How Job Interviewers and Recruiters Assess Volunteer Experience

In the world of human resource management, recruiters often have a limited number of sources from which to gather information about job applicants. One common source of information that recruiters typically do have access to are applicant résumés. Although résumés may contain a wide variety of information about applicants, one topic that often receives attention on a résumé is volunteer experience. It’s possible that recruiters believe that such experience may be indicative of an individuals’ generosity, dedication to a cause, or willingness to work for few external motivators; however, there is some debate as to how volunteer experience is really weighted by recruiters. Do they value it over paid experience? Does the relevance of the volunteer experience to the job being applied for make a difference? In a recent paper, researchers (Wilkin & Connelly, 2012) address these questions.


Using a sample of human resources professionals and recruiters, the researchers found that paid experience is not inherently more desirable than volunteer experience. Perhaps not surprisingly, the authors also found that past experience that was job-relevant (whether or not it was paid or volunteer experience) was viewed by the recruiters more favorably than past experience that was not job-relevant. Finally, résumés with both paid and volunteer experience were viewed more favorably than résumés that only contained one type of experience.


This study’s findings are especially relevant to practitioners who may be coaching applicants on résumé writing. The results of this study suggest that relevant work experience should be emphasized, as opposed to any and all work experience, related or unrelated. It also suggests that, particularly for entry-level employees, any volunteer experience, in conjunction with at least a small amount of relevant paid experience, is worthy of inclusion in a résumé.


Wilkin, C. L., & Connelly, C. E. (2012). Do I look like someone who cares? Recruiters’ ratings of applicants’ paid and volunteer experience. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 20, 308-318.