‘What do you do in your spare time?’ is a common job interview question. It is an opportunity for hiring managers to get to know more about the person behind the CV.
While there is no wrong answer, how you respond can help sway a hiring manager's decision. As with all questions during an interview, it’s important that a candidate portrays themselves in the best light possible by taking the time to prepare their answer.
So how do you make sure your answers give your interviewer the right impression? We look at some sample answers and ideas to incorporate into your response.
How to answer “What Do You Do In Your Spare Time?”
A good way to prepare for this question is for a job seeker to create a list of their hobbies, activities, and interests. Then using the job description, they can match any desired skills to their hobbies. A job seeker should look to highlight hobbies that show relevant skills needed for the role, make them unique and relate back to the specific job’s duties. All information given should also align with a candidate’s CV.
Structure your answer
When a candidate is preparing their answer, they should also explain why they enjoy this hobby, combining a skill that is desirable in the role, and mention a goal in relation to the hobby (this shows ambition and commitment).
‘In my free time I enjoy reading, when I’m reading, I completely relax and find myself in another world. Reading books helps me creatively when I’m writing. It helps me to think outside the box and use my imagination. I’ve set myself a goal of reading 100 books this year.’
‘Every Wednesday evening, I run with my local running club. Running is something that challenges me physically and mentally which is even more rewarding when you’re doing it as a team. Through sunshine or rain, we always get through our 5k runs, it helps me value teamwork. Going for my run every Wednesday is always something I look forward to and allows me to switch off from life’s stresses and focus on the moment. I’ve set myself the goal of running the VHI mini-marathon this year, which I’m very excited about.’
‘I am a volunteer with the Simon Community and every Tuesday evening I help with their ‘Soup Runs’. I have been doing this for over two years and I find it really rewarding. I have met a lot of amazing people throughout my time volunteering and every week I look forward to Tuesdays with the team to help those who have found themselves homeless and in need. This summer, I plan to host a fundraising event to raise money for the charity as they have helped me considerably with the kindness they have shown me as a volunteer during the past two years. I noticed that your company has also been involved with the Simon Community in the past and this was something that pushed me to apply for this position.’
Examples of hobbies to include
If a candidate has experience volunteering, they should incorporate this into their answer. Employers are aware of the benefits of volunteering and recognise the initiative and commitment that is required to be a volunteer. Volunteering also shows caring and compassionate traits that could add value to the team environment. It’s worthwhile for the candidate to take time to research the organisations CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives, aligning with what causes are important to an organisation could be beneficial.
Team skills are important in most organisations. Being a part of a team shows collaboration, dedication, and commitment. Soft skills are a huge plus to employers helping them tick the necessary boxes from the job specification to find their perfect candidate. In fact, 97% of employers say that soft skills are more or just as important as hard skills.
If an organisation has a strong social company culture, it could focus on hiring people with strong social skills. A good way of communicating interpersonal skills with the interviewer is for the candidate to mention the importance of family and friends in their lives.
If a candidate is short of hobbies, activities that require brainpower and analytical thinking such as reading, playing chess, or video games are also worth mentioning. These activities usually require skills such as problem-solving, strategizing, and critical thinking. Which can all be seen as valuable skills to have within a workplace environment.
What not to say
It’s important for a candidate to remember that asking “What do you do in your spare time?” is not an invitation to spend 15 minutes telling personal stories. Be brief and to the point. Remember, the audience is a prospective employer and it’s important to stay on point and not straying from off-topic. A candidate should also only share aspects of their life that they’re comfortable with and that are appropriate. Be mindful of the types of information that interviewers are not allowed to ask about, such as religion, sexual orientation, and age. By oversharing particulars which are beyond the remit of a job interview, you could put the interviewer in a difficult place regarding a hiring decision.
From gardening to video games, whatever your hobbies and interests may be, use this part of your interview as an opportunity to show off your curiosity, dedication, and creativity. Take your time to prepare for this question and highlight soft skills which related to the role. As mentioned previously, use the job description to guide you. Keep your answer brief and if possible, relate it back to the position and the organisation’s company culture.