What Extracurricular Activities Have You Participated In?
When you are a student or recent graduate applying for an entry-level position (or an internship), a typical job interview question is “What extracurricular activities have you participated in?” It is sometimes followed up by a question such as, “What do you like about that activity?” or “What have you learned from that extracurricular?”
An employer will ask these questions for a couple of reasons. He or she wants to know a bit about your personality in order to see if you would fit in with the company culture. The employer also wants to know that you are a well-rounded person with interests outside of work. Finally, he or she wants to know what skills and abilities you have that relate to the job. One way a student develops skills is through extracurriculars.
By giving honest answers that loosely connect back to the requirements of the job, you will show the employer who you are, and why you are right for the job.
What are Extracurriculars?
Extracurriculars are any activities or interests you have outside of school. Traditional examples of extracurriculars are clubs or sports that you are a member of. For example, perhaps you were the captain of your debate team, or played on the hockey team.
Societies are also 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. For example, perhaps you love guitar and you play with friends once or twice month. Or 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.
Tips for Answering Questions about Extracurriculars
Be honest. First and foremost, don’t lie. If you say you are the captain of your school’s baseball team, but you’ve never picked up a bat, the employer has ways of finding out the truth. This could cost you the job. The employer might also remember your extracurriculars, and ask you about them in the future. Make sure you only include activities that you actually participate in. Don’t lie or exaggerate your role.
Explain your role. Don’t simply give a one-word answer like “flute.” Instead, explain your role within the club or society, or explain how you practice the skill or hobby. For example, you might say. “I enjoy playing the flute. I am the second chair in my college’s symphony orchestra. We rehearse once a week, and have two concerts every semester.” This information will help the employer understand whether your activity involves leadership and/or teamwork, and how much time you devote to it.
Explain what you learned or how you developed. After explaining your role in the extracurricular (or multiple extracurriculars), give a brief statement on some of the skills or abilities you have developed through the activities. For example, you might explain that being the assistant editor of your school newspaper has taught you how to pay attention to details, and how to notice (and fix) even the smallest errors.
Connect it to the job. When you think about what skills you have learned or improved upon through your extracurriculars, focus on those that are related to the job. Before your interview, look back at the job listing and check out the required skills and abilities. Think about whether your extracurriculars have helped you develop any of these skills. The relation does not have to be perfect – you don’t want to seem like you are lying or trying to pander to your interviewer – but your extracurricular should have some relation to the job.
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.
Sample Best Answers
- At college, I was a resident assistant (RA) 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 200-plus students. I gained valuable skills in 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% attendance rate.
- 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.
- 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 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, which required us to set and achieve goals together. I know how much effort it takes, but also how satisfying it is, to achieve a group goal.