How to Talk About Your Hobbies at Interview

By Matt Arnerich - Inspiring Interns - London

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How To Talk About Your Hobbies At Interview

Preparing for an interview is a demanding process. While getting yourself match fit for all sorts of questions about your work history and skills, it can be easy to forget to prep for more personal or character-based questions. You might have an answer about your leadership qualities on the tip of your tongue, but be tripped up by a question about your hobbies and interests.

A question like ‘tell me about your hobbies?’ can seem like child’s play, but it’s worth thinking about your answer in advance. It might not be the most important you get asked, but interviewers include character questions for a reason and being unable to answer them well can hamper your chances of getting the job.

In fact, the executive vice president and HR chief of Goldman Sachs, Edith Cooper, recently explained that she looks at the overall experience of the candidate when hiring; an applicant with a range of experiences has a better chance of impressing her than someone with a strong academic record but nothing else to offer.

Here are some things the interviewer might be trying to establish by asking you about your hobbies:

  • Can they build a rapport with you? Asking some simple, more personal questions at the beginning of an interview is a technique many interviews use to break the ice, and get a first sense about you as a person. If you are unable to offer them an informative answer, your conversation might stall and feel uncomfortable. This can be referred to as the airport test – could the interviewer bear to be stuck in an airport with you for hours?
  • Do you have interests outside of work? Although employers are looking for someone dedicated to their career, coming across as a workaholic can send up red flags. Showing that you maintain a work-life balance and have interests outside the workplace is important.
  • Do your hobbies support your candidacy? As above, this doesn’t mean that you should claim that your hobby is doing the job. But your hobbies might support your application by demonstrating you have used the same skills the job requires in a different environment. For example, they might show that you’re goal-orientated, or creative, or a team-player.
  • Can you talk about something you’re passionate about? Hearing you talk freely about something you love is a way for interviewers to get an insight into your communications skills.
  • Are you a good fit for the team? Of course, it’s great if it turns out that you and your interviewer share a passion for mountain biking, but in more general terms finding out about your personal pursuits can help the interviewer decide if you’re a good fit for the company. If your hobbies and interests reflect the company’s culture or show you have common ground with other members of the team, this might work in your favour.

With this in mind, take a look at our advice about how to answer this question.


Be ready to talk about your hobbies in depth

A general question about your hobbies might well be followed by more specific questions about your answer. It’s what makes it so important that you’re honest when answering – if you claim to enjoy photography but haven’t picked up a camera in years, you’ll soon get caught out.

Similarly, if you say that you’re a film buff, you should be ready for questions about the last film you watched, your favourite director, or more specific movie knowledge. Whatever you say, you need to be ready to back it up. And if you can, this question offers a great chance for you to relax and build a rapport with your interviewer.


Talk about active rather than passive pursuits

If your answer to this question is ‘I spend my time watching TV’, you’re unlikely to impress the interviewer. Watching TV is something nearly everyone does, and on top of that it’s inherently passive, as it requires no real interaction from you. Claiming to love reading can mean you fall into the same trap, although it’s generally considered, fairly or unfairly, a more intellectual activity.

In each case, if you’re able to back up your statement with a great analysis of the last book or TV show you devoured, you might rescue yourself. But generally it’s better to talk about a hobby where you’re more than a consumer. That might mean talking about anything from joining a football team to a passion for astronomy, so long as it requires action from you.

If you do want to talk about a hobby like reading, try and come across as more than a passive reader. Perhaps you’re a member of a book club, or write book reviews in your spare time. This can help you show off social, analytical, or writing skills.


Find a balance

It’s best to stick to mentioning only two or three hobbies. Listing too many can lose your interviewer’s interest, or make you come across as unfocused rather than well-rounded. However, try and ensure that the hobbies that you do mention show off a range of skills and different aspects of yourself.

For example, one hobby you talk about might be something you do independently, like photography, while another might involve playing in a sport’s team. Or if you’re really into fitness and spend most of your free time exercising, adding in that you enjoy crossword puzzles can show off your intellectual side as well. Lead with the activity you think is most relevant to the role – a group activity if the employer is after a team-player, or an artistic hobby if you’re heading into the creative industries – but then seize your chance to show off how balanced your interests are.


Tread carefully when talking about socialising

There are some hobbies it’s obvious that you shouldn’t talk about in interview, and being a party animal is one of them. But that doesn’t mean you should absolutely avoid talking about the social side of your personal life. Saying that spending time with your friends and family is important to you can help you come across as friendly and personable. One solution is to integrate this into a discussion of another hobby – perhaps your sports team is made up of old friends, or you’ve got your whole family into wilderness pursuits.

 

Claire Kilroy is a content writer for leading UK graduate recruitment agency Inspiring Interns. Why not check out their website if you’re on the hunt for graduate jobs and internships, or head to their blog for more graduate careers advice.

 

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