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If you knew that as many as 86% of influencers believe that doing a certain thing would make you more competitive among a pool of job seekers, wouldn’t you make sure to put that activity front and center on your resume?

That activity is volunteering, but according to the 2016 Deloitte Impact Survey there is a huge disconnect between how important it is to hiring influencers and how much candidates are leveraging their volunteerism to get jobs. Survey respondents found that only 30% of resumes list volunteering.

This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise as candidates and hiring managers don’t frequently see eye to eye. Put that alongside the disparity between the skills candidates think make them workforce-ready and what hiring managers believe they lack. Applicants often highlight the very things that managers don’t place a lot of stock in, either.

The online survey was given to 2,506 respondents in 13 major metropolitan areas: Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, New York Metro (NY/CT/NJ), Philadelphia, Bay Area(San Francisco/San Jose), Seattle, and Washington, D.C. Participants were currently employed and were responsible for either hiring or indirectly influencing a person making the hiring decision.

The respondents were overwhelmingly in favor of volunteering as a professional development tool. Among the findings:

92% believe volunteering expands an employee's professional skill set
85% are willing to overlook resume pitfalls when an employee includes volunteering on a resume.
82% are more likely to choose a candidate with volunteering experience
80% believe volunteering is an effective way to boost leadership skills
73% believe people who volunteer are more successful
So why aren’t more people adding it to their resumes?

Doug Marshall, director of Corporate Citizenship for Deloitte Services LP says volunteers may be underestimating how businesses value volunteering experience. "It appears that respondents see it as something separate from the professional realm," he says.

Additionally, says Marshall, the survey revealed that respondents were leaving volunteering off their resumes because they thought employers wouldn’t care, they hadn’t volunteered recently, they thought it might distract from their professional skills, or it wouldn’t fit on their resumes.

Hannah Barfield, a recruiter with Godshall Professional Recruiting, explains,"Somewhere along the evolution of job-hunting and in the depths of resume advice on the Internet, people learned that volunteer work falls into the same category as date of birth and marital status." Including it would be like divulging personal details which isn’t appropriate on a resume. "This is a terrible myth," Barfield maintains.

She points out that companies don't just hire the candidate that checks off every bullet point on the job description. "They hire the best culture fit, personality, and advocate for their company," Barfield observes. That’s why it’s important to include volunteering alongside record-breaking metrics and career achievements in the experience section, she maintains.

Barfield says, "Volunteer work conveys three things: You're well-rounded and compassionate, you have even more skills than the ones you use in your daily job, and you're going to build the company's reputation in your community." For positions in leadership, sales, or marketing, Barfield adds, "Multiply that last point by 10."

Marshall says that while it’s true that a few days of volunteering can never make up for years of work in a specific job, he thinks companies themselves can help by developing their own programs.

As the war for talent continues unabated, Barfield observes that community service has become a top priority for millennial job seekers and she anticipates an even larger shift towards this over the next decade. "Companies are adopting cultural awareness and giving back as cornerstones of their employer brand," she says.

Marshall points to Deloitte’s own annual Impact Day, which includes more than 950 projects for nonprofit organizations in more than 80 cities. "We see tangible leadership skill-building benefits and increased employee engagement as a result of this program," he says. "Dedicated volunteers can gain an advantage over other job candidates and develop professionally while also helping their communities," adds Marshall, "It’s a win-win-win."  

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When Reza B'Far completed his online master's degree in computer science through University of Southern California's Viterbi School of Engineering, he watched the same lectures as the on-campus students.

"The degree that you got was the equivalent of a normal college degree," says the 44-year-old, who now works as vice president of development for the computer technology corporation Oracle. As an online student, he felt the overall quality of the program helped ensure its legitimacy.

B'Far might be onto something. Today's employers often place more weight on an IT program's reputation – along with a job applicant's skills and work experience – than the delivery format of the program where the applicant earned the degree, says Bram Daly, senior manager of client services at Alexander Mann Solutions, which provides talent acquisition services to companies around the world.

In recent years, employers have become more accepting of online bachelor's and master's degrees in information technology and related fields, like computer science, recruiters say – though not all are totally comfortable with them.

[Learn how to choose the right online IT training.]

"I think in the earlier days, mid 2000s, the commentary was, 'That's not a degree. That's not real' – sort of dismissive types of comments," Daly says. That's changed to a certain extent, however, as legitimate, well-known universities have launched IT degree programs online.

But some of today's hiring managers are more familiar than others with the value of an online degree from a reputable university, says David Morgan, president of the IT division for the Addison Group, a staffing and search firm.

When deciding between a traditional and online student for a position, Morgan says, "the person hiring probably generationally has a bias toward a traditional school, because there was probably no online school when they were growing up."

Some employers, for example, perceive all online degree programs as easier to get accepted into, even though that isn't necessarily the case, says Eoin O'Toole, co-founder and managing partner of the executive search firm Arete Partners.

"It feels like, 'Oh, sure, anyone can get an online degree.' That's a perception; I'm not saying that's the reality," says O'Toole. "But that kind of lack of a threshold, if you'd like, doesn't give the potential employer any potential barometer on the candidate."

Some also value the human interaction that on-campus programs provide, experts say. While online education teaches students how to collaborate with others around the world in a virtual setting, there are significant advantages to in-person communication during the learning phase, Daly says.

[Discover the do's and don'ts of online group work.]

"At the very beginning, when you're trying to get it down and how the communication should be optimal, you need that physical presence," because in-person interaction and hands-on work still play a large role in many IT jobs, he says.

In the future, as online degree programs become more ubiquitous and those who are more comfortable with this form of education take over management positions, the overall view that employers now hold about online degrees will likely continue shifting to a more favorable one, just as it has started doing in recent years, Morgan says.

As is the case in many fields, Morgan says, a job candidate's education plays a greater role in a hiring decision for a recent graduate with less job experience than for somebody who's been in the workforce for several years. So, for instance, for the job applicant with several years of experience who pursues a master's degree, it probably won't matter as much whether they earned it online, Morgan says.

"There's some companies that just require that you absolutely have to have a degree of some sort, in which case, at the more senior level, hopefully it can just serve as a checkbox for them," says O'Toole, of Arete Partners. "But I think in more junior roles, I think there's more stock weighted on what type of education you pursued."

And at the end of the day, recruiters say, a candidate's education is only one piece of a larger puzzle.

[Explore what hiring managers look for in a resume.]

Previous internship or job experience plays a big role in a hiring decision, as do the ability to answer specific technical questions and produce the work that's needed, Daly says. An employer really wants to know if a candidate is a good fit overall, which is difficult to find in a time when IT workplace skills are higher in demand than supply, he says.

"What I have to talk with managers about is, you're not going to get all of the things that you want, so you need to find somebody that's moldable and can grow," he says.  

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