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How to Outline Personal Interests for a Cover Letter

by Ellie Williams, studioD

When selling yourself to a prospective employer, you’re not limited to simply listing your previous job titles or describing your day-to-day duties. In fact, your cover letter is the ideal place to note anything that can’t go on your resume but still illustrates your knowledge and skills. If you pursue hobbies or other outside interests that might make you a stronger candidate, elaborate on them in your cover letter and explain how they qualify you for the job.

Keep It Relevant

No matter how proud you are of a hobby or other personal interest, don’t discuss it unless you can make a connection between it and the position you’re seeking. For example, don’t devote an entire paragraph to your model train collection and don’t delve into technical details unless this pursuit mirrors the job requirements or you know the employer shares your interest and will appreciate the skill and commitment required. Before listing anything, review the job description and ask yourself if the information will support your case.

Link It to the Job

When discussing your hobbies or extracurricular activities, always tie them to the position you’re seeking. Point out any transferable skills that you can use to fulfill the job requirements and contribute to the company’s success if hired. For example, if you belong to a public speaking organization, discuss how this experience has refined your communication and people skills. Also note that you’re comfortable approaching new people or going into new situations, which means the employer can count on you to make a positive first impression when representing the company.

Be Specific

If you say you enjoy reading, movies or travel, you’re not telling employers anything that separates you from the dozens of other candidates vying for the job -- especially if every other applicant might claim these same hobbies. Instead, say you enjoy 19th century French poetry, competitive horseback riding or organic gardening. Mention that you’ve completed the Paris Marathon twice, that you belong to an amateur theater group that tours the region or that you grow and show orchids. The more details you include, the more you reveal about your character and personality.

Emphasize Accomplishments and Leadership

Instead of simply listing your outside interests, showcase your achievements in these areas. This demonstrates your ambition and leadership potential -- qualities that strengthen your position as a candidate. For example, point out that you serve as team captain in a community sports league, recently completed your first triathlon or took first place at an international competition for amateur pianists. Describe what you’ve learned from these activities and how they’ve enhanced your professional skills. If you’re seeking a management position, for example, discuss your role as president of a local community organization and what it’s taught you about leading others.

About the Author

Ellie Williams has been a journalist since 2001. Her work has been recognized by her state's press association and by her local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Williams graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications and humanities, with minors in French and theater.

Photo Credits

  • Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Getty Images