by Lisa McGrimmon
How do you list volunteer work on a resume? The smartest way to list your volunteer experience on your resume is to match the formatting you used for your work history and education. Here's how to do that effectively.
The volunteer work section of your resume should include:
Format the volunteer work section of your resume to match the way you have formatted your work experience and your education.
Here's what I recommend:
Left justified: Title that describes what you did (bolded), the organization where you worked as a volunteer
Right justified: Dates
City, and state where you volunteered
Bulleted points describing what you did as a volunteer
Here's an example of that standard way to format volunteer work on a resume:
If you have some extra room that you need to fill on your resume, and you want to make the volunteer work take up more space on the page, you can put the name of the organization where you did your volunteer work on a separate line like this:
Formatting your volunteer work in this manner ensures you have:
Let's take a look at each piece of information in a little more detail to help you understand the reasoning behind the formatting choices.
Title That Describes What You Did
The title that describes what you did as a volunteer is usually the most important information for each volunteer job you list on your resume. It quickly tells the employer what you did as a volunteer and how that relates to the job you are seeking.
Because it is the most important piece of information in this section of your resume, it is placed in the most prominent position, on the first line, and on the left. The text is bolded to help it stand out at a glance.
The dates when you volunteered include helpful information, but they are not the most important thing you want employers to see first. Dates indicate how recent your experience is, and how long you have been volunteering at the organization.
They are easy to see at a glance on the right side of the top line of each entry. They are not as important as the title that describes what you did, so they are not highlighted in the same way.
Organization, City, State
Including the location of your volunteer work is essential to help the employer understand what you did, but it is usually not the most important you want to feature. It's available to read, but it is placed in the middle of the entry where it is not highlighted.
Points Describing Your Volunteer Work
Listing a few key tasks and accomplishments you achieved in your volunteer work helps the employer to understand the scope of your experience. Bulleted lists are easy to scan and read at a glance.
If you volunteered for an organization that is very impressive, and you want to highlight the name of the organization instead of a title describing your work, you can change the layout of this section.
Put the name of the organization on the left of the first line in bold, followed by the city and state, and dates. The title describing what you did is left justified on the second line. Like this:
You can use a variety of headings for the volunteer section of your resume including:
Let's look at each heading in some more detail, so you will understand when you might use a specific heading, and when you should avoid using certain headings.
This heading is standard on resumes. Employers will know exactly what you mean if you organize your volunteer work under this heading.
Because this heading is a standard, expected resume heading, it's also the best choice if you're writing a resume that will be scanned by applicant tracking system software. ATS software will be programmed to recognize the headings "Volunteer Work" or "Volunteer Experience" and will be able to correctly parse that information.
This heading is not standard, but employers will still know what you mean. It's a fine choice for a resume you know will be human-reviewed. ATS software may not understand this heading, so it's best avoided if your resume might be filtered by ATS software before a human reviews it.
Use this heading if you want to include both volunteer work and hobbies on your resume together under the same heading.
Occasionally you may want to combine different types of experience into one section that groups all of your relevant experience - volunteer work, internships, and possibly even paid employment, for example. In that case, "Related Experience" is a reasonable heading to use.
This type of resume organization can be appropriate for human-reviewed resumes. It is not ideal for ATS optimized resumes because the non-standard organization may cause errors when the software parses (tries to understand and grade) your resume.
Never use tricky resume formatting to try to pass off volunteer work as paid employment experience. If you do put any volunteer work under a heading like "Related Experience" that does not make it clear that some or all of the entries under that heading are volunteer work, you need to indicate on the entry that the work was a volunteer position.
Simply include the word "volunteer" in brackets beside the name of the position you held. Like this:
You know how to format volunteer work on a resume, but before you dive in and start writing your resume, you need to ensure your volunteer work should actually be included on the resume, and you'll need to decide where to place that section on the resume.
I've written about both topics here: