Should I include travel on my resume?
February 26, 2006 5:13 PM   Subscribe

Do you include travel on your resume? Is it a good idea to include it, or pointless filler?

I'm not talking about weekend excursions, but more along the lines of "backpacking after college" type trips lasting weeks or months. I have done two 2-month trips backpacking Europe, Asia, and the mideast, and it never even occurred to me to include it on a resume. My logic being, why should they care what I do with my free time? But this recent NYT article suggests it might be a good idea.

I'm interested in hearing from people who have included it on their resume and any feedback they heard on it, or from hiring people who have seen this before.
posted by Brian James to Travel & Transportation (31 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Wearing my "hiring manager" hat, I've seen this a couple of times, and I considered it pointless filler. While I do look at a resume to get some notion of an applicant's character, a list of your Personal Growth Travel would strike me as though someone thought a little too highly of their recreation.
posted by majick at 5:35 PM on February 26, 2006

Usually the only time this is beneficial is if the person scanning the resumes likes to travel as well and finds your experience intriguing. I'd leave it out, unless of course the job description calls for experience in foriegn countries.

It does, however, show that you are not the "typical american" (I assume you are American) and that you have a lot of life experience. But I would wait to bust this out during the interview when they ask you some question about an experience that changed your life, for example.
posted by blueplasticfish at 5:35 PM on February 26, 2006

Best answer: Depending on the jobs I've applied for, I've used my travel stints to show that A) I'm interculturally educated and aware, something you really can't get any other way than through extended travel; B) I'm organized; and C) I can work independently and improvise.

There are other intangible benefits that you get though association, but beware: world travelers have a (arguably well-earned) reputation for being spoiled, self-absorbed, shallow and arrogant. As someone who has lived among other travelers for months on end, you know what I mean.

Also, you have to take into consideration that your prospective boss was probably sitting in his dank little cubicle for all the years you were globetrotting and getting laid on exotic beaches. Perhaps it's better not to remind him of that.

Hm. Tough call. I'd say it depends on who you're applying to. In any case, you should have several versions of your CV on the web that you can direct different types of people to. Good luck!
posted by squirrel at 5:40 PM on February 26, 2006

Every word (every single word) on your resume had better prove why you're better than the 100 schmucks on top of your sheet of paper and the 200 under it. If you can include a single line of unique, useful, and involved activities at the end of your page .. and it had better be one page .. feel free, but don't count on it being read or useful. At best, it will give you a chance to talk to a recruiter about something that he'll remember you for.
posted by kcm at 5:46 PM on February 26, 2006

I put it on my resume mainly because the jobs I'm interested in involve travel, so it shows that I have a good background in that area.

What sort of jobs are you looking for?
posted by divabat at 5:46 PM on February 26, 2006

This is a big "it depends". Situations where it could be helpful:
* implicitely explaining a large gap between jobs
* where the position requires foreign language/culture fluency
* where the position requires travelling regularly
* the company or interviewer is known to love it

Resumes first and foremost have to be designed to survive the the HR filter, where they don't care about your personal interests; all they want to know is whether your resume matches up neatly with the list of requirements. Anything that's not obviously supporting your application, safer to leave it off initially. You can always mention it later, at the interview or in your thank you note.

on preview: listen to squirrel.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 5:50 PM on February 26, 2006

I'd only include it if it explains a gap in your work history. Or else in the sentence everyone ignores at the bottom where your "hobbies are travel, movies, and raising my kids".
posted by Nelson at 5:50 PM on February 26, 2006

Related: If you don't have a ton of career experience, is it ok to put in an interests section?
posted by drezdn at 5:51 PM on February 26, 2006

It is useful for demonstrating why there are gaps in the chronology of your employment - for whatever reason, some employers want to know what you were up to when you weren't employed (holiday? jail time? being unemployed?).
posted by AnnaRat at 5:51 PM on February 26, 2006

Can you tell us what field you are interested in? That might make a difference. Personally, as someone who has screened many resumes, I can say that if I even bother to read the Interests/Travel/Hobbies/whatever section at the end of the resume, I have never considered it when choosing applicants.

