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What should figure in your CV?

LiveMint logoLiveMint 01-06-2014 Pooja Chaturvedi

A die-hard supporter of a political party? Upset with the way some offices do not allow flexitime? Believe in an equal hours, equal pay policy? Your résumé might not be the place to mention your pet peeves and the causes you support.

When Anisha Bhargava, who has done a master’s in business administration from a private New Delhi-based institute, went for an interview with an audit company, her résumé mentioned her support for a political party, along with links to her related blog posts. The interviewer asked her pointed questions on the subject, unnerving her. “I regretted sharing this bit of personal information on my CV,” she says.

“A résumé is not meant to be your personal diary that tells your life story,” says Kris Lakshmikanth, founder chief executive officer (CEO) and managing director of Head Hunters India Pvt. Ltd, a boutique executive search firm based in Bangalore. “It is more like a brochure whose only purpose is to get you the interview and make your résumé stand out during the screening process,” he says.

Typically, reviewers spend 15-25 seconds on a résumé. And if you’re competing with hundreds of other job aspirants, it may be even less. So while there is no debate on the fact that you should mention achievements, qualifications and work experience, experts differ on how much personal detail you should include.

New Delhi-based Shveta Verma, associate director of human capital at the Indian arm of consulting and audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, says, “Personal details such as hobbies and interests provide an insight into your overall personality and therefore are very important in a résumé.”

In some cases, personal information can serve to differentiate you from others. “When the candidate pool is large and undifferentiated, the interviewer will look at the personal information to finalize the selection. For example, mentioning a lead position in a community group activity is an indicator of leadership, and participating in a debate shows your communication skills, which can’t be told through your college grades,” says Himanshu Rai, associate professor, human resource (HR) management, at the Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow.

But while listing awards won at debates in school may be good, there is some information you should refrain from giving. “Highlighting an affinity with religious groups and mentioning political affiliations should be strictly avoided. Besides, one should avoid mentioning information about his or her race, or even details like how you coped with alcohol addictions and what are your views about homosexuality,” says Gurgaon-based Amit Jagga, head of the talent transformation business unit at the business process outsourcing company Concentrix Corp. “Personal information that plays to social biases does affect perceptions. So political views will affect perceptions about the person even if it is not relevant to the role,” says Bangalore-based Abhijit Bhaduri, chief learning officer and head of corporate HR development at information technology, consulting and outsourcing firm Wipro Ltd.

In fact, as you go forward in your professional career, any information you reveal can be a double-edged sword. “It is fine for a fresh college graduate to mention hobbies and interests. However, in the case of an experienced professional, it needs to be information that has a bearing on the person’s ability to carry out the role he or she is applying for. It must be related to the role,” says Bhaduri.

Verma, however, believes that mentioning personal information is critical, irrespective of whether you are a beginner, a mid-level professional or even a CEO. “It’s about showcasing what you are besides work. If you are a mid-level professional and have learnt a musical instrument like a piano, we’ll know that you are disciplined and patient while learning new things,” she says. Lakshmikanth differs: “Mentioning hobbies like you are an avid golf player may give the impression that you cared for golf more than your previous job. Who has the time otherwise to play golf while working?” he says.

Given that there is no consensus on how much personal information would be “overselling”, we asked the experts for their views on three levels to try and provide a clear picture.

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Be selective

A quick guide for every level on what to highlight and what to keep away from your résumé

For beginners

How important is it to include personal details? “Very important,” says Himanshu Rai, associate professor of human resource (HR) management at the Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow. “Since they don’t have any work experience, they must include their personal details like hobbies, interests and achievements, as these are the factors that will help the interviewer to make a more informed decision.”

Mention: “Along with the academic qualifications that the job needs, any certifications that show language proficiency are useful to add. The top three achievements in extra-curricular activities, leadership positions and major awards or scholarships received should feature in the résumé,” says Abhijit Bhaduri, chief learning officer and head of corporate HR development at Wipro Ltd.

Avoid: “Information about family members or their achievements. And also the creative writing competition that you won in fifth standard,” says Amit Jagga, head of the talent transformation business unit at Concentrix Corp.

For mid-level professionals

How important is it to include personal details? “It is important for a mid-level professional to reveal his or her personal details such as hobbies and interests as it shows he or she knows how to balance his work and also pursue his interests. It also shows how capable that person is in leading one day,” says Shveta Verma, associate director of human capital at the Indian arm of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Mention: “While it is okay to talk about interests such as wildlife photography, the personal details that are really helpful are the ones which enhance your career or are helpful in your profession in any way,” says Kris Lakshmikanth, founder CEO and managing director of Head Hunters India Pvt. Ltd. “For instance, if we are looking for a public relations officer for an embassy, it would help if you have learnt some other foreign language more than the fact that you won a state-level volleyball competition,” he says.

Avoid: “It is probably the time when you might have had a midlife crisis and you’re not so positive about life. But refrain from mentioning your marital status, information that could put you in a negative light, and also about the job that you left in one month,” says Rai.

For the CEO level

How important is it to include personal details? “A CEO wouldn’t need to prove that he is capable of taking up challenges and that he can give his best at work. Personal information like hobbies and interests helps in knowing him better as a person. Besides, it also helps in communication during the interview when the interviewer is already aware of the interviewee’s professional accomplishments,” says Jagga.

Mention: “Just one or two major interests. Personal information in this case could be limited to any membership, achievement outside the professional purview, and awards or felicitations,” says Verma.

Avoid: “It is better to not to share personal details like marital status and experiences at previous jobs, since they can be bombarded with unsolicited calls and questions,” says Lakshmikanth.

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