Job Interview Question: What Are Your Hobbies?

How to Answer Interview Questions About Your Personal Interests

Ask about a person's hobbies to learn what she loves to do in her spare time.
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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. Sometimes, interviewers will want to get to know what you are like as a total person, and what you're interested in outside of work. This is where questions like, "What do you do in your spare time?" and "Tell me about your hobbies" come in.

When answering these kinds of interview questions, provide answers that are honest, but that also show that you are a well-rounded person who is passionate about particular things. Avoid answers that make you seem uninteresting or, even worse, inappropriate.

Why Employers Ask About Hobbies and Personal Interests

Employers might ask about your hobbies for a number of reasons. Questions like these could stem from concerns the employer might have, such as your overall health and energy level or how you might engage and entertain clients and coworkers.

The employer might want to get a sense of who you are beyond simply being a potential employee. They want to know if you will fit in with the other people in the department, and if you will fit in with the company culture. For example, if you say you love soccer and play in an intramural league, this might impress a hiring manager who is looking for a real team player.

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 you have a life outside of work, but that you won’t let it interfere with your ability to get tasks done.

How to Prepare an Answer 

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The best way to prepare for this interview question is to think of an appropriate hobby in advance. Keep in mind that a hobby is something you do in your leisure time. It might be something you do to relax or have fun. It is typically something you do somewhat frequently or regularly.

If you are having trouble thinking of a hobby, make a list of things you like to do after work, on weekends, and/or on vacations. Think of things you do with family, friends, pets, or your larger community. Think of any associations you belong to, any volunteer activities you do, or any classes you take.

Once you have a list of activities, look back at the job listing and research the company website to get a sense of the company culture. What kind of employees is the company looking for? Circle one or two hobbies on your list that might demonstrate the interests, abilities, or personality traits the organization is looking for in employees. Then, pick one of those to mention in your interview.

For example, if you know the company encourages friendly competition between colleagues, you might mention a sports league that you are on, or an annual chess tournament you enjoy playing in.

Types of Hobbies to Mention

Still having trouble thinking of a hobby to mention? Below are a few types of hobbies you might mention in your interview. Read the description of each, as well as tips on what each hobby might convey to the interviewer about who you are:

Exercise and Health-Related Activities: It's true that exercise and fitness-related hobbies can demonstrate health, energy, vitality, and the ability to manage stress. Older candidates, in particular, might consider making some points of this sort. Sports like golf, tennis, and skiing can be useful ways to interact with clients and build relationships. Sports can also help demonstrate an ability to be a strong team member. 

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.

Volunteering and Community Participation: In addition, you might mention your volunteer work or community activities, like coaching your child's baseball team. Volunteer work shows high character and a concern for someone other than yourself. Working for community-based organizations is also a great way to source potential clients while pursuing a common interest.

Professional Development and Continuing Education: Professional development activities are another potentially rich area you can mention when sharing how you use your spare time. Maybe you take classes or seminars, read journals, or complete online tutorials that enhance skills related to your job. Maybe you're learning another language in your spare time.

In addition, helping to coordinate conferences or carrying out duties for a professional association are other ways to show that you are professionally engaged outside of work. These kinds of hobbies show your deep passion for your career, and demonstrate how you connect work and your life outside the office.

Everyday Activities: You can also share anecdotes from your daily life. Maybe you like to spend your spare time bonding with your spouse or children; maybe you enjoy going hiking with your dog.

Maybe you're a fan of the New York Times crossword puzzle; perhaps you love to read mystery novels or make quilts. Whatever you choose, make sure it paints you in a positive light. Maybe it even reveals a quality you have that is useful for the job. For example, perhaps you can mention your love of carefully completing the Sunday crossword puzzle to demonstrate your attention to detail.

What Not to Mention

When you answer this question, there are certain hobbies you just want to avoid mentioning. For example, avoid any response that makes you seem like you have no life outside of work. In particular, avoid the answer “I have no hobbies.” You also want to steer clear of responses like “I watch TV” or “I like to nap.” These make you seem like you don’t have a lot of energy or passion.

However, you can incorporate some of these things into your response. For example, you might say you love reading British mystery novels, and add that you got into this genre by watching British mystery shows on television.

You also want to avoid anything that might be considered inappropriate for the job or company. For example, avoid saying you love gambling, partying, drinking heavily, or anything else that might be seen as dangerous or unprofessional. Of course, leave out anything illegal.

Also avoid anything too controversial, or anything that could be considered offensive. What is controversial might depend on the job. For example, if you are applying for a job writing for a magazine, you might not want to say your hobby is reading one of their competitor’s magazines.

Tips for Answering Interview Questions About Your Hobbies

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 it, take a pause and think, and then answer like 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 actually follow through with your interest.

Of course, you also want to avoid seeming like you spend all your time on your hobbies. You want to show 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 love it, the employer will get 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, for example, the employer will likely remember if you said you loved soccer, 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 the movies for instance, interviewers may ask you what your favorite movie is, or the last movie you saw in theaters. 

The more genuine you are, the more energy you will put for when answering this question. You want to come across as energetic, positive, and honest.

Examples of the Best Answers

  • I love being outdoors—I do a lot of day hikes with my dog, and I enjoy going on camping trips with my friends and family. I find being outside is a great way to de-stress. It is also a great way to spend quality time with my friends and family, away from our phones and computers and busy lives.
  • One of my hobbies is playing club sports. I currently play on a local soccer team, and I also play on a roller hockey team. I love activities that allow me to meet new people and work with others.
  • I love reading novels—it is something I try to do every day, even if it is only for a few minutes before bed. Reading novels helps relax me, and also helps me think more creatively. I just finished reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake, and am currently looking for a new book. I heard that your office has an informal book club, which I love!