Looking at that article, the important things for those people was not the "travel" aspect as much as the foreign work experience. Those kids didn't just backpack and chill out and visit tourist sites, they went to a country they had never been to and worked there. That's admirable and something tangible someone could put on his/her resume.
posted by apple scruff at 5:52 PM on February 26, 2006

Best answer: Yeah, I was going through a bunch of resumes lately for some positions we're hiring for, and the "I backpacked after college" stuff didn't make a bit of difference in terms of the ones that went in the call-back pile. The only times I think travel is relevant is if:
- the position being applied for is related to travel/foreign language/etc. in some way (the most obvious example I can think of is for a gig as a travel writer)
- you traveled for an extensive period of time that is necessary to explain a long gap in employment
- you studied abroad (and in that case it would go under education anyway)

Otherwise, it just strikes me both as filler and as an attempt to impress. And as with all attempts to impress, you don't really know how that may come off to your audience. My former boss, for example, is one of the most well-traveled people i've ever met (seriously, for a party trick she could rattle off the flight schedules for most major cities in Europe, East Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa) and would just snort if someone brought up a 2-month backpacking trek on a resume.
posted by scody at 5:52 PM on February 26, 2006

world travelers have a (arguably well-earned) reputation for being spoiled, self-absorbed, shallow and arrogant.

If I saw a resume that proudly proclaimed "travel" as a generalized plus in order to prove the person was "interculturally educated and aware," this is exactly how I would react. "Probably a spoiled, rich brat. Why weren't they working? How'd they afford this? What is this person going to be like when things turn bad at my company? Are they going to run off to their parents and ask for more money so they can go back to banging hookers in Prague?"

OK, I'm exaggerating a little there. But you get my point.

On the other hand, if they could prove that they traveled with a purpose, such as teaching English or actually working or studying abroad, then this is very useful. Or perhaps they have a complete story, like a colleague of mine, who sold his successful business and then took six months off. Now that's a life experience.

If it's just a backpacking trip, leave it off.
posted by frogan at 5:52 PM on February 26, 2006

Response by poster: Personally, I'm interested in jobs in the legal field that may involve international travel & transactions. To that end, I'm leaning towards a brief, one or two line summary of my travels under a "personal interests" type section. The reason being that, in my experience, people entering the legal field generally haven't travelled/backpacked as much as people in other fields, so it shows I have some experience handling myself overseas.

But I was just trying to start a more general discussion on the issue of travel in resumes.
posted by Brian James at 5:57 PM on February 26, 2006

drezdn, I'm certainly not the authority but in my experience interests hurt a lot more than they help. Some people can get really ridiculous/flippant in that section, which isn't appealing. Also, some people just come across as fake or phony ("I enjoy fine wine, yachting, caviar, classical Russian literature," that kind of thing). We've tossed resumes because of silly additional sections but we have never used an interests section as even a tie-breaker in anyone's favor. Of course, it depends on the atmosphere of the company you are applying to; a artsier place might appreciate an interest section while an investment banking kind of place probably wouldn't. My advice is to keep the resume job-specific, and inject your personality into the interviewing process, where it counts.
posted by apple scruff at 6:02 PM on February 26, 2006

I think the key is that you will have to demonstrate that your backpacking experience gives you an advantage over other applicants in the international law field. As I said before, those profiled in the article did pretty substantive work, and depending on the nature of your backpacking it's possible that you might as well have gone on a cruise. I have no clue about law hiring practices but I assume in international law they'd like someone who studied abroad, worked abroad, is multi-lingual, etc. Most everyone travels, so if you feel that the nature of your travel would not only set you apart but set you above the pack, then go for it, otherwise bring it up anecdotally in your interview but keep your resume focused on what qualifies you for the job.
posted by apple scruff at 6:13 PM on February 26, 2006

When showing my chronology of employment, I put it in brackets as a separate line in between jobs (note: travelled through so-and-so area of the world from ___ to ___). I do this because I figure putting nothing implies I was unemployed, or worse. If a potential employer sees this type of minimal description as meaning you are "spoiled, self-absorbed, shallow and arrogant", then they're probably a prat that you don't want to work for.
posted by Idiot Mittens at 6:20 PM on February 26, 2006

I would probably lean towards the minimal mention simply to explain employment gaps. If they're interested, they can ask you about it in the interview. (And since you're going to tell them, you should have some interview-y way to make the case that the travel would make you a great employee in case they do ask.)
posted by clarahamster at 6:38 PM on February 26, 2006

I've never bothered to include it and I've taken a lot of extended breaks to travel. I don't recall it coming up in an interview either.
posted by fshgrl at 6:49 PM on February 26, 2006

My instinct is that it's inappropriate for inclusion on your resume, but could merit a line or two in your cover letter if you can tie it in to skills needed in the job you're applying for.
posted by MsMolly at 6:54 PM on February 26, 2006

