I’ve had to do a fair bit of hiring & firing in my hitherto short life, and all the people I’ve ever interviewed for a position have always had one thing on their CVs in common, travel. Of course, seeking to fill roles in travel-related businesses meant this was important to me, but your travel experience can say a lot about you, and is something that all prospective employers, in any industry, should want to see on your CV.
A most disheartening thing, however, is when a candidate doesn’t use their travel experience to demonstrate their qualities in the interview. Liz Ryan, CEO of Human Workplace, says in an online contribution to Forbes, “The stories you tell on a job interview will bring out your sterling qualities”. If there’s one thing travel experience is made up of, it’s stories; so, tell them!
It doesn’t matter if “travelling” appears as a single word on your CV under ‘hobbies & interests’, or represents multi-month, multi-country gaps between past jobs, or a year out of Uni or whatever, or even if your travel experience amounts to a once off 3 day visit to Prague, you can draw on travel as a perfect way to demonstrate that you possess attributes which make you an ideal candidate for any role you interview for, especially if you haven’t got a lot of existing practical experience to draw upon.
You're comfortable with the new
The very fact that you travelled at all shows that you’re somewhat brave, willing to get outside of your comfort zone and seek out the unfamiliar. You are not averse to change and are not set-in your ways. In modern-day business practices, things change a lot, and fast, employers want people who can comfortably change the way they do things and avoid people who find it difficult to get on board with new methods.
You’re an achiever
It also shows that you are goal-orientated, driven, and organised. As easy as it has become to travel today, it still requires a good degree of planning, saving up, and researching before you sit your ass in a plane, train or automobile. Give examples of sacrifices you made to save up so you could afford to travel, if you enjoy being proactive and making travel happen as much as the actual travel itself, say it; don’t neglect to show your enthusiasm for researching to find the best hostel, the best value flights and so on – this demonstrates an ability to get things done, qualities all employers look for.
If you’ve travelled solo it demonstrates self-direction, self-confidence, and that you’re an independent thinker - good qualities to have. However, you’d best be careful not to paint a picture of being too individualistic as often employers will be looking for team-players and someone who will be likeable, affable, and can easily connect with their existing team of people. Make them aware of all the friends you made on your travels, how you relished the opportunity to meet new people in hostels, and learned from others along the way. Likewise, if you’ve travelled with a friend or friends, speak about how you made the experience enjoyable together, met new people together, and compromised to satisfy both/all your individual & collective travel goals.
Our everyday life consists of decisions & choices, and travelling can often throw up some big decisions to be made, be it whether to embrace opportunities and steer away from your original route or not, what to do with only 8 hours in Bucharest, or what to do now that you’ve missed the last bus and train out of here. What big decisions were you forced to make, and how did you make them? Talk about these, as it shows analytical thinking skills, risk-assessment, adaptability, and decisiveness.
What didn’t you like about travelling, and why? Was it due to poor planning? Where do you put the blame for the ‘bad’ in the experience? These are important questions which can turn negatives into positives in a job interview scenario – candidates who can take responsibility for faults or misjudgements, rather than placing the blame elsewhere, are generally mindful, humble, and unpretentious.
What would you do differently if you were to do the same trip again, or what will you do differently next time? These are also equally good questions to consider when preparing how you’ll relay your travel experience in a job interview as it demonstrates an ability to analyse and learn from past experiences, and utilise that knowledge to improve and better your future experiences.
You’ve got passion
And that brings us to our next point, relay your passion passionately! If you have travel on your CV in the first place, you obviously feel it’s worth mentioning, right? Candidates who are passionate and knowledgeable about something, and can communicate that effectively, are often considered to be charismatic, and influential in the workplace. Employers love to see real passion and enthusiasm in prospective employees, it shows you are interested as well as interesting, and there’s few topics that lend themselves better to this than travel. If you love to travel, you’ll love talking about it, so let them see your passion for it.
You like a bit of rough
Hostels are a new breed these days; on hostelculture.com we’ve got poshtels, boutique hostels, designer hostels, heck, even your bog-standard no frills hostels are of a very high standard now. This is, of course, a very good thing but, combined with technology, has made backpacking & travelling much easier and means the romanticised ‘slog’ of ‘roughing it’ is not the Herculean part of the travel experience it was for past generations of backpackers. That said though, despite high-quality hostels, ease of booking & access to information, it isn’t all roses. Living out of a backpack for weeks or months on end is still arduous, sweating on crowded buses in sweltering heat for days to get to where you want to be is still draining, going off the beaten path is still a demanding exercise, and showing that you relish in such aspects of travel is a great indicator that you’re not adverse to hard work, you enjoy ‘getting your hands dirty’ and see the trying aspects of the journey as a valuable and rewarding element of the journey itself.
It’s also a good idea to talk, briefly, about your next travel plans - it shows ambition, forward-thinking & planning; but be very careful, you don’t want to give the impression that your feet are constantly itchy. Companies who invest in good people want to assume that you’ll happily want to be there for a long time, and while having a passion and eagerness for something like travel is admirable and positive, you’ll want to avoid planting seeds of doubt in their minds as to where your heart & head are day-to-day…..are you more focused on your next adventure than this job, is it just a stop-gap for you to save up so you can head off again in a few months on an epic trip, or are you career-driven and going to be a valuable, long-serving asset to this company. It may be wise to suggest that while you love to travel, you’re focused on developing a career and plan to use your weekends for mini trips, and scheduled holidays for jaunts further afield, to satisfy your need for travel and keep you energised, excited and, above all, happy in life.
I’m sure there’s plenty more ways you can think of to relate travel in terms of exemplifying your traits & qualities to prospective employers, but if you are facing into a job interview I hope this has helped you to draw on your travel experience & knowledge in a way that will have you slaying the competition and landing that job! Best of luck, even though you won’t need it.
Written by Ray, in Sweden, while listening to Space, Rufus Coates & the Blackened Trees, and Republica