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What are your hobbies and interests? Answering this interview question

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Sometimes, the simplest graduate job interview questions can be the most difficult to answer. While you might have prepared your answers to “why should we hire you?” or even “where do you see yourself in 5 years?”, a question regarding your interests outside of work can be a bit of a curveball.

When put on the spot, selecting your hobbies and interests that are simultaneously work-appropriate and not too vague can present a real challenge – especially under time pressure.

However, the question can be a chance for you to impress (and even bond with) the employer, while also being able to talk about the things that genuinely interest you.

So in order to decide which of your interests are best to talk about in a graduate job interview, let’s look at why employers choose to ask it in the first place.

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Why do employers ask “what are your hobbies and interests?”

  • While graduate employers are interested in your skills and qualifications, they will also be keen to know that you’re a well-rounded and balanced individual.

    No-one wants to hire a workaholic with no life outside of the office, and someone who has pursued passions and interests out of work or alongside their studies will be able to offer a number of transferable soft skills.

    Whatever hobbies you choose to mention, the fact that you are able to discuss them will indicate that you are enthusiastic, dedicated and adaptable – skills that will be beneficial to any business. Take a look at free courses for upskilling.

  • As well as demonstrating that you are a well-balanced individual, the hobbies and interests you choose to talk about will signify particular soft skills.

    Make sure you discuss your hobbies and interests with enthusiasm, prove to the employer that you are passionate and try to relate back to the job description, by highlighting the transferable skills that you could apply to the job role you are applying for.

  • Often, employers will ask you about your hobbies to assess whether you would be a good culture fit for their company.

    If, for example, a company is big on volunteering, hearing that you’ve been heavily involved in charity or community work would indicate to an employer that you would be a good match for their team.

    Likewise, if a team is heavily involved in outdoor activities, your involvement in similar pursuits would signify that you’d be a great cultural fit.

    Check out our recent blog post 10 things graduate employers find more impressive than your grades.

What’s the difference between hobbies and interests? 🤔

A hobby refers to an activity or something that is done for enjoyment, usually an extra-curricular, side-line activity practiced outside of work or studies.

An interest on the other hand is a topic or subject that you are interested in or curious about, but normally does not require the same level of dedication as a hobby.

Hobbies and interests examples

  • Involvement in a sports team – indicating to an employer that you will be a good team player
  • An interest in the arts and painting – suggesting that you are a creative person
  • Writing a blog – implying that you use your free time to develop your skills (particularly relevant to marketing graduate jobs!) Practising writing also helps with vocabulary expansion
  • Volunteering or community work – read more about how volunteering can boost your employability.
  • Techy hobbies like learning to code – showing a willingness to upskill and you enjoy a challenge
  • Running your own online store – indicating to an employer that you have an entrepreneurial spirit
  • Music – if you play a musical instrument, or even produce or write your own music it shows that you are a keen learner and committed to practicing
  • Reading – shows intelligence, focus and concentration skills as well as better writing skills. Make sure you explain to the employer what you like to read.
  • DIY – this demonstrates that you are hands-on and likely to be efficient in getting jobs done
  • Doing puzzles and crosswords – shows you are a good problem-solver with an analytical mind-set
  • Learning a language – you are disciplined and have the ability to self-motive yourself
  • Social hobbies like teaching – you’ll have good communication skills
  • Travelling and outdoor activities – likely to be an open and well-rounded individual with a holistic outlook
  • Caring for animals or children – demonstrating you’re a thoughtful, kind and considerate individual

What to avoid when answering “what are your interests and hobbies?”

  • An employer will be able to tell straight away if you are lying about your interests.

    Not only could this be a source of huge embarrassment (imagine if they have follow-up questions!) but being insincere about your life outside of work will be a huge red flag for any employer.

    Lying about your hobbies (or not having any to mention at all) will imply that you have no life outside of work, and aren’t the kind of well-rounded individual an employer would want at their company

  • While this question is relatively informal, mentioning hobbies that are work-inappropriate is a big no-no.

    Avoid hobbies that are related to politics or taboo topics. Telling an employer that you like drinking or gambling will, for obvious reasons, fail to give them a great first impression of you – so stick to mentioning interests that are relatively uncontroversial and keep it professional.

  • On the flip side, giving answers that are too vague or generic can be equally detrimental.

    If you say that you like music, for example (something the vast majority of people would claim to be interested in), an employer might be led to think that you have no real passions, active interests or unique attributes.

    Make sure that your hobbies are things you actually take an active interest in, and can back up with events you have attended, groups you’re a part of, or activities you’ve partaken in.

  • You might have a long list of hobbies and interests that you enjoy engaging in, in your spare time, but you don’t want the employer to lose interest.

    Choose 1-3 hobbies that are most relevant to the job you are applying for, and instead of just listing them, talk in more depth about each one.

    Mention the transferrable skills you have gained and what your personal goals are for the future.

    Before you go into any graduate job interview, think about which of your interests will be most attractive to an employer and construct an answer that shows you’ll be an asset to their business.

Variations of the question what are your hobbies and interests

  • What are your interests in life?
  • How do you spend your leisure time?
  • What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
  • What are the activities you enjoy most in your personal life?
  • What do you like to do outside of work?
  • How do you spend your free time?
  • What do you like to do for fun?
  • What hobbies do you have?
  • What do you like to do in your free time?
  • What are you interested in outside of work?
  • What interests you and what hobbies would you like to have more time for?

Find more career advice on our Careers Advice Blog – or check out the latest Graduate Jobs!

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