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