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How to Use Your Downtime to Boost Your CV

How to Use Your Downtime to Boost Your CV main image

By Lucy Farrington-Smith

We’ve all been there. You’re nervously sat in an interview, and the question of all questions comes up: “So, tell me a little bit about yourself. What do you like to do in your spare time?”

Knowing what to say to employers at times like this can feel like an impossible task. There’s no crib sheet, or guidelines as to what they’re looking for, and saying you like to “develop your Excel skills as a hobby in the evenings” sounds terrible, and totally unbelievable.

So, let’s iron it out, and work out a few things to do pre-interview to make the experience a whole lot more palatable, and learn how to nail that pesky interview question.

What do your hobbies say about you?

This is an easy one to conquer. Cherry-pick some hobbies you have a genuine interest in. Interviewers can see through lies, and passion is hard to fake when it isn’t there (especially where Excel is concerned). Look at is as a chance to talk about your interests, and for an interviewer to find out more about you as a person – rather than just what’s on your CV.

Like to read? Great, it shows that you are constantly learning and creatively minded. Play a sport? It shows good teamworking skills and an active outlook. Volunteer at a charity? That’s proof you are selfless and that you care for others. This is something Ana Recio, senior vice president of Global Recruiting at Salesforce, corroborates: “My team looks for both passionate and compassionate candidates, and the way someone spends their free time is an easy indicator to identify those traits that we value.”

Feel like you’ve not quite found your niche yet? Then get experimenting. Evenings and weekends are the perfect time to try out new things, and if you don’t feel totally comfortable going it alone, rope in a housemate or friend to join you. Rock-climbing, painting, attempting to learn a new language – they are all great places to start. Just keep going until you find the right one for you.

Take an extra course

This time we may be taking the Excel theory a little more seriously. Does your dream job require you to know a lot about SEO, but every time you’re faced with it you have to check on Google that you’re doing the right thing? Or is there an area of the office CMS that keeps stumping you?

Narrow down your areas of weakness and then seek to improve them. After-work classes, or distance-learning are options to help round off your skillset. This way, when you’re faced with an interview, you can prove your commitment to the field with these extra-curricular activities.

Some workplaces offer in-house training and development, so it’s always best to inform your manager first to see if the training can be subsidised or brought into your day-to-day routine.

Utilize social media

More and more employers are looking for previous blogging or social media experience in their job descriptions, even when they aren’t completely related to the role. If you can combine a previously-held passion with social media, and run it alongside your employment, that’s great. It shows absolute commitment and a want to pursue goals – even when there isn’t always a monetary gain.

Social media is a fantastic way to broadcast creativity – be it with a recipe blog for healthy eating, a workout routine, or if you just really love makeup and want to review a few pieces – it all helps to build your character as an individual, which is integral when connecting with new and prospective employers. Alyssa Gelbard, founder and president of Resume Strategists, says: “If you're on the hunt for communications or marketing jobs, showing off your blogging skills can enhance your candidacy.”

Just remember to proof read, and maintain consistency with posting – it will all help to show commitment and dedication, which are great positives when interviewing for a new position – and it will help to make the down-time question a whole lot easier to answer.

Lucy Farrington-Smith writes for Inspiring Interns, which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate careers advice.

Lead image: National Park Service

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