When you're preparing to interview for a new job, remember that not all the questions posed to you during an interview will directly relate to the position you're interviewing for. If interviewers are interested in you as a candidate for the job, they will go further afield with their questions.
What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know
If interviewers are interested in you for the job, they are going to want to know if you are a well-rounded person who will fit in with the company culture. Interviewers will want to know if you are passionate about certain things. They may ask you about your hobbies, interests, and activities outside of work if they are truly interested in you as a candidate.
Some employers also ask about your hobbies to get a sense of your ability to balance your work and personal life.
They want to know that you have a life outside of work, but that you won’t let it interfere with your ability to get tasks done.
How to Answer “What Are Your Hobbies?”
When answering these kinds of interview questions, provide answers that are honest, but be careful not to go into so much detail about your hobbies that they will seem to threaten your commitment to the job. If, for example, your hobby is following your daughter from city to city because she performs as a gymnast, that might be worrisome to many interviewers.
Prior to your interview, do some research on the company and see if any of your hobbies or interests dovetail with the company culture. Those are interests you should emphasize if your interviewer asks this question. Avoid answers that make you seem uninteresting or, even worse, inappropriate. Keep your answers brief.
Examples of the Best Answers
Here are some sample answers that might help you when you are faced with a question about your hobbies and interests. You can use these to formulate your own response.
One of my hobbies is working out and I noticed, in your job advertisement, that you have a gym for your employees. That is attractive to me not only because I can work out there but also because I’ll be able to meet other employees in the gym and get to know them on a more casual basis.
Why It Works: Exercise and fitness-related hobbies can demonstrate health, energy, vitality, and the ability to manage stress. If an older applicant works out as a hobby, this could alleviate an interviewer's concern about the applicant's age. The interviewer would also be pleased to hear that you are interested in getting to know your fellow employees, particularly if the organization is one that focuses on team-building.
But remember to be honest first and foremost. You don't want to brag about being a “golf pro" and then get to the driving range with your new employer, only to have no idea what to do.
I enjoy volunteer work and community activities. I coach my son’s Little League baseball team. I also volunteer a couple of hours per week at a social services organization that hands out clothes and furnishings to the homeless.
Why It Works: Volunteer work shows high character and concern for people other than yourself. Working for community-based organizations is also a great way to source potential clients while pursuing a common interest.
One of my extracurricular activities is keeping up with my professional development and continuing education responsibilities. As you know, we must complete six hours of continuing education each year. I keep up with my area of expertise through reading professional journals, attending seminars, and taking the occasional class, either online or in a traditional classroom. I also often serve as one of the officers for our professional association.
Why It Works: In some professions, it’s mandatory to keep up with new developments by taking continuing education classes and keeping up through meetings and conferences, reading journals, and taking other classes of interest. Indicating that you do these things will be reassuring to your interviewer.
I have a variety of hobbies. I hike with my dog every chance I get. I spend time with my spouse and children. I try to work the New York Times crossword puzzle every weekend. I like to cook.
Why It Works: If you’re honest, these things are considered positives. Physical fitness and attention to pets and family are always positive activities. Working on crossword puzzles indicates an attention to detail. Cooking suggests a certain creativity.
Tips for Giving the Best Answer
Take it in stride. Some people get surprised by questions about things unrelated to the job. Don’t let this question throw you off your game. If you need to, take a pause and think, and then answer as you would any other interview question.
Try to relate the hobby to the job or company. If possible, connect your hobby to the company or job. This will show your deep interest in the industry. For example, if you are applying for a job in gaming, you might mention your passion for certain video games.
You might also focus on answers that demonstrate a positive quality that might indirectly help you achieve success at work. For example, if your job requires that you do a lot of writing and editing, you might mention your passion for reading novels or writing your own stories.
Explain how you fit your hobby into your life. Don’t just name an activity as your hobby and leave it at that. Go on to (briefly) explain how you incorporate your hobby into your life. If your hobby is gardening, you might say that you own a plot in a community garden in your neighborhood and that you spend a few hours there every weekend. Demonstrate to your employer that you follow through with your interest.
You also want to avoid seeming as if you spend all your time on your hobbies. You want to show that you have interests, but that you also have the time to do the job well.
Explain why you love it. Along with saying how you fit your hobby into your life, add a brief explanation of why you love the hobby. Perhaps you like gardening because you find being outside calming. Maybe you play team sports because you love working with other people. By explaining why you like an activity, you'll give your employer a better sense of who you are and what makes you tick.
Keep it brief. Even though you want to include all of this information, you still want to keep your answer brief. Don't go on a 10-minute monologue about your favorite plant or your past five camping trips. This question is not meant to be a big part of the interview.
Be honest. Make sure the hobby you mention is one that you actually pursue. If you get the job, the employer will likely remember that you said you loved soccer, for example, and might invite you to join a team. Don’t get caught in a lie. Also, be prepared for follow-up questions: If you say you love movies, for instance, interviewers may ask you what your favorite movie is, or the last movie you saw in theaters.
What Not to Say
Don’t Talk About Controversial Hobbies. If your hobby is protesting for a political party or religious zealotry, then keep that to yourself. You don’t know the interviewer’s views, and you don’t want to cause any offense or bring up a difficult subject.
Be Careful About Personal Conversation. Don’t bring up personal issues except as they relate to your hobbies. You don’t want to talk about difficult health issues that concern you or your family during your interview. Don’t ask the interviewer personal questions.
Don’t Talk Too Much About Your Hobbies. Even though extracurricular activities are important if the interviewer asks you about them, they aren’t the most important part of the interview. Be brief in your answers.
Possible Follow-Up Questions
- If you must work long hours in the office, will you be unhappy because you won’t have time for your hobbies? Best Answers
- How will you feel if you must take work home with you and it cuts into your private time? Best Answers
Think about the question before your interview: Make a list of 2-3 possible hobbies or interests you could discuss with an interviewer.
Be honest: Don’t overstate an activity you really don’t participate much in.
Avoid controversy: Be sure that you don’t talk about any hobby that is controversial.