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The Value of Volunteering

This week we are sharing a study conducted by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life's CIRCLE (Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement) at Tuft's University, supported by the University of Nebraska- Omaha.

The study released in March 2018, looks at the correlation between listing AmeriCorps volunteer service on a resume and the likelihood of receiving a callback for a job.

Previous research suggested that participation in civic engagement activities, such as AmeriCorps state and national programs, can have positive labor-market outcomes for young people, and that hiring managers see volunteering as relevant when making employment decisions. 

Overall, the study found that listing AmeriCorps service work on a resume DID boost the overall number of callbacks (17% compared to 8% for non-service resumes). Hiring managers have an overwhelmingly positive impression of candidates who have extended volunteer service, with the vast majority citing altruistic reasons for pursuing a year of AmeriCorps service. 

However, the data implies limitations to the volunteer service boost, notably for Asian males and Latinx females. Listing a year of service on the resume did not appear to significantly impact callback rates for Black and Asian females, or for white males. 


  • Previous research shows better odds of becoming employed if people volunteer (Spera, Ghertner, Nerino, & DiTomasso, 2015)
  • Young people who participate in service-related programs have improved economic, academic, and psychosocial outcomes compared to peers (Dávila & Mora, 2007; Flanagan & Levine, 2010)
  • Communities with higher levels of civic engagement recover from economic hardships quicker (Kawashima-Ginsberg, Lim, & Levine, 2012)
  • Hiring managers see volunteering as relevant experience to consider when making employment decisions (Day & Devlin, 1998; Deloitte, 2016)


  • Randomly assigned resumes and cover letters based on national service and other factors (e.g., education, quality, race, gender)
  • Applied for 2,010 jobs in Boston and Chicago during two waves of data collection (summer 2016 and 2017)
  • Trends by Race, Ethnicity, and Gender
  • Gender
  • Of callbacks received, higher for females than males


  • Of callbacks received, highest for Latino, followed by Asian, White, and Black
  • Gender and Race/Ethnicity
  • Callbacks highest for Asian males and Latino females
  • Callbacks lowest for Black and Asian females and white males

In-depth Interviews

  • Employers had a preference toward “somebody they don’t have to train”
  • If hiring managers were familiar with AmeriCorps, it stood out to them:
  • “…VISTA- brings training; routine; cohort building; more experience and accountability than the regular position; VISTA demands more autonomy and responsibility- richer experience for the same position.”
  • Most nonprofit employers sought a cover letter and resume that showed more “personality” as well an application that highlighted certain skills skills (e.g. collaboration, communication, adaptability, leadership)
  • A college degree was very important to employers                

Implications for Policy and Research

  • College degree is used as a “signal” for implicit qualities and earned skills
  • Heavily used as a heuristic for filtering out potential candidates
  • Very few job opportunities are visible in an online search for non-college youth, including national service alumni
  • Building familiarity with national service through Employers of National Service opens employment pathways
  • Further exploration needed around why and for whom national service experience boosts employment prospects

Download the full study here. 

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