Students or recent graduates applying for entry-level positions or internships often are asked about their extracurricular activities. They often are asked follow-up questions about why they liked those activities or what they learned from them.
Employers ask these questions because they want to know a bit about your personality to see if you will fit in with the company culture, if you are a well-rounded person with interests outside of work, and what skills and abilities you have that relate to the job.
While extracurricular activities are meant to be fun, they also are a way to develop valued by employers. By giving honest answers that loosely connect back to the requirements of the job, you can show employers who you are and why you are a good hire.
What Are Extracurriculars?
Extracurriculars are any activities or interests you have outside of required classes. Traditional examples of extracurriculars are clubs or sports such as student government, debate, hockey, and many more.
Societies also are extracurriculars. These include fraternities and sororities, as well as national honors societies and other membership organizations. Another example of an extracurricular is volunteer work. For instance, perhaps you work at a food pantry or help run the ticket booth at an annual fundraiser.
However, there are informal extracurriculars as well. Perhaps you love guitar and play with friends once or twice a month. Maybe you are training for a marathon, or you love gardening. These less official interests can count as extracurriculars, especially if you are not in any clubs or societies.
How to Answer Questions
When going into an interview, be prepared to talk about your extracurricular activities and how they have helped you to grow as a person and how they have helped you develop valuable professional skills. Follow these tips:
First and foremost, don’t lie or exaggerate your role. If you say you were the captain of your school’s baseball team when you weren't, employers have ways of finding out the truth. When they do, don't expect a job offer. Employers also might remember your extracurriculars and ask you about them in the future. If employers later discover you lied during the hiring process, that gives them legitimate cause to terminate your employment or rescind a job offer.
Explain Your Role
Don’t give brief answers such as, "I play the flute." Instead, explain your role within a club or society, or explain how you practice your skill or hobby. For example, you might say. “I enjoy playing the flute and am the second chair in my college’s symphony orchestra. We rehearse once a week and have two concerts every semester.” This information helps employers understand whether your activity involves leadership or teamwork, and how much time you devote to it.
Explain What You Learned or How You Developed
After explaining your role in your extracurriculars, give a brief statement about some of the skills or abilities you developed through the activities. For example, explain that being a copy editor for your school newspaper taught you how to pay attention to details and how to notice and address even the smallest errors and inconsistencies.
Connect It to the Job
When you think about the skills you have learned or improved upon through your extracurriculars, focus on those that are related to the job you are seeking. Before an interview, look back at the job listing and check out the required skills and abilities and think about whether your extracurriculars have helped you develop any of them. The connection does not have to be perfect, but if it has even a general relationship to a required skill or experience, it's worth addressing. For example, if you are applying for a job that involves teamwork, you might mention that you play soccer or another team sport. If you are applying for a teaching job, you might mention that you volunteer at a local tutoring center for elementary school children.
It's important to tailor your answers to your own specific experiences, but when preparing for an interview, it's sometimes helpful to have an example of how questions about extracurriculars can be addressed. Use these sample answers as starting points for how you can structure your own answers to questions about how extracurricular activities make you a better job candidate.
At college, I was a resident assistant for two semesters and held a leadership position in student government. As an RA, I was responsible for the care and co-management of a building of more than students. I gained valuable skills planning events, being the leader of a floor, and working as a team to effectively manage resident issues. I developed a lot of those same skills in student government. Our governing board managed events for our senior class of 300 students. I took a leadership role in event planning for our school dances and seasonal events, all of which had about an 85 percent attendance rate.
Drama Club Member
I was a member of my school's drama club for all four years of college. I found that as I improved my acting skills, I also gained better communication skills, which has been helpful in my current front-desk job. I can speak clearly and confidently to all people, both on the phone and in person. I also took a number of improv courses, which not only improved my communication but also taught me to be more adaptable and quick on my feet.
Music Program Accomplishments
I have played the piano for 12 years. I chose a school with a wonderful music program, and I continued to receive one-on-one instruction from some highly respected pianists. I also volunteered at our college’s preschool and developed and ran a highly successful music workshop for 15 preschool students. As an elementary school teacher, I hope to incorporate music into my classroom as much as possible.
I have been involved in school athletics for almost my whole school career. I was a member of my high school's varsity soccer team, even as a freshman. I was lucky enough to get a scholarship to my university because of my soccer abilities. Being a member of many teams while growing up, I learned the value of being a good team member and working as a team both on and off the field. For example, my soccer teams always developed and ran a number of fundraisers throughout the year, requiring us to set and achieve goals together. I know how much effort it takes and how satisfying it is to achieve a group goal.