Should you put Greek life on your resume?

According to new research from New York-based company TheLadders, recruiters decide whether to offer interviews after glancing at applicants’ resumes for only six seconds.  With the job market so competitive for recent college graduates, anything that can give an applicant an edge is exceedingly important.

Photo courtesy of www.iit.edu

Photo courtesy of www.iit.edu

For some, their undergraduate involvement in Greek life might just be what helps them stand out. Fraternities and sororities love to tout their large alumni networks and resume boosting activities.

Some students shy away from flaunting their involvement however, for fear of being pigeonholed into the Greek life stereotype. The recruiter might have a negative predisposition towards Greek life which could hurt ones chances at moving to the next round.

To test this theory, students, employees, and employers weigh in on the question at hand: Is putting your Greek organization on your resume helpful or harmful?

THE HELPFUL

It shows applicable skills: Leadership roles and philanthropy involvement always look good on a resume, experts say. These qualities demonstrate experience and skills needed to thrive in the workplace.

Elizabeth Jay, a junior Tri Delta from San Antonio, Texas, got an internship with an accounting firm in Atlanta because sorority life was a topic of conversation with the recruiter.

“We were able to discuss the parallels between being in a sorority and the professional world, talking about all the skills that transfer from college to the real world,” Jay said. “It is especially helpful when you can explain your role in Greek life on a professional level.”

It is a great networking tool: Alumni networks like the ones on LinkedIn make it easy to find connections in a preferred industry. Fellow Greeks may favor an application similar to their own.

“I received [a job offer thanks to] another Tri Delta in the office who, not knowing me, knew what I stood for” said Shayna Borhaug, on a forum on LinkedIn.  Borhaug is an operations manager and graduate from Stephen F. Austin State University. “You never know when your employer may be Greek!”

THE HURTFUL

The stereotype exists: Greek life does not exist everywhere, especially not like it does at Wake Forest.  For many people, their only concept of Greek life might be the classic movie “Animal House.”

“Greek life is not as popular at a lot of schools up north,” said Alison Letvinchuk, Alpha Chi Omega at University of New Hampshire. “Sometimes it is easier to leave it out to avoid the stigma.  I do not want people assuming I am a flighty sorority girl.”

Entitlement is not a qualifier: “It is important for students to be able to defend themselves and their organization from a professional perspective,” Lauren Beam said. As a career counselor at the WFU Office of Personal and Career Development she advises, “Do not ever put anything on your resume that is going to shoot you in the foot.”

Simply putting a Greek organization on your resume without explanation assumes that name alone should mean something to the employer, as if being in a sorority or fraternity alone makes you qualified for the job.

IT DEPENDS

The industry matters: Matt Williams, a junior Sigma Nu from Milwaukee, Wis., was once approached by a hiring representative at a career fair.

“He was in sales and knew to look for the fraternity guys because they tend to make the most extroverted candidates,” Williams said.

While fraternity or sorority connections may by less helpful in a science-heavy field, more liberal arts-minded areas might appreciate the association. The skills provided by Greek life can transfer easily into creative and highly communicative industries.

Diversity is key: As senior director of IT at CEB, Chris Mixter (’00) has plenty of experience interviewing college graduates.

“If you held a management-level position, highlight it like you would highlight any other leadership position,” Mixter said in an interview on LinkedIn. “[But] “I am on the lookout for: ‘what else you got?’”

Mixter was a Theta Chi during his time at Wake Forest. He said that Greek life should not dominate an entire resume but complement a wide range of activities.

THE VERDICT

For many students here on campus, it makes perfect sense to mention their involvement in Greek life. Yet such a mention requires careful thought and explanation. “It does not look professional to say you are just an active member,” Beam said. “Think of specific examples like philanthropy roles, leadership experiences or interpersonal communication skills learned from recruitment.”