How To Include Volunteer Experience in a CV (With Example)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated 22 November 2022
Published 30 August 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
When preparing a curriculum vitae, or CV, to apply for jobs, your primary goal is to include the qualifications that make you a top professional candidate. If you completed volunteer work in your past, including it on your CV can display more of your qualifications than just including your official work history. By learning about the different ways to feature volunteer experience in a CV, you can strengthen your job applications and expand your career opportunities.
In this article, we share the benefits of listing volunteer positions on a CV, explain how to do so and share a sample volunteer CV to inspire you.
Benefits of including volunteer experience in a CV
Because your CV displays your top qualifications for a position, including volunteer work can allow you to present your accomplishments from a new perspective. Employers may also appreciate learning about how you conduct yourself outside of an official professional environment. Some of the top reasons to include volunteer work on a CV are:
Providing information on transferable skills when changing careers or industries
Giving context about your activities during gaps in your CV when you were not active in the workforce
Adding more information to a CV for applicants with limited professional experience, such as recent college graduates
How to list volunteer work on your CV
Use these instructions as a guide for listing volunteer positions on a CV:
1. Include examples of volunteer work in your professional experience section
If you have little or no professional experience, consider adding relevant volunteer positions to your professional background section. Volunteer roles where you have professional-level responsibilities can add substance to your work experience section. If you have extensive professional experience in your field, focus only on your three to five most recent and relevant jobs and devote your volunteer work to its own section.
After you've included key work experiences and internships, list relevant volunteer work, including your title and where you volunteered. Format your volunteer work using the same structure you used for official jobs, but make sure you identify your role as a volunteer, along with any additional titles.
Here's how to display your volunteer work in a CV:
Food Bank of West Hong Kong
Volunteer shift manager, June 2016 – Present
Organise and manage food pantry operations resulting in a 10% decrease in spending
Train volunteers base on managing the food shelves
Create, organise and manage shift calendars for over 100 volunteers
2. Connect your volunteer experiences with your skills
If you gained or improved important skills through volunteer work, include these skills and developments when describing your volunteer work. Pay attention to any skills that may also be important to your potential employers. Discuss how you learned your skills and what volunteer experiences enabled you to develop your professional knowledge.
Related: 10 Best Skills To Include on a CV
3. Create a separate section for unrelated volunteer experiences
If you have volunteer experiences that are unrelated to your industry, consider including a brief volunteer work section at the bottom of your CV. Even if these volunteer positions don't directly connect to your current field, listing them can set you apart from other candidates or provide helpful context about your personal characteristics and career trajectory.
For example, if an employer values hiring and supporting employees with a rich life outside of work, it may be helpful for them to learn about your contributions to a non-profit organisation that you're passionate about. Another example might be that you started volunteering for a certain cause at a young age that eventually informed your decision to study a certain topic in college or pursue a certain career.
Tips for listing volunteer work on your CV
Here are some tips for using volunteer work on your resume to your advantage:
Revise your CV for each job application
You may need to customise how you describe your volunteer work to fit each employers' required skills, traits and qualifications. Create a personalised version of your CV that works best for each job and matches each job posting by studying the job description. Research the company by visiting their website and browsing through any recent press releases to learn about how to align your volunteer experience with their values.
Include keywords from the job posting
Carefully read each job posting for which you intend to apply. Identify keywords used in the job posting, especially those under the qualifications and required skills and experiences sections. Understanding the employer's ideal candidate can help you when deciding whether to include a volunteer work section and how to position it.
For example, if the employer expresses interest in candidates with strong organisational skills, consider how successfully executed this quality while volunteering.
Only include volunteer work when needed
Volunteer work can help provide additional support for a CV that lacks valuable work experience. However, if you have extensive work experience to list that is relevant to potential employers, it may be best to leave volunteer work off of your CV.
Adding volunteer work to your CV may mean sacrificing some space for professional work experiences that are more directly connected to your career goals. Employers only spend a few seconds on each application, so consider carefully whether adding volunteer work will be as beneficial as your professional experience.
Example CV with volunteer work
Here is an example of a CV that includes descriptions of volunteer experience:
Tin Shui Wai, Hong Kong
Recent college graduate in museum studies with a passion for art education seeking to enrich my local community by providing quality museum education services to school-aged visitors. Specialised in multimodal learning for special needs youth and interactive gallery teaching for art history.
Bachelor of Arts
Concentration in art history and museum studies
Gallery for Community Arts
June 2020 - Present
Design gallery tours customised for various age groups to teach visitors about gallery content
Lead activities in the galleries to engage students with school curriculum through art
Teach speciality courses for students with special needs utilising sensory tools to connect them with themes in special exhibits
Create workbooks, flashcards, information sheets and other supplementary materials to provide educational context about artworks
Education department volunteer
Tin Shui Wai Contemporary Museum
July 2019 - Present
Provide tours for young student visitors using provided materials to educate them about contemporary art
Organise tour materials and write reports summarising tour activities to share with educators and teachers
Supervise students in the teen art program while creating works inspired by the contemporary gallery
Beacon School After School Program
August 2018 - May 2019
Helped students complete homework and improve skills in mathematics and reading
Assisted teachers with organising assignments and preparing materials for class
Tin Shui Wai Animal Shelter
Provided basic needs for animals such as walking, distributing food, cleaning cages and bathing as needed
Frequently asked questions about volunteer experience on a CV
Here are some common questions and answers about including volunteer work on a CV:
How do you describe volunteer work on a CV?
You describe volunteer work on a CV similar to how you discuss work experience. Emphasise your responsibilities as a volunteer and the impact you made on the volunteer organisation through your work. When discussing your volunteer experience, it's important to consider how it relates to the job you want to attain through your CV.
Does volunteer work go on a CV?
Volunteer work can make an excellent addition to your CV if it promotes your professional skills and abilities. When deciding if you want to include volunteer work on your CV, consider how your volunteer duties contributed to your ability to succeed in future positions. You can also compare our volunteer experience to other qualifications, like your education, certifications and work history. If you feel that your volunteer experience adds a unique qualification, feature it on your CV.
Can you put volunteer experience before work experience?
Only place volunteer experience before work experience on your CV if it's highly relevant to your future work position. It's standard to list your work experience first because you tend to devote more time and energy to full-time jobs than volunteer roles. However, some volunteer roles can strengthen your CV if you list them first.
For example, if you're applying for jobs in the health care field, but all of your work experience is in the service industry, it may be wise to list a volunteer role at a hospital before discussing your official jobs.
What is good volunteer work on a CV?
Good volunteer work on a CV includes any roles that relate to your desired job or demonstrate positive professional characteristics. Think about how the volunteer role reflects your professional reputation. For example, volunteering with children may show patience and empathy. Volunteering with an environmental organisation may show an ethical, goal-oriented mindset.
Explore more articles
- 139 Action Verbs to Make Your CV Stand Out
- Bid Resume: A Writing Guide (With Example and Template)
- 10 Leadership Skills To Highlight In Your Resume
- What Is a CV Coach? (Plus Reasons for Using One and Tips)
- How to Write Work Experience on a CV (With Examples)
- Career Break Resume Samples for Explaining Employment Gaps
- How To Write a Job Application Email (With Examples)
- A Guide to Analytical Skills: Definition, Examples and Tips
- A Definitive Guide to Upskilling and Reskilling (With Steps)
- How to Write an Investment Banking Resume in 8 Steps
- Executive Administrative Assistant Resume Skills (Examples)
- How to Write a Tattoo Artist Resume (With Tips and Examples)