How To List Volunteer Experience on Resumes

How To List Volunteer Experience on Resumes

Listing volunteer experience on resumes is more important than you’d think. Showing employers your charity work showcases your work ethic, skills, and personal values. This helps experienced professionals align with a company’s culture, and allows job seekers with little work history to show their relevant experience. This guide discusses the importance of a volunteer section on resumes and provides a step-by-step guide on how to do it.

Why should you add volunteer work on resumes?

It isn’t traditional paid work, but volunteering on resumes communicates a lot to a potential employer and offers a lot of benefits:

  • Shows your skills and qualifications: Adding volunteer experience that aligns with your targeted role adds even more legitimacy to your qualifications. For example, a vet who volunteers at animal shelters.
  • Introduces employers to your values: Your volunteer experience communicates your beliefs and personality to the hiring manager. It shows them you care about your community, people, animals, or the environment.
  • Displays work ethic: Displaying your volunteer work shows employers you have a strong work ethic, even when you don’t have a monetary incentive.
  • Helps job seekers with little work experience: If you have little work experience to add to your resume, community service and volunteering give you a way to communicate your skills and qualifications.
  • Facilitates career changing: If you’re transitioning careers, you may have little experience in your newly chosen industry, but volunteer work is a great way to show employers you’re ready for the switch. For example, a graphic designer switching to a UI/UX design role could volunteer to help a website clean up its user interface.
  • Explains career gaps: Volunteering between roles helps explain employment gaps to hiring managers. This is also an excellent way for new graduates to put their university skills to use immediately.

How do you write a volunteer section on your resume?

Let’s get into how to list volunteer experience on resumes. We’ll go over where you add volunteer work, how to format it, and the right tone of voice to use.

Choose the right place to list your volunteer work

Choosing where to add your volunteer experience depends on your background and work experience, as well as the nature of your volunteer work.

If you’re a seasoned professional with plenty of work experience, your volunteer work should be in its own section at the bottom of your resume. When you have years of work history, you aren’t relying on volunteering to show your experience – it’s just there to show your passion and work ethic. This means it doesn’t have to be front and center.

On the other hand, if you have a lack of work history, you should list your volunteering efforts in your work experience section. This also applies if your volunteer work closely relates to your career field and helps prove your skills.

You can try out both sections and see which suits you best by using one of our handy resume templates.

Use proper formatting and layout

You want the volunteer section on your resume to be clean and easy to read, so pay close attention to formatting. The layout of a great volunteer section follows the fundamental rules of writing a work experience section on a resume:

  • Use concise, appropriate headings
  • Utilize white space to improve readability
  • Include a bullet point list to highlight achievements

It’s also good to list the organization’s name, location, and the date you volunteered there – just like your work history.

Pay attention to language and tone

No matter the type of volunteer work, you should list it using professional language and tone (even if it was a highly casual experience).

It’s also important to tailor the tone of your volunteer section like the job description. If it’s a highly formal job post, match it – but if it’s more light-hearted and fun, don’t be afraid to make your volunteer work sound fun.

Expert Tip:

There’s no limit to the type of volunteer work you can add to your resume. Do volunteer at a blood drive, but only a few weekends a year? That still shows people skills and dedication. Just be sure to list the time frame so employers know.

3 tips for listing volunteer work on resumes

Now that you know the fundamentals, browse our top tips to optimize the volunteer section on resumes.

For even more advice, check out our large collection of resume articles that help job seekers shape the perfect application.

Highlight your achievements, not your duties

Hiring managers want to see the outcomes you achieved, not a list of your responsibilities. Tell the recruiter about the impact you had on your volunteer work, using measurable metrics if possible. Like this:

“Processed over 100 food shelf orders daily, enhancing productivity and ensuring struggling communities had a reliable food source.”

Tailor each entry to the job you are applying to

Carefully read the job ad you’re applying to and tailor your volunteer experience to it. For example, if the job description asks for interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence, use those terms instead of simply writing “empathy.”

This is an important step for creating an ATS resume, which is a resume that bypasses a company’s applicant tracking system (ATS) by using similar terminology.

Provide your most relevant experience

Consider the job you’re targeting when adding your volunteer work and ensure it’s relevant. You should list volunteer work relevant to the role and draw attention to transferable skills where possible.

Let’s say you’re applying for a sales role – make sure to mention how your community public speaking required people skills, charisma, and negotiation.

Note: You can add irrelevant volunteer work to your resume to show employers your values and humanitarian efforts, but make sure it doesn’t take up too much space.

“Your volunteer experience communicates your beliefs and personality to the hiring manager. It shows them you care about your community, people, animals, or the environment.”

Volunteer section on resumes: Realistic examples

Let’s get you started by reviewing a few realistic examples of volunteer experience on resumes.

The first example is a nurse with professional work experience, backing up their qualifications with a volunteer work section:

Volunteer Nurse
Ferris Cane Clinic, Madison, WI
October 2021 – November 2022

  • Accumulated over 500 hours of volunteer experience helping patients to medical appointments, changing patients’ bed linens, and serving patients food
  • Spent time talking to and reassuring patients, listening to their concerns, and addressing them, leading to a 98% satisfaction rate according to surveys

Now let’s see volunteering on a resume for a job seeker who’s changing careers from an administrative assistant to a writer:

Volunteer Writer
Palace Times, Rochester, NY
March 2022 – January 2024

  • Leveraged keen attention to detail to write highly accurate, well-researched articles, leading to a 10% increase in productivity
  • Adhered closely to writing guidelines and seamlessly created brand-aligned pieces

Check out our resume examples for more resume samples, including role-specific resumes and volunteer sections.

Add volunteer experience on resumes and show employers your passions

Volunteering is a powerful act, and hiring managers love to see it. List volunteer work on resumes and tell employers about yourself, including your values, skills, and interests. 

Follow our tips to create a strong volunteer section:

  • Tailor your volunteer section to the job ad, using similar terminology
  • Include the most relevant volunteer work from your history
  • Showcase achievements instead of responsibilities

Check out CVwizard’s Resume Builder to easily build a resume with volunteer experience, whether you want to add it to your work section or dedicate a separate area.

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