The HR case for Non-profit Involvement: Centro

Centro has topped the Crain’s Chicago “Best Places to Work” list every year since 2011. The online advertising firm values its employees and rewards them with impressive financial benefits and also some really fun benefits: farmers markets at the office, free yoga, snack bars and more. If you’re reading this and thinking you might spruce up your resume to apply, you’re not the only one. Senior recruiting coordinator at Centro, Ian Brunner, reviews a ton of incoming resumes and gives us some tips on how use your non-profit experience to distinguish yourself. Check out the insights below, whether you’re applying to Centro, interviewing at another firm, or just looking to improve your value at work!  

Non-profit involvement

The Talent Acquisition team at Centro views non-profit/volunteer/associate board involvement on applicant resumes very highly, especially for lower level roles.  One of the main things we look for on a candidate’s resume is passion for the job they are doing (or want to do) and the industry they are working in (or want to work in).  We understand that a lot of our entry level candidates have most likely not had the opportunity to have a full-time job in the industry yet, so we instead are looking for candidates that take the initiative to get involved in a lot of the free industry-specific groups, meetups, organizations, and associations that offer a foot-in-the-door to anyone that is interested in learning and growing in the industry.  For a candidate, aside from the benefit of being able to put the non-profit/volunteer/associate board involvement on your resume, these opportunities are also an incredible way to network and potentially meet individuals at companies you would like to work for!

Marketing your Non-profit Experience

Whenever our team gets asked questions from candidates or students regarding how to structure a resume or make sure that their skills are being properly represented, we always like to try and get them to think like a recruiter.  A recruiter only spends an average of 6 seconds on each resume they look at, so a candidate needs to make sure that their most relevant skills are not buried towards the end of their resume.  A great way to do this is to really study the job description for a role because a job description is essentially a cheat sheet for what the organization is looking for when hiring for a position.  If there are certain qualifications highlighted or toward the top of the job description, these are obviously things that the company values highly and a candidate’s resume should emphasize how the candidate meets those qualifications. 


Anything a candidate puts on a resume is fair game for a recruiter to ask questions about and there is nothing that will make a candidate look worse than when they are asked about something on their resume and are unable to talk about it.  If a candidate puts on their resume that they learned A, B, and C things at a certain non-profit, they should know A, B, and C inside-out and be able to explain how A, B, and C make them perfect for the role that they want. Some examples of questions might be:

- “Why did you make the decision to become a part of this particular non-profit or organization?”
- “What is an interesting project or task that you got to work on and what is a new skill that you learned to complete that project or task?”
- “What is one misconception that you had about the industry that was changed during your time at the non-profit or organization?”
- “What are some things that you learned at that non-profit or organization that you feel would make you a great fit for a position with us?”

Maximizing your Non-profit experience for professional development

If a candidate is getting involved in volunteer activities and board roles to make them more desirable to an employer, then yes, they should definitely focus on industry-specific activities and roles.  A great way for a candidate to determine which activities to get involved in is to search through employee profiles for individuals that are already a part of the company that the candidate wants to be a part of.  Make a list of the activities or groups that are showing up most frequently and then go to work on determining how to get involved with the activities or groups on that list.  Again, not only will joining these groups help a candidate get industry knowledge, it may also lead to some incredible networking opportunities.

Centro’s Stance

Centro encourages employees to get involved in anything and everything that they are interested in or that will help them grow as an individual.  We are extremely invested in making sure we are encouraging our Centrons to become the best versions of themselves. 

One great thing about Centro, as opposed to many other companies out there, is that rather than requiring employees to be involved in any particular social activity or group event, Centro provides an environment where community outreach and learning are integrated within our day-to-day and not forced upon anyone.  Centro allows each individual at Centro a “change-the-world” day (on top of our already generous PTO policy) to let our employees take off and engage in whatever sort of community outreach or charitable program they feel passionately about.  Centro also offers a companywide donation match up to $100 per employee to allow employees to give to the charities that they feel most strongly about.  We also have a Giving Tree committee that is focused on organizing frequent volunteer events within the organization for larger more immediate needs that people at our company may be passionate about (ex. disaster relief, participation in community events, etc.).