So you might think after a slew of cognitively demanding questions regarding work ethic, credentials and experience that a question regarding your hobbies would be a piece of cake...
It might be a bit naïve to think that such a question during an interview is asked so that your potential employer “gets to know you better as a person”…this is the corporate world, everyone has and agenda and everything happens for a reason. Even the seemingly blasé question: “What are your hobbies?” Here are the real reasons why your interviewer wants to know.
Fit and Finish
As numerous articles on our website mention, being a good fit for the company culture helps productivity, communication and morale (which also helps productivity). This fact isn’t lost on hiring managers especially considering that “company culture” is the latest in stale buzzwords. Allow me to illustrate with some very simple and easy to understand examples. Say you are a hobbyist ribbon dancer and you get a job in a funeral parlor. Frolicking around the establishment while energetically waving a long ribbon behind you will definitely be frowned upon, even if you do it to blow off steam and work out a little during lunch breaks. Transversely being an overly wound up neurotic germaphobe that collects antibacterial wipes from around the world would be a horrible fit for a day care center that is densely populated by the moving squealing semi-sentient petri dishes known as children. Not only will fitting into the company and department’s culture expedite any training that is necessary, it will also help with employee retention which can cost companies millions a year.
Generally people that deal with the arts: music, painting/drawing, yes even the reprehensible art of improvisational comedy, like to challenge themselves and try to hone their skills. It’s like a pianist, even a hobbyist pianist isn’t going to learn “Mary Had A Little Lamb” and only play that every time they play music…I mean they could but I’d (as would most other people) assume that something was a bit off about them. Also you wouldn’t call something your hobby if you didn’t do it with at least some frequency or say “Well my hobby used to be piano…but I quit when I was 14, and haven’t tickled the ivories yet”. Thus when you answer in a question pertaining to your artistic hobbies the interviewer will assume you are self-motivated, able to complete task on your own and liked to be challenged.
Often creative people communicate more effectively with other creative people. Pragmatic individuals believe that effective communication with creative people can only be achieved with the intervention of a speaking unicorn and magic fairy dust that may or may not be radioactive. So if you will be working closely with creative people, even if the job completely lacks a creative component, then your interviewer might see it as an advantage that you occupy your free time with creative endeavors…yes, even regrettable improvisational comedy.
Another hobby that will definitely be seen favorably by a hiring manager is anything that involves team sports. Immediately this reveals that the interviewee works well within a multi-member team, can direct their energy towards a common goal and can coordinate well with others. Sometimes they might ask you a bit more about your sport of choice if you play football (or soccer for our American friends) for example they might ask what position you prefer. If you are one of the people that often make plays they might assume that you are a leader, or a coordinator. If you say you are defense that could indicate to them that you are a work-horse, the type of individual that will take the hits, put in the hours to help and assist the other members of their team.
Hiring managers also like to see that their candidates have a deep pool of knowledge and experience to draw from, especially when in leadership roles. The more diverse, the more potential there is for the individual to be dynamic when problem-solving, leading or even completing day to day tasks. These will be valuable assets to both your employer and the team that you join. For example, people with creative hobbies can approach problems and tasks with unique perspective, potentially shortening lengthy laborious processes and someone that is more team orientated might be able to keep his/her team motivated for longer and focused on a goal longer. Someone that is part of a book club or a similar social club might have highly developed communication skills which will allow his team to communicate with him/her openly and hopefully fix a situation which might hurt morale, the progress of the work or even make the team miss their deadline completely.
Hiring managers like to know that the people they are hiring have passion. Interviewers like to know their candidates pursue what they like joyfully and invest reasonable amounts of time to something that balances them. The key here is reasonable. If you compulsively, obsessively collect porcelain Weiner Dogs aaaaand compulsively, obsessively talk about that fact, then that might be a big red flag to the interviewer that you don’t know where to draw the line and have a very iffy relationship with boundaries. The name of the game is balance; everyone wants to work with well adjusted, well rounded individuals.