How To Measure And Communicate Your Volunteer Experiences For Resumes And Job Interviews

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In the “Volunteer Experience” section of your resumé, do your bullet points look like any of these?

  • Promoted and raised awareness for events
  • Attended and assisted in events such as campus fair
  • Assured information around campus is up-to-date
  • Worked closely and communicated often with the President and VP Sales and Marketing
  • Kept finances up-to-date
  • Co-educated children and youth about environmental conservation

These are a sample of some bullet points taken from applicant resumés that I’ve reviewed recently.

Read any one of them and ask yourself: “What did he or she actually do in this position?”

What information should you include?

As the employer, I want to see specific examples in regards to what you did and how you did it, as well as the results that were generated by these actions, rather than somewhat vague or generic descriptions of your role.

An employer will not read your resumé as thoroughly as you would like, so it’s important to make sure that every bullet point is worth it’s space.  Oftentimes, instead of giving a clear and concise overview of their contributions to the organization, applicants often include unnecessary or ambiguous information about their tasks.

To only write that you “promoted and raised awareness for events” is not enough – the key element is explaining how you did this.  Did you put up flyers? Posters? A neat guerilla campaign using social media? And what was the result of the events? How many people came out? A bullet point without those types of information provides unsubstantial information and therefore doesn’t give an employer many positive things to attribute to your work – in fact, it even works against your favour since it’s not a complete “resumé sentence.”

In resumé language, sentences should be formed answering “What you (actually) did” and great ones include “The result of my action was…”

To communicate your volunteer experiences better, you should re-word the aforementioned bullet point as such:  “Promoted our speaker series by administering daily booths and creating campus-wide marketing materials, which generated an additional 50 attendees.”

Ahhh… now I know what you did, and it seems as though your marketing efforts were successful (and I am impressed that you measured your impact afterwards!).

How do you measure your awesomeness?

So you are volunteering, working your tail off on campus or with an off-campus organization during the year – keep it up! We need more students to continue giving back to their communities. However, while volunteering is valuable to the organization/club and the members it serves, it should also provide you with opportunities for self-development. You should also be proud to talk about your experiences on a resumé, as well as during interviews.

It can be hard to create well-constructed remarks about the results of your work, often because while we are eager to help and volunteer, we don’t take a few minutes to think about measuring our work, success or outcomes WHILE (or ideally before) we volunteer.

Measuring your outcomes, getting evaluations, quantifying success, and setting goals are all aspects that you must consider as you begin to volunteer (or work) so that you can understand and communicate your goals and accomplishments.

If you are a marketing person, conduct a post-event survey by asking participants where or how they heard about the event. This will give you the necessary feedback and evidence to prove that you were successful (50 students came because of you) or give you valuable insight into what you should or shouldn’t do next time (important learnings or key take-aways from your experiences that can be applied to this job are also great for interviews, even if the result wasn’t great).

If you are a finance volunteer, don’t just say, “Kept finances up-to-date.” I have an idea about what you did, but I’m not sold that you did an exceptional job, and I’m uncertain as to how rigorous this task really was (i.e., your club may have revenues of $100, with $20 spent at Kinkos as your sole expense).

While you are in the role, set goals for your financial tracking so that you can report back at the end:

  • Managed the collection and depositing of $2,000 generated through fundraisers throughout the year
  • Kept club finances up-to-date using Excel spreadsheets, tracking all revenues and expenses to generate a detailed income statement at year’s end

Now that’s much better! If you are looking to get hired for a finance job, then I (as the hiring manager) know exactly how you contributed to your previous employer, and I would also be interested in asking you interview questions about procedures and learnings from this experience.

Now you know how to communicate your awesomeness!

And for those who are looking for some great volunteer experience, check out Students Offering Support!

But seriously, when you are looking for your a place to build your experience, make sure you know what your role entails and that you are able to set goals and  measure outcomes. This will enable you to not only help drive the organization’s mandate, but to develop your own skills and experiences in meaningful ways.

How do you measure your accomplishments as a volunteer?

Photo credit: Our OUTSTANDING volunteers in pink hard hats! by nyealumniadvisor on Flickr
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About the author

Greg Overholt Greg Overholt (@goverholt) is the founder and executive director of the national student-led charitable social venture SOS: Students Offering Support (@SOSheadoffice). SOS is an organization where student volunteers teach their peers in exam-prep group review sessions, with the proceeds used to fund education projects in rural Latin America, built by volunteers on annual outreach trips. Since 2004, 25,000 students have been taught across 30 universities, raising more than $1,400,000 for development projects. Greg has spent the last five years since graduating helping 3000+ student leaders across Canada to "raise marks, raise money, and raise roofs" on their campuses.