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

By Robert Half February 29, 2016 at 3:49am

For many recruiters, quizzing a prospective hire on their hobbies and interests isn’t just an attempt at small talk – it offers powerful insight into everything from their motivation levels, creative thinking skills and discipline to their ability to work in a team and deal with the pressures of the job.

A report in the Harvard Business Review identified the ways in which hiring managers are focused less on sparkling CVs and more on whether or not a candidate is a cultural fit. This means that an after-hours interest in cricket or weekends spent volunteering at an animal shelter can hold powerful clues about whether a candidate’s values reflect those of the organisation.

Here are three things to consider when it comes to answering the “What are your hobbies?” question.

Showcase your creativity

In the past, many employers perceived their staff members’ post-work passions as distractions that could prevent them from getting the job done. But an April 2014 study by San Francisco State University found that respondents who regularly engaged in creative activities scored 15 to 30 per cent higher on workplace performance rankings than those who didn’t embrace a creative hobby. The survey also discovered that employees who participated in recreational activities - including knitting, painting, photography and gardening - were likelier to extend their support to colleagues than those who did not.

Whether you play the cello, write short stories or make pottery, don’t be afraid to open up about your creative passions. When answering the question “What are you hobbies?” maybe explain how creative acts require discipline, commitment and a knack for thinking outside of the box which are skills you can also apply in the workplace.

Be a good sport

Few hobbies show potential employers your aptitude for working with colleagues and endurance like regularly playing a sport. If you’re a long-distance runner, this may demonstrate that you can also go the distance when it comes to delivering challenging, long-term projects.

Participating in a football, or netball competition, on the other hand, may 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' maybe explain how your hobbies have enabled you to work well in group situations.

Demonstrate you care

There’s also ample evidence that exercising regularly improves stress management, increases well-being and reduces the chance of employees burning out over time. According to April 2015 research from the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, which saw 49 male and female participants engage in cardiovascular and resistance activities over four weeks, regular exercise can create a sense of personal accomplishment, lower perceived pressures and improve workers’ state of mind.

If you shy away from anything athletic, it doesn’t mean you’re less likely to be recruited than a competitor who excels at sport. Volunteering with a charity or chairing a regular book club are just as likely to increase your desirability to future employers.

Although it’s crucial to be honest when revealing your pastimes and hobbies, it pays to highlight the athletic activities that share common skills with the job you’re applying for. Embellishing hobbies for the sake of storytelling to impress a recruiter can put a dent in your credibility, and ultimately do more harm than good.

How would you answer the “What are your hobbies?” interview question. Share your thoughts below.

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