Looking At Interview Questions: Interests And Hobbies

Looking At Interview Questions: Interests And Hobbies






Job Interviews can be a strenuous exercise at the best of times, and while it is important that you do not appear rehearsed or wooden when being interviewed it is essential that you sound fluent and authoritative. Thinking about the type of questions that you might encounter prepares you for success. This series covers a range different questions and follows the same structure - providing a commentary to help you think through your answer; some insights into both +ve and -ve indicators that interviewers will be on the look out for and finally some possible question variations

Questions about you: Tell me a bit about yourself, what are your hobbies and interests ...

Answer Commentary: Be prepared for these questions. Personally I do not ask them unless interviewing someone with no work experience but lots of people do.

Given my dislike of them, my advice on how to answer them is probably overly draconian but I worry that they are fraught with prejudice and stereotyping. Thus my ‘solution' is to not talk about politics, religion or anything controversial. At the same time you need to come across as wildly interesting, but reliable, and both teamy and self motivated. Hmmmm, what else? Oh yes, honest and credible.

In some ways the best way to prepare for them is to do something vaguely interesting - around something that interests you - voluntary work, charity work, leading a team/group etc are all nice things to be able to talk about.

And if you do feel strongly about something in the politics/religion area and wish to ensure that it will be universally welcomed in your new workplace then I guess it would be appropriate to talk about it.

Marking:

  • + wide range of interests
  • + ability to talk cogently
  • + no contra indicators
  • + balanced
  • - looks dull and isolated
  • - sound fake

Variations:

Focusing on past performance means questions like:

  • what do you do in your spare time?
  • what charities do you support?

Addendum
Having written this blog I have had a bit of concern expressed that I am preaching a code of 'treat them mean' to the interviewer which is not at all what I am saying. Quite clearly a selection process is a two way thing - just as the interviewer has to find out if they want the job candidate in their team, the candidate needs to decide if they actually want to be in the interviewer's team. For many people it is critical that you show an interest in them as an individual (not just a 'resource') and clearly from your own point of view it is good to be able to do some early rapport building and find out a bit more about your prospective team member. Thus chatting about interests and stuff like that is an integral part of a total selection process.

What I am talking about here is the 'set piece' tell me your hobbies question during the formal interview which I fear can lead to 'pressure to perform' on the individual (i.e. candidate feels a compulsion to display a wide and varied portfolio of interests and hobbies demonstrating the key qualities the interviewer might be looking for) and 'prejudicial selecting' (where the interviewer is uncomfortable with someone's espoused interests and thus biased against hiring them) as opposed to some comfortable 'getting to know you' stuff which is integral to all successful and enjoyable human interaction. Thus it is important to build a bit of 'down time' into the overall selection process. When, for example you are walking them to the interview room, over coffee or lunch/dinner, on the site/office tour. This is more likely to be relaxed and 'two way' then face to face in an interview. Clearly as a candidate you need to remember that you are 'on display' at all times and act accordingly but you can very reasonably be a bit more relaxed and casual in the relaxed and casual bits of the program.

Of course, and indeed this is an excellent example of the inherent prejudices of interviewing, I have few hobbies and interests (minor charity work is the best I can really come up with since reading books and going to the cinema just does not hack it these days), am inherently boring and work obsessed so probably do not like answering this question any more than I like asking it - but this is perhaps a subject to return to in another blog. I am ashamed to say when asked this question I usually just have to say 'mostly I work' and give them a nice smile. Sad but true

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