How to answer the “What are your hobbies?” interview question

By Robert Half 20 August 2018

When hiring managers or recruiters ask you about your hobbies and interests, it isn’t just an attempt at small talk.

The purpose behind this question is to offer them insights into your skills and capacities that common interview questions may not always reveal.

Asking about hobbies and interests is also about determining your cultural fit for an organisation.

This means that your late night language courses or Saturdays spent volunteering with local charities can be important indicators about whether your values and skills reflect those of the organisation.

Here are four things to consider when answering the “What are your hobbies?” question in a job interview, to give employers a holistic look at your personality, skills and values.

1. First, never say no

If you’re asked, “What are your hobbies?” in a job interview, the first and most important advice is to never respond by saying “I have no hobbies”. This shows a lack of initiative and interest, little passion, and doesn’t reveal anything about your personality or capacity for cultural fit, which is precisely what hiring managers and recruiters are trying to determine.

When undertaking your job interview practice, prepare an answer to this question that is honest and sincere. Let your response reflect your skills and interests, and paint a picture for prospective employers of the capable and enthusiastic candidate you are.

2. Make it relevant

Whatever activities you enjoy doing in your spare time, when asked “What are your hobbies?” in a job interview, frame your answer in the context of the job and organisation you’re applying to work at.

For example, if you’re applying to be a finance analyst, talk about the problem-solving elements of your hobby. If you play competitive tennis, talk about your role in planning all the home and away match logistics for your team, and ensuring cost effective transportation for getting everyone to a range of locations throughout the season. If you’re applying to be an IT project manager and you’re a passionate reader, talk about how you started a book club and regularly feature books related to IT innovation and transformation. Tell your prospective employers how you regularly lead or facilitate fascinating discussions on this topic.

While it’s perfectly normal that your hobbies will be distinct and different from your work, shine a light on the parts of your hobbies that show off the key technical and soft skills employers are looking for.

3. Showcase your creativity

Do you play guitar, write short stories or make pottery? When answering the question “What are your hobbies?” ensure you acknowledge and celebrate any creative hobbies you undertake. Explain how these activities improve your lateral thinking skills, strengthen your ability to approach tasks inventively and drive your original use of available resources.

No matter what job you’re applying for, there’s a role for creativity at every organisation. While as an administrative assistant you might not be creating brilliant imagery on Photoshop every day, creativity is a much broader and more applicable skill. It can be used in all workplaces and industries to solve problems and find innovative solutions to challenges.

4. Be a good sport

Few hobbies show potential employers your resilience and aptitude for working in a team like regularly playing sport.

If you’re a long-distance runner, this may demonstrate you’re persistent when it comes to pushing through challenge and frustration on projects at work. Participating in a hockey or netball competition might highlight an understanding of group dynamics, a level of healthy competition and a willingness to work together to reach a collective goal.

When answering the question “What are your hobbies?” explain how regular sport or physical activity have enabled you to work well in group situations. There are few roles out there that don’t require candidates to be exemplary at this.

Exercising regularly also improves general health and stress management capacity, reducing the chance of employee illness and longer-term burn out, making you a more attractive candidate to prospective employers.

What are your hobbies?

Asking “What are your hobbies?” in a job interview is a proven way that employers can find out more about you, and assess your cultural fit for their organisation.

Robert Half research found that a lack of cultural fit is one of the primary reasons why employees leave an organisation, making it just as important as skills and experience when interviewing candidates.

Prepare for this question in every job interview, and when asked “What are your hobbies?” answer honestly and always relate it to the role you’re applying for.

Paint a full picture of yourself as qualified, ambitious, engaged and passionate candidate, and you’ll be one step closer to success.

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