You’re acing your job interview, and then the interviewer sneaks in a dreaded question: “What are your hobbies?”
We’ve always been told to prepare for questions about the company, your work ethic, and your past jobs, but not your personal life. What could a hiring manager be trying to surmise from that question? Here’s our guide on how to prepare the perfect answer to this question.
What to Avoid
Don’t bring up any pastimes that are more passive, like browsing Netflix or hanging with friends. We all do these things, and they’re simply not worth talking about. You should be focusing on interests that are not only unique to you as a person, but make you seem active, independent and in pursuit of bettering yourself to some degree, like photography, yoga, painting, or biking.
Be careful of any interests that are too personal or may seem controversial. It’s great if you’re very involved with your religion or political preferences, for instance, but that’s not a discussion to have in your first job interview unless the gig is related to either of those things.
Also, keep your answer to this question brief. While the interviewer is interested in your hobbies, talk about your life outside of work should never dominate the interview. The hiring manager may feel like you won’t be as invested in the job as you are in your interests. If the interviewer asks you follow-up questions and pursues a conversation with you about a specific interest of yours, though, that’s a good sign, but let them guide the conversation.
Any hobbies or interests you bring up in a job interview should show skill and personal growth. Whenever you state a personal interest or hobby of yours, make sure to tie it back to how it’s benefitted you as a person.
To do this, you can brainstorm the transferable skills that you possess and jobs want. See if you can link any of those to your current hobbies – it’s easier than it sounds! For instance, playing on a sports team says that you’re adept at working with a team; playing an instrument for years shows dedication and hard work.
Just remember to be honest about your hobbies. “Share anything you’re passionate about – I love to hear it!” says Style Nine to Five founder, Christie Lohr. Passion for anything is a good sign to an employer already.
Connect the Dots
Try to pull ideas for skills straight from the job posting itself. “Tie something personal into something professional,” Christie suggests. “For example: ‘I love getting into nature and hiking with my dog, but I didn’t start out as an experienced trail master. It took planning, equipping myself with the right gear, and learning to navigate along the way.’ This would obviously relate to the applicant’s approach to reaching their career goals.”
Obviously, you aren’t doing marketing analytics in your time off, but cast a wider net from the list of skills the employers are seeking. For instance, I love to write fiction in my spare time, so I tend to bring this up when I apply for non-fiction writing jobs – it says I’m genuinely passionate about writing and dedicated to strengthening my writing skills outside of work.
In summary, be honest about your passions and connect them back to how they make you a good employee and an even better person. Your interests and hobbies can tell an interviewer a lot about who you are as a person – pick the right ones and control your narrative!
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Emily Morrison is a media professional with passions for writing, film and popular culture.