Interview Question: "What Are You Passionate About?"
What's the best way to answer "What are you passionate about?" at a job interview. How much information should you share? Is there anything you shouldn't mention? What does the hiring manager really want to know?
When you're asked what you are passionate about during a job interview, it's an excellent opportunity to tell the interviewer about your hobbies, enthusiasms, or whatever is important in your life. The hiring manager is looking to learn as much as possible about you and what you can bring to the company, in addition to the skills that qualify you for the job.
When answering interview questions about your interests, you should aim to demonstrate your commitment to your passion, whatever that might be. You also want to be honest—interviewers can spot a canned answer instantly. Answer with honesty and just enough detail, and you will successfully show the hiring manager a bit more about who you are.
What the Employer Really Wants to Know
Employers ask about your passions for a number of reasons. For example, they might ask about your favorite hobbies to find out about your personal interests and values. This question helps the employer work out whether you're a well-rounded person, with a life outside of the office.
The employer might also ask this question to get to know you on a personal level and to build a rapport.
Even if the hiring manager doesn't share your passion, he or she will relate to your enthusiasm.
By learning more about who you are as an individual, the employer can get a sense of whether you will fit in well with the company culture. While your passion does not have to be related to the work you will be doing at the company, your answer will show the hiring manager whether you are a committed person who follows through with what you believe in. This is an important quality for almost any job.
How to Answer “What Are You Passionate About?”
Before the interview, prepare by picking a passion that you will talk about if you get asked this question.
Select something that genuinely excites you. It doesn't have to be directly related to the job—in fact, it shouldn't be, because that will sound insincere (after all, who is really passionate about spreadsheets?).
The more sincere you are, the more likely the employer will be able to sense your genuine excitement.
You also want to pick a passion that you are knowledgeable about. The employer might ask you some follow-up questions, so you need to be comfortable talking about the topic for at least a few minutes. For example, if you say your passion is reading novels, the employer might ask what your favorite book is. If you say you love hiking, be ready to talk about some of your favorite places to hike. Be sure you know enough about the passion to provide some additional information.
Pick a passion that you are actively involved with in some way. For example, you might say your passion is playing guitar, and perhaps you can add that you play in a band. If you say your passion is working with children, perhaps you can mention a volunteer organization you work for. You want to show your ability to devote yourself to something you believe in, so you need to show how you follow through with your passion.
Keep in mind that your passion can involve almost anything. It can be a hobby you have, a cause you believe in, or even an abstract idea like competition or making a difference in other people's lives. Just make sure it's something you are genuinely passionate about, something you know a bit about, and something you are actively engaged in.
Examples of the Best Answers
Review these sample answers to questions about your passion, with information on why the answer works well.
I lost my father to pancreatic cancer and, ever since then, I have spent time volunteering to help raise awareness and funds for cancer research. I volunteer for PanCan, an advocacy group, and I'm part of their volunteer network. One of the things I'm passionate about is helping to find a cure, in whatever way I can. I also love getting to know patients and survivors on a personal level.
Why It Works: This answer works well because it shows how the applicant took a personal tragedy and turned it into something positive.
I'm passionate about painting. I take an evening art class once a week and try to find time each weekend to paint. Painting is a good way for me to relax after a busy week. I also feel that it helps me to be more creative in other aspects of my life. Some of my most creative solutions to work problems have come when I'm painting in the studio.
Why It Works: Showing that you are able to take time away from work to relax shows that you’re a well-rounded candidate.
I'm passionate about baking. I love the process of researching new recipes and testing them out. I've been writing up my experiences with baking for the past three years, and every year, I host a massive cookie swap around holiday time with friends. I’m very detail-oriented, and love the scientific aspects of baking. However, I’m also a very social person, and use my baking as a chance to get together with friends and family.
Why It Works: The candidate shows both soft and hard skills—research and interpersonal skills—in this response.
Animals are my passion. I have two dogs and a cat, and I volunteer at my town’s pet adoption clinic every other weekend. I enjoy early morning walks and weekend hikes with my dogs. It helps me focus and gather my thoughts. I'm aware that your office has a dog-friendly policy, which I love!
Why It Works: The candidate shows her enthusiasm for her pets, which will be an asset in a pet-friendly workplace. This response also shows that the candidate has taken time to research the company.
My passion is working with students who are struggling academically. I tutor a group of first-graders once a week in reading and writing. I love helping students make connections in subjects they struggle with.
Why It Works: This response works well because the candidate is sharing a willingness to help others and to volunteer his or her time.
Tips for Giving the Best Answer
Be prepared for follow-up questions. The interviewer may ask follow-up questions about your passion, so make sure it's something you feel comfortable discussing. If film is your passion, for instance, interviewers may ask for movie recommendations, or inquire about your favorite movie.
Consider what kinds of follow-up questions you might get based on your passion, and be prepared to answer them.
Share examples. You might also get follow-up questions about what you do with your passion, or how you incorporate it into your life. Employers ask this to get a sense of how committed you are to things, and how good you are at seeing things through.
Provide some examples of how you have dedicated yourself to your interest or activity. When you share a story, it will support the details of what's important to you, and help you connect and engage with the interviewer.
You can also mention goals (such as training for a race, if running is your passion), which will give interviewers a sense of your long-term thinking and perseverance.
Explain why you are passionate. Along with explaining how you follow through with your passion in your daily life, it's good to also give a brief explanation as to why you love your particular hobby. Perhaps you love running because it gives you a chance to unwind, or it helps you think more creatively.
Maybe you love tutoring children because you enjoy helping students who are struggling to make connections. Explaining what you love about your passion will show you are sincere, and will give the employer a bit more insight into who you really are.
Connect it to the job naturally. It is fine (in fact, it's even preferable) if your passion does not directly connect with the job. However, you can often find natural ways to connect your hobby or interest to the position. For example, if your passion is working towards cancer research, and you are applying for a job in fundraising, you might mention how you volunteer for an organization and help them raise funds every year. If you are applying for a job in a bookstore and are passionate about reading novels, you might mention this.
Don't force a connection, but do try to find possible ways to relate your interests to the position if you can.
Be honest. While you want your answer to reveal your dedication and motivation, try to be genuine in your response. Don't make up a passion because you think it's what the employer wants to hear. Instead, mention a genuine passion. Your excitement will rub off on the employer, and show him or her that you are a broad-minded individual with interests outside of work.
What Not to Say
Don't overemphasize your passion. No matter what your answer is, be sure that what you share isn't something that could potentially cut into your working hours. For example, you don't want to say that you're a mountain climber with the goal of climbing Mountain Everest soon, or that you're looking forward to spending the entire winter skiing in Aspen. You don't want to appear so busy with your passion that you won't have time to get all your work done.
Don't share a passion that isn't workplace friendly. Everyone has different passions, but when you're sharing yours, be sure not to share anything that is controversial or inappropriate for the workplace.
Don't make something up. Share something you're really passionate about. For example, you don't want to say that your favorite activity is golf, if it's not, and then get invited to a golf outing where you won't have a clue how to play.
Possible Follow-Up Questions
Be honest: When you respond to the question, share something that you truly care about.
Prepare a response: It’s easier to respond when you have an idea of what you are going to say.
Be enthusiastic. Remember, this is passion that you’re talking about. Be sure that your enthusiasm and positivity are clear when you answer.