A reader writes:
I’m new to the job market (I went straight from college to law school and only just graduated this spring), and it’s going pretty well so far, but there’s one thing I’ve gotten conflicting information about/reactions to.
I don’t put hobbies on my resume, but they have come up in some of my interviews. I’ve been advised by career services and my parents to mention hobbies that speak to my career/personality in some way (for example, being an avid runner might indicate dedication despite hardship, or skydiving might show risk-taking).
My problem is, I’m a homebody, and my hobbies are honestly kind of boring. I knit, I bake, I read, I watch Netflix, I spend time with my significant other … and that’s about it. I do put effort into my crafty hobbies (I like teaching myself new knitting techniques or recipes), but they’re not particularly unique or interesting, nor am I an expert in them by any means. I’m afraid of giving the impression that I’m a grandma trapped in a 20-something’s body. Am I overthinking this and should just be honest about my hobbies when I’m asked about them? Should I try to put some sort of career-ish spin on them when asked?
The thing with hobbies, when they come up in interviews, is that they’re very unlikely to get you rejected (assuming they’re not, like, binge drinking or B&E’s). Occasionally they’re a plus, but more often then not, they’re a neutral.
The times when they’re a plus are when they spark rapport with your interviewer (“You forage for wild mushrooms? So do I!”), make you more interesting or memorable in some way (although I tend to think that’s overrated; if you’re a strong candidate, it’s better to be remembered for … being a strong candidate), or, as you said, reinforce something positive about you (dedication, resilience, interest in helping others, etc.).
It doesn’t make a lot of sense to try to figure out which hobbies might do one of those things, because it will vary from interviewer to interviewer. One interviewer might love seeing that you run marathons, while the next couldn’t care less but would be thrilled to hear you read a book a week.
So I would answer honestly if you’re asked about how you spend your time outside of work, and don’t worry about trying to find a way to put a career-ish spin on it.
That said, I think you can and should flesh out your answer beyond just something like “I like to read” — to give a little more information and give your interviewer something to react to. For example: “I’m a big reader. I’ve recently been on an Indian literature kick, and I’ve been reading Jhumpa Lahiri and Khushwant Singh.” Or, “I love baking, and I try to experiment with at least one new recipe a week. Some of them are disasters, but it’s a fun way to use a different part of my brain than I use at work.” Or whatever — the idea is just to show you can carry on a pleasant conversation.
In fact, much of the time, interviewers don’t really care what your hobbies are; they just want to see if you can make pleasant small talk about a topic that’s comfortable for you. So you’ll answer this better if you look at the question as an attempt to engage you in conversation and learn a bit more about who you are, rather than as an attempt to divine who you really are as a professional.
how do I tell an interviewer about my hobbies when my hobbies are kind of boring? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.