Should you include volunteer work on a resume?

With many talented workers experiencing stretches of unemployment, employers are taking a harder look at unpaid experience. Here's what to include -- and what to leave out.

This article was originally published by on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2012.

By Katherine Reynolds Lewis, contributor

FORTUNE -- Scale Computing chief executive Jeff Ready recently was interviewing job candidates for a position whose duties included coordinating all-hands meetings at the Indianapolis-based manufacturer. One prospective employee's resume included her experience planning an annual fundraiser for a local charity, several years in a row.

"To me, that experience was awesome. She had done it for four to five years; she obviously liked doing it, or she wouldn't have done it for free," says Ready.

The volunteer work stood out because her resume described the event planning experience and how many attendees were involved, making it clear that it was a substantial amount of responsibility. "You've got that four or five-second opportunity to say something that's going to grab my attention," Ready says. "In that case it was that I'm the lead event planner for the big charity event."

Increasingly, corporate bosses like Ready are taking note of job candidates' volunteer efforts. They recognize that in the recent recession, talented employees may have had stretches of unemployment that they filled with unpaid work. A recent LinkedIn (LNKD) survey found that 41% of hiring managers consider volunteer experience equally valuable as paid work.

But workers still feel nervous about what experience to include and how to be honest while also presenting in the best light. LinkedIn found that 89% of professionals surveyed had volunteer experience, but only 45% included it on their resume.

4 Reasons the Mortgage Mess Won't Get Fixed

This article was originally published by the Fiscal Times on Friday, Oct. 14, 2011.

By Katherine Reynolds Lewis, The Fiscal Times

Every day seems to bring fresh bad news about the housing market. Sales are down, foreclosures are up, mortgages are harder to obtain. Americans had better get used to it -- the housing mess is unlikely to see a near-term fix.

Since taking over mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the heat of the 2008 financial crisis, the government now stands behind about 95 percent of U.S. residential mortgages. Without any policy changes, this course will push the national debt to $30 trillion in ten years, according to Peter J. Wallison, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

It could get even worse. CoreLogic estimates that 10.9 million homeowners owe more on their mortgages than the property is worth, or 22.5 percent of all outstanding loans. Amherst Securities Group projects that without further policy changes, 10.4 million additional borrowers are likely to default on their mortgages.

Policy experts agree that the situation poses unacceptably high risks to taxpayers and that private investors must eventually replace the federal government in housing finance -- but they disagree on both the path forward and how the future system will be structured.

"It certainly feels as though we are stalled," said Susan Wachter, professor of financial management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, before testifying to Congress on housing finance on Thursday morning. "The most important thing that has to happen is that there needs to be consensus."

Unfortunately for U.S. taxpayers and homeowners, there's little hope that the deadlock will break. Here are four reasons that the mortgage mess won't get fixed any time soon.

Congressional Reform is for Dreamers: When Congress passed comprehensive financial reform last year, the future of Fannie and Freddie was the biggest piece that lawmakers failed to address, largely for lack of political will. But with presidential election season in full swing, experts predict housing finance legislation will have to wait at least until 2013, at the earliest.
"Ultimately you need legislation to have a defined role for the future of Fannie and Freddie," said Phillip Swagel, public policy professor at the University of Maryland. "I don't see that happening in 2011 or 2012."

A software company takes a page from Toyota's playbook

Using a combination of Toyota-inspired lean manufacturing principles and an open office atmosphere, Menlo Innovations' work environment is attracting attention.

This article was originally published by on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011.

By Katherine Reynolds Lewis, contributor

FORTUNE – At most white-collar job offices around the country, workers scurry from cubicle to cubicle, speaking in hushed tones. Take a step into software firm Menlo Innovation's offices in Ann Arbor, Mich., and it's clear that this firm is more cotton mill factory floor than monastery.

Instead of rows of cubicles, visitors enter an open space that calls to mind an artist's loft or an industrial warehouse that is filled with the sound of a dozen overlapping conversations.

"A lot of people don't believe software development can be done in anything but library quiet," says CEO Rich Sheridan, during a tour of his company's space. "I have 12 years of experience that says differently."

Sheridan and his co-founders built Menlo's work culture with a great deal of intention, and with the modest aim "to end human suffering in the world as it relates to technology." The free-form floor plan was inspired by Thomas Edison's Menlo Park, N.J., laboratory, which had an open and collaborative workspace that in turn drew inspiration from the machine shops of the day.