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How to Answer “What Are Your Hobbies?” in an Interview (It’s Not a Trick Question!)

When you’re deep in job interview mode, a seemingly unrelated question like, “What are your hobbies?” might throw you for a loop.

“Job candidates often fear that interviewers will ask them ‘trick’ questions or expect a ‘right’ answer to a question,” says Muse career coach Jennifer Fink, founder of Fink Development.

Personal questions can spark this anxiety even more than other common interview questions. But it’s not a trick. Interviewers asking about what you do for fun actually want to hear you talk about your hobbies.

When companies interview people, they’re looking to answer two key questions: Can you do the job? And what will you bring to the company as a coworker?

You’re not just getting hired to do a specific job, you’re getting hired to join a team and contribute to the business and its culture. So interviewers want to get a sense of who you are as an individual and as a teammate.

In asking this question, the interviewer may even be trying to help you. “Many interviewers understand the stress of the interview process and may want to ask questions to create a friendly dialogue to ease the candidate’s nerves,” Fink says. “Asking about someone’s outside interests is meant to be a low-stakes question that most candidates can respond to off the cuff.”

By giving you the chance to talk about something you love and are passionate about, this question can allow you to relax and let your personality shine through.

But just because the question is lower stakes doesn’t mean the interviewer doesn’t care what you say—or that it’s an easy question to answer! Read on to find out how to choose a hobby to talk about, what to include in your answer, and what an answer to, “What are your hobbies?”—or, “What do you like to do for fun?” or, “What do you like to do outside of work?”—might look like.

How Do I Choose a Hobby to Talk About?

On your job hunt, you might have been encouraged to tailor everything—whether that be your cover letter, resume, or interview responses—to the specific position you’re applying to. But with this question, that’s less important. You should certainly keep the job in mind as you’re selecting a hobby to talk about, but that’s not nearly as high a priority as choosing one that’s truly important to you.

If you have more than one major hobby, that’s when you can start taking the specific job into account. “Ask yourself: Is this something that would add to my profile?” says Muse career coach Lynn Berger, founder of Lynn Berger Career Coaching.

For instance, if you have a hobby that ties into the job you’re applying for or emphasizes transferable skills that might not be clear from your other work experience, by all means mention it. If you’re applying to a job that requires creativity, you might mention that you write short stories. “Or if it is a job that requires teamwork and you played and competed in team sports you [may] want to mention it,” Berger says. You might also think beyond job skills when selecting a hobby and instead choose one that shows how you would add to the company’s work environment. While you’re researching a company before interviews, you’ll see that some companies or teams will publicize the more social aspects of working there on their website, social media, or Muse profile. So take note of any group activities you come across that align with the hobbies you already have. For example, if they highlight their karaoke nights and you love to sing, mentioning that might help interviewers picture you as part of the team.

But don’t fall into a trap of elevating or inventing a hobby just because you think it’s the “right” hobby. “I use what I call the two-minute rule here with my clients. If you can talk about whatever it is for two minutes passionately, it’s worth mentioning,” Fink says. If you can’t, then choose something else. You’ll come across as more genuine than trying to force it. And definitely don’t try to pad out your answer by talking more about the job: “Answering in a way that ties directly to the job description may end up coming across as disingenuous or inauthentic,” Fink says.

As far as hobbies to avoid mentioning, there are a few guidelines. In general, your answer should stay away from:

  • Anything political, according to Muse career coach Heidi Ravis, unless it’s directly relevant to the job or you know from your research that the company culture is welcoming to folks airing their political views. That said, if not being able to e