A two month gap in employment history is not long enough to require explanation, so I wouldn't include travel solely for that reason.
posted by blue mustard at 7:07 PM on February 26, 2006

Best answer: YES. The single line "Have travelled on every continent" at the bottom of my resume has been commented upon by every interviewer I have experienced. And when I landed my dream job a few years ago, I was told that this piece of information was a factor in my success.
posted by meerkatty at 7:23 PM on February 26, 2006

FWIW, I recently had lunch with an alum from my school who works in Europe. While discussing resumes, he told me to include travel when applying to jobs outside the U.S., as European employers expect more personal information than American employers.

That said, I hesitate to include travel on my resume while applying for U.S. jobs because I have no significant time gaps and I want to avoid the "and when I woke up on the floor, covered in my own vomit, I realized that I'd found myself " association.
posted by jed at 7:48 PM on February 26, 2006

I included it in order to provide a reason for a yearlong gap in my work history, and put it there after being asked repeatedly about that gap, frequently with a negative tone to the query.

I don't mention shorter trips, because I don't think they're relevant to employment.
posted by aramaic at 7:48 PM on February 26, 2006

So, um, unless you did a stint in Antarctica like meerkatty, then fcuk it and leave it off.
posted by zpousman at 7:48 PM on February 26, 2006

I put a study tour on my CV because I organised it (two weeks, 24 people, tight schedule) and it shows that I'm reliable and organised etc. I listed this with all my other volunteering things.
I also have an internship on there, and conference attendance, but that's work, not travel.
For one scholarship application I was asked for "countries I've travelled to" and I listed all 20, but normally nobody cares.
posted by easternblot at 9:24 PM on February 26, 2006

I'd probably not review any application I received that wasn't edited down to the bare minimum and on a single page. Certainly non-professional travel would be a sure sign that the person was going to fill their working hours with "pointless filler" as well.
posted by luriete at 9:51 PM on February 26, 2006

As a hiring manager, I'd say it depends. If I were hiring for a position that required a good deal of foreign travel or experience with different cultures, anything you could bring to bear on that requirement - including travel to relevant places - would be a good thing.

However, if it wasn't relevant to the job and didn't help explain a gap in your work history, then it would be useless filler and likely a negative, as I'd be wondering why you didn't use that otherwise valuable space to provide more information about why you might be qualified for the position.
posted by aberrant at 9:55 PM on February 26, 2006

In the UK spending a year backpacking abroad is now so common that it could come across as mildly dumb to mention on a CV - like the people who boast they like "reading". So always leave out genic travel and standard tourism unless it needs to explain a gap in employment chronology.

If your travel experience really has been a little different - for example if you have been on an expedition to take tree core samples in the amazon, or to Mali to learn the cora from local masters or across Russia funding your way by making balloon sculptures - then you have a choice to make. If you consider the experience relevant to the job then include it on your employment history and say what skills relevant to the position you got from it. Otherwise leave it out.

On my CV I have paired down my "other interests" section to be a single line. In the above examples I just might sum up my Russian trip by listing "Sculpture" for example. I - ambitiously - want the subtext of this single line to say all kinds of positive things about me: how I would be a hard-working team member, an inspiring leader and fascinating person to talk to in the pub - but not somebody pretentious or verbose or aloof or dull. I spend a lot of time on this single line and try to give it some carefully crafted hooks.
posted by rongorongo at 2:52 AM on February 27, 2006

world travelers have a (arguably well-earned) reputation for being spoiled, self-absorbed, shallow and arrogant.

That's odd: from my experience, it's the complete opposite. The ones who have travelled generally have a better understanding of people and are most likely to be calm, collected, and open; the ones who haven't tend to mouth off stereotypes about different cultures and basically have obnoxious xenophobia.

posted by divabat at 3:46 AM on February 27, 2006

If your travel in some way demonstrates a real benefit to the prospective employer, put it in. Otherwise, don't. They aren't interested in your hobbies, unless they are somehow related to their work. I'd bet meerkatty's experience falls in that category, but she can clear it up if it doesn't.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:08 AM on February 27, 2006

Note that the article you linked to talks about people who worked abroad. There's a world of difference between working in a foreign country (where you generally have to figure out how to acclimate themselves to alien customs) and backpacking through as a tourist.

Skip it.
posted by mkultra at 6:49 AM on February 27, 2006

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