silver bullet to recruiters’ hearts. But the impact will be more significant if you follow a few key points. Here’s how to list volunteering on your resume:
  • Add relevant volunteer experience in your professional work experience section. If it’s non-relevant, or if you have extensive paid experience, list it in a separate section of your resume.
    Point out if and how your duties were tied to your career. Share achievements and show what you’ve learned.
    Be extensive and precise. By pinpointing specific results of your work, you’ll drive the conversation to the personal traits that helped you achieve this.

As humans we learn best by examples, so to get a grasp of the above bullets, here is the volunteering section on Avery’s resume:

An example of volunteer experience on a resume:


Talent Manager @ Everybody’s got talent Association

The Talent Manager is in charge of recruiting, training new members of the committee, helping current members to evolve within the organization, and ensuring the committee is effective.

  • Recruited more than 30 members for less than two years. As of today, more than 90% of them are within the organization.
  • Led and mentored 12 committee members.
  • Secured 5 Gold sponsors for the XYZ charity marathon in 2019.
  • Planned and organized 27 department-wide events.

Want to create your own volunteer resume? Then why not look into Enhancv resume volunteer examples and build your resume in just a few minutes?

With the Enhancv resume builder, you can craft a resume that blows all other applicants out of the water. From design options to bullet and section suggestions and content writing tips, we’re here to help you land your dream job!

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What does volunteering say about you?

A resume with volunteer experience tells the person hiring a lot. It tells them that:

  • You’re proactive. Not waiting for work to come to you, instead, you start working whenever the opportunity arises. Few people are willing to do stuff that’s unpaid, so pat yourself on the back for taking on a challenge.
  • You’re driven by impact. Money is clearly not a driver in this project. You end up sacrificing free time and personal resources to do a good deed. But it’s worth it if you see a result and shape the world around you.
  • You give back to your community. You feel it’s important to drive change and give back.
  • You have more skills than just role-related ones. Volunteer workers don’t strive because of their professional skills. To persist, they need ambition and personal drive, strength to drive change. There’s a lot to make you stand out – but just putting in the word “volunteer” in your resume doesn’t pay. You should tie in your unpaid work to the broader career picture you want to paint.

It's never too late to start

The cool thing is volunteer work can be of tremendous value to you, especially if you don’t have much experience in your desired field. It’s much easier to propose unpaid help in your field than jump through hoops to secure an internship at a high profile company. As a bonus, you’ll usually have much more hands-on work entrusted to you and the experience will sit better with recruiters.

If you’d like to see a real example of a stunning resume that uses volunteer experience effectively, check out Enhancv top volunteer resume examples for 2020.

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Vassilena Valchanova
A marketing specialist with a passion for digital. Loves finding efficient ways for brands and communities to grow together. Also, a cat-lover, cappuccino addict, early riser and theatre enthusiast.
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