Community service can be a golden ticket, especially entry-level candidates or those transitioning sectors. It not only showcases your dedication and skills but also reflects your commitment to positive change. But is it always appropriate to include on your resume?
In general, you should only include community service on your resume if you're an entry-level candidate with limited paid experience or if the community service is directly relevant to the job you’re applying for. Otherwise, it's best to leave it off.
In this article, we will discuss how to determine if community service is a good addition to your resume, the best ways to describe community service while highlighting transferable skills, and where to list community service on your resume.
The difference between “community service” and “volunteering”
While the terms “community service” and “volunteering” can be used interchangeably, there is technically a difference between the two.
While volunteering encompasses any voluntary unpaid work, community service specifically describes volunteering performed to help one's community. Community service can be part of an academic accomplishment, a scouting or guiding program, or a government requirement, such as for citizenship or residency. So, while community service is almost always volunteering, volunteering is not always community service.
That being said, when writing your resume, it is acceptable to use the term community service or volunteering to describe any unpaid work experience, so feel free to choose whichever term best describes the focus of your work.
If you want to check that your community service experience is correctly structured on your resume, upload it to the tool below. It'll let you know if you have effectively highlighted your relevant achievements and transferable skills.
Should you include community service on your resume?
Community service is not a mandatory requirement for any resume. Whether it fits on your resume will depend on what other paid experience you have and its relevance to your intended industry.
Consider these four questions when deciding whether or not to include community service on your resume.
Are the skills you gained relevant to your industry?
Community service is an excellent addition to your resume when your experience is directly related to the job you're applying for. To determine if your experience is relevant, consider the key responsibilities of the new position and if any of these keywords overlap with your volunteering work. This can include hard skills, such as experience with industry-specific software and tools, and soft skills, like leadership, mentoring, and project management.
For example, if you are applying for a role in software development, community service work at your local library is likely irrelevant, but managing a tech project for a local charity would be highly relevant.
To check if your community experience is relevant to your application, use our Targeted Resume Tool to scan your resume for relevant keywords and receive personalized feedback on how to tailor your resume to a specific job.
You can also use the skills search tool below to get a list of skills relevant to the job you're applying for.
How much paid work experience do you have?
For entry-level job seekers with little or no paid work experience, including community service on your resume is a great way to showcase hard and soft skills. Choose community service projects related to your desired field, and describe your work the same as you would a paid role.
If you have ample paid work experience, including community service might clutter your resume. In this case, it is better to leave community service off your resume in favor of paid experience.
How long is your resume?
The optimal length for your resume is 1-2 pages; the shorter, the better. If your resume is already close to 2 pages and you're struggling to cut it down, you can likely remove your community service to save space for higher-priority information, like work experience, skills, qualifications, and education.
How long ago was your community service?
If your community service was over ten years ago, it holds less weight to potential employers than more recent experiences and can likely be removed. The same is true for outdated paid roles, qualifications, and education. A good rule of thumb is to keep everything on your resume within the last 10-15 years.
How to list community service on your resume
List your job title as “Community Service Volunteer,” or use a traditional job title followed by “Community Service Volunteer.” Include the name of the organization and the dates (month and year) you volunteered. You can include if your work was part-time or full-time if you like, but it's not necessary.
Community Service Volunteer- St. James Public Library: Jan- Nov 2022
When describing your experience, list accomplishments instead of responsibilities and present it in bullet point format to make your resume easy to scan. Expand on your skills using specific examples, and use numbers and metrics to show the impact of your work and quantify your achievements. Start your bullet points with a strong action verb, such as “planned,” “created,” or “organized,” to make your statements memorable.
• Planned and implemented five community service events with 40+ attendees each
• Organized a donation event for St. James Public Library that secured $7,000 for renovating the main reading room
Where to include community service on your resume
Your community service can fit into multiple sections of your resume, depending on how much paid experience you have and its relevance to your application.
In your Work Experience section
If your community service is highly relevant to your application or you lack traditional paid experience, list it in your work experience section. As with conventional work experience, list your community service in reverse chronological order (most recent first) and use 3-6 bullet point accomplishments to describe the position.
Here is an example of how to list community service under work experience. Note how this candidate titled this section Work and Community Experience to combine both their paid and unpaid experience.
In a dedicated Community Service section
If you have two or more community service roles to highlight on your resume, you can create a dedicated community service section titled Community Service Experience or Community Service and Volunteering. Keep this section brief by listing only 1-2 bullet points for each position, as shown in the example below.
In an Additional Information section
If you want to include your community service but don't have much space, consider including it in an Additional Information section. As shown below, this allows you to include your job title, employer, and the dates of your volunteer work but doesn't elaborate on your skills or accomplishments within the role. Use this option if you're including your community service to show a personal interest or extracurricular achievement rather than hard skills or work experience.
Top tips for entry-level candidates
For entry-level candidates who lack more extensive paid experience, expand your resume by listing your community service under work experience. Highlight relevant transferable skills as well as hard technical skills. Transferable skills might not be from a directly related field but showcase competitive skills relevant to multiple industries.
For example, if you are applying for an entry-level project management position and have community service experience at an animal shelter, list your experience managing feeding schedules or organizing fundraising events. If you are applying for a design position with the same experience, focus on a poster you created for the shelter and the industry-specific tools you used to design it.
Including community service on senior-level resumes
While most senior candidates will have more than enough paid experience to populate their resume, you can still consider using relevant community service to explain a significant gap in your resume. This can highlight the skills and knowledge you gained during a sabbatical or break from work, and frame your time off work in a positive and professional light. Focus on the skills you improved, the projects you were involved in, and your work's positive impact on the community.