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Include unrelated work experience on your resume? One Microsoft recruiter: It depends.

Kenji writes on the Microsoft Job Blog:

Still, I also consider how impressive the previous experience is. Try to understand that I only have a few minutes at most to review each resume, so I’m looking for elements in the resume that pop. What is there in the previous experience that makes this candidate equal to or better than someone similar without the tangent experience? Does the candidate show a strong history of being a top performer? Has he or she gone above and beyond in their last position to drive results and impact their project? Is the new position the only outlier?

My overall suggestion is to emphasize the important experience in your resume, and make sure it stands out and represents you as you want to be viewed. It doesn’t hurt to include items in your resume that aren’t part of work either. If you have related hobbies or relevant project work that you’re doing, don’t be afraid to include that in your resume! This is good advice in general, but becomes even more important if your current work experience is outside of your normal career path. Personally, I really like it when candidates include information on the types of projects they do outside of work, and the type of work they enjoy. For me, it shows passion and a drive to attain goals in spite of other challenges present.

As far as general advice goes, Kenji’s right on target: include the most relevant experience, and don’t emphasize unrelated experience that could raise questions in the mind of recruiters. And sometimes it’s a job seeker’s hobbies or interests that will help to make the resume stand out, not just the